An excerpt into the life of George
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Abstract: This is basically an in depth take on George’s life and how he reacted to his diagnoses. It goes through some of his crucial developmental stages in his life and how his character morphed. It also describes his emotions, personality, and what motivated him to change into the person he became after his diagnoses.
In the movie “Life as a House”, the central character that the movie tends to evolve around is George. This particular character learns early in the movie that he is diagnosed with a terminal cancer and has only a short time to live. Before he is informed of his misfortune we are given hindsight into a bit of his past and learn that he was quite a troubled person. In the opening scene he is urinating off a cliff that belongs to his property on the beach front. Certain examples such as this display his inner self and portray him as a careless slob that has been conditioned to be this was and is a bit stuck in his ways. After his little trip to the hospital however, he transforms into a completely different character. He goes through many changes and learns not to take life for granted.
Later on in the movie the audience is informed of Georges deeply troubled past that he straightforwardly describes to his rebellious son. He tells his son Sam on a couple occasions that his father used to emotionally, mentally and physically hurt him. George tells Sam how his father would always ridicule him on anything he could think of so that he could feel better about himself. George also explained that be was obviously emotionally scarred from the many times his father hurt his feelings and would physically beat him up. “Emotional scarring may cause barriers that prohibit the victim to living a normal and healthy life from day to day.” (Contemporary 2001) This obviously has detrimental effects on his developmental stages of George’s life.
From the very beginning of George’s life he is unfortunately exposed to a very dysfunctional family. This upbringing and conditioning of dysfunctional routine basically engraved itself into George. From living day after day with having to deal with an abusive and alcoholic father and having to deal with the shame and remorse of having his own mother being
beaten by his father conditioned George in one of the worst ways possible. From this conditioning George is destined to bring this to the table in a way when became a father.
George on the other hand rejected to take on the same role as his father and instead tried to be the opposite of his father. As a result George did not drink, beat his wife, or abuse his child. This was a good theory but this still did not work as well as he planned and practically backfired on him until he took on a proactive lifestyle after he learned of his misfortune (the cancer). George unfortunately brought some dysfunctional qualities to his marriage and his fatherhood, such as carelessness and a calloused attitude towards his wife and negligence to pursue a relationship with his son Sam. This was possibly because of his troubled past, but as a result cost him his marriage and led his children astray as he spiraled down a destructive lifestyle. “Those who have been exposed to disorder and bad environment more commonly tend to lead destructive lifestyles.” (Lea 1984) George had figured that his son could not possibly hate him as he did his father if he did not have a relationship with his son. This of course we learn is not the case at all. Through thorough routine and conditioning, George’s separation or gap between his wife and Sam gets wider and wider, ultimately leading to the divorce, and lead to the “hatred” that Sam had for his father.
What had struck initial motivation in George was of course when he learned of his diagnoses. This made George realize that he had made no progress in being a good father or being a good person in general. Everything in Georges life before his diagnoses to him felt as if it were empty and worthless, a waste of time. For example, some actions that symbolized Georges own self destruction was when he destroyed every single architectural model that he spent tedious and countless hours to create. This symbolizes how everything that he did in his
life was a waste. Yet after he found out that he had cancer, he started to have a different outlook in aspect to his life and in life in general. This spark caused him to want to undo all of his mistakes, he still had hope to do better for himself with what time he had left. “If you see a ray of light when you are in a cave of vast darkness, you first retort should be to follow the light.” (Coltheart 1999) His relationship with is ex-wife, he realized that he had never told her that he had loved her. This caused him to show his affection and love for her. For his son, he had never given his son the time of day, this had caused him to create a relationship with his son and to get to know him. Before, George gave little concerned as to what his son was up to or what was going on in his sons head. George had acknowledged that he had not done well in role to be a good father.
This motivated George to take control of his son’s bad habits and to at least attempt in creating some type of relationship with his son and to make a man of him yet by positive reinforcement and by simply just being there and bonding with his son. The last and most obvious project that George was motivated to accomplish was to finally create his damn house. He always used to talk about how he would build it, and how nice it would be. George’s life had almost past him by without him adding so much as a door knob to that house. This motivated him to demolish his shack of a house and to start fresh from the ground up, to start at the very foundation. This is much like how he treated the relationships with his son and ex-wife. The spark of his motivation itself was when George found out about his cancer, but the actual cause of it were the “opening” of Georges eyes to see that life is short, and that so far he had wasted it. This was George’s motivation to make the rest of his life better.
The emotions that George displays after his diagnoses clearly differ than how he used to display his emotions. Before hand, the only emotions that George would display would be rage, anger, or disproval, other than that he was an emotionless bastard (according to his wife). After the diagnoses George displayed a variation of emotion: fear, love, happiness, and grief. After the diagnoses George had realized that it was stupid to suppress his feelings and started to openly present his opinions and emotions. George’s father had conditioned George into becoming a “macho man”. No mater how much George may have hated his father, this attribute
of concealing emotions had stuck with him. The overall breaking free from this was of course the diagnoses, which made George realize how he had taken after his father. This made him change.
Georges personality can be split into two categories, before knowing of his diagnoses and afterwards. Until George knew of his fatal disease, he was slack, careless, temperamental, and hard headed. After wards, George shed himself of his old ways and began to take on a new form. “Humans can only change if brought to extreme situations such as a in a death in the family, a traumatic experience, or anything else that shocks the very foundation of a persons character.” (Talor 1994) George became this individual that suddenly cared about his life and how it affected others around him. He became more aware of his surroundings and his life in general that he started to ask his ex-wife questions as to why his marriage did not work out and other aspects in how he screwed up his relationship with his wife and son, and even discussed the rare yet good times that enjoyed sharing with his wife and with Sam (when he was younger).
George obviously suffered from a few psychological disorders but yet then again who wouldn’t suffer from a few issues after enduring what George had to go through. Yet after all of this and after hearing that he would soon die, George acted like a completely normal, functioning human being. With all of the pressure from his son Sam, from his wife, from his stupid neighbor complaining about the house regulations, George kept his cool and acted nonchalant through most of the chaos that he was surrounded in. He became perfectly san through all of the craziness until his end.
Coltheart. V (1999);Fleeting Memories: cognition of brief visual stimuli: Cambridge Press
Contemporary Psychology (Dec 2001) APA review of Books Volume 46, No 6
S.E.G. Lea (1984) Instinct, Environment and Behavior: New essential Psychology
Talor, Peplau, Sears (1994) Social Psychology (eighth edition): Prentice-Hall