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American Rhapsody: Personality Analysis

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American Rhapsody: Personality Analysis

The American Rhapsody is a historical drama depicting the life of a Hungarian family during the 1950's and 60's. The story, based on true events, tells how this family of four fled communist Hungary during the Russian occupation and came to the United States in hope of a better, and oppression free life. Because of the dangers of the escape through barb wired borders and mine fields, the family is forced to leave their new-born baby, Zsuzsi behind to the care of loving family friends. Five years later Zsuzsi is finally able to join her family in America--a family she never knew before. She grows up to be a rebellious teenager, who has an extremely conflictuous relationship with her mother, Margit because Zsuzsi still struggles to figure out which family she really belongs to. At age 16 the girl finally returns to Hungary on a trip where she discovers what horror her mother escaped when she left her homeland. She also realizes that her roots made her who she is but she really belongs in America with her mother.

In this paper I will analyze the two main characters of the movie: Zsuzsi, and her mother Margit. I will examine their characters in the light of two theories: Erikson's stages of ego development and Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Since the movie follows the life of this family through sixteen years, I decided to focus on their personalities at the time the conflict starts between Zsuzsi and her mother. The movie provides the greatest insight to this time period of their lives as well.

Personality Analysis: Zsuzsi

Erikson's 5th stage: identity vs. role confusion: Erikson's fifth stage of ego development is a perfect demonstration of Zsuzsi's rebellious teenager character. This stage, generally typical to adolescence is mainly concerned with the ego continuity in a changing, growing personality. The source of Zsuzsi's negative identity is mostly that she does not feel like an integral part of her family nor she has not been able to establish independence and personal efficacy. Zsuzsi feels that her mother does not understand who she is, that Margit does not know her and cannot accept her. The reason of Zsuzsi's identity crisis is that she feels disconnected from her mother since she thinks she became "herself" while being away as a child, still in Hungary. Even after ten years in a different culture and environment, Zsuzsi insists that she can only be truly happy if she is faithful to her Hungarian roots. Her role confusion involves not only what she is about to become (as an adult), where and whom she should belong to, but also about what she knows she does not want to become. It is an unsettled, confusing period in her life where she over-identifies with her Hungarian "heroes" (her previous, foster family) and her past life. Her character is full of questions: What is my goal in life? Who and what am I supposed to be loyal to? When she returns to Hungary to discover what happened in the past, her new knowledge and experience leads to a discovery of self and she finally succeeds in overcoming the feelings of incompetence and inadequacy that are on her past experiences. She finally reaches her ego strength: fidelity to her mother and her life in America thus connecting with her future.

Maslow's 3rd stage: love and belonging: Maslow's third stage of need is the first real step toward emotional and social fulfillment. At this point of self-actualization, Zsuzsi's physiological and safety needs are satisfied (mostly due to her stable American life). This third stage of needs focuses on relationships, such as friendships, sexual intimacy, and having a communicative and supportive family. People in this stage strive for feelings of belonging, acceptance and love. The absence of these feelings can often lead to social anxiety, loneliness, and even depression. Zsuzsi's entire character is about striving to be understood and accepted for who she is, ever since her environment as a child was disturbed. Although she has a hard time figuring out where she belongs, she wants to belong somewhere desperately: and if she cannot currently get it in America, she is willing to leave it behind, and cross the Atlantic to find it. She is unable to communicate with her mother, it seems like neither of them is listening to the other--so based on her recollection from her childhood, she believes in Hungary she has a family that can listen and understand. While she finds that love and understanding in her homeland, she also realizes where she really belongs, even if it will take strenuous efforts to make it work. By achieving this higher level of self -actualization, Zsuzsi becomes more capable of giving and getting affection as well.




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