Development of Anna Fitzgerald Character Essay.
Adolescence development relies upon many factors. In order to accurately examine its growth, it is useful to look at some developmental theories. Anna Fitzgerald is thirteen years old; however, she is not like any other teenager with some ordinary problems. Anna was born for a specific purpose she was born to save her sister’s life and to serve as a matched tissue donor. When Anna was born, her umbilical cord was collected and since then she was constantly donating blood, stem cells or bone marrow.
That resulted in her undergoing more serious and risky procedures.
But when she reaches the age 13, she is being told to donate one of her kidneys. Aware of the fact that she was conceived to be a perfect match and ongoing donor for her sister, she wants to have the chance of living her own life. This is when Anna decides to hire a lawyer and to sue her parents to be “medically emancipated” from her family.
Because she loves her sister unconditionally, Anna struggles with her decision. Developmental theories of Piaget, Ericson, Marcia and Freud are very useful, in order to examine the development of Anna Fitzgerald, the character from “My Sister’s Keeper”.
Nature vs. nurture is the first theory that can be applied to Anna’s life. Nature refers to the human biological inheritance and nurture to the environmental experience (Santrock, MacKenzie-Rivers, Malcomson & Leung, 2011). Since she was born for a specific purpose, her parents had already planned her future. To some point of her life, Anna felt it was normal to be a donor and to be in the hospital three to four days a week. Whenever her sister had an emergency, Anna had to be present. The environment Anna lives in is unusual for a teenager. Anna thinks of herself as a total freak. As it is common for teenagers to complain about her look, she states that God must have had some sort of a moody day on her birthday. She sees a big picture of her household. She knows that the environment which she was born in, did not allow her to be a kid. She had to mature fast and act as an adult.
It is clear that Anna is going through identity crisis of moratorium. Moratorium stage according to James Marcia is defined by individual exploring different possibilities, yet not being ready to make a commitment to one. In Anna’s case she had plenty of ideas who she would like to be. When asked by her lawyer, where she sees herself in ten years period, she responds: “There was a time when, like Kate, I’d wanted to be a ballerina. But since then I’ve gone through a thousand different stages: I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to be a paleontologist. I wanted to be a backup singer for Aretha Franklin, a member of the Cabinet, a Yellowstone National Park ranger. Now, based on the day, I sometimes want to be a microsurgeon, a poet, a ghost hunter” (Picoult, 2004, p. 412). What strikes the most in her young, yet mature personality is that in ten years period, she would like to be Kate’s sister.
Based on Piaget operational stage theory, Anna is clearly capable of using abstract thought. Abstract thought is an adolescence possibility to think outside of the box and see likely outcomes and consequences. Anna knew exactly that by starting the lawsuit, she has a chance of wining the right to decide for her own. Deep inside her, she still wants to help her sister, but knowing the fact that she cannot make her own decisions, made her to go to the extreme and sue her own parents. She is aware of the fact that her decision may have a huge impact on her sister’s life. Perhaps, she will die; however, she is looking at the long term goal. How is the transplant going to affect her life? Is she going to be able to function normally? What if something goes wrong? All this questions were building up inside of her head and did not want to stop. This process of thoughts indicated her ability to think logically by looking at cons and pros of her situation.
Based on Ericson psychosocial developmental theory, Anna is going through identity vs. role confusion stage. She is confused of her role in the family. Often reflecting of who she is, and what is the purpose of her life, besides being a perfect match for her sick sister. Anna once said: “I used to pretend that I was just passing through this family on my way to my real one” (Picoult, 2004, p. 49). This shows how confused she is in terms of her life. Furthermore, this identity confusion grows into her even more upon receiving a long awaited letter of acceptance, into a two weeks hockey summer camp. She is not allowed to go because of her sister’s condition. There is a big chance of Kate going into some health crisis while Anna is gone. It is a difficult time for a thirteen year old girl who is full of energy and is not being able to be just an ordinary adolescence.
One can also relate Freud’s theory of development to Anna. The id is one of the structures of human personality. It operates on principles of pleasure and immediate satisfaction regardless of societal rules or other surrounding context (Santrock, MacKenzie-Rivers, Malcomson & Leung, 2011). Anna’s id arises from her frustration to all medical treatments which are done in order to save her older sister, Kate. Frustration is added by her mother who pushes her to donate the kidney for Kate. Yet, from the start of the novel Anna knows the reality which she refuses to face, as result of her inner id: “On other hand, I was born for specific purpose… I was born because a scientist managed to hook up my mother’s eggs and my father’s sperm to create a specific combination of precious genetic material… specifically, because I could save my sister, Kate“(Picoult, 2004, p. 7-8).
This inner id, pushes her to rebel against her parents wishes, and results in Anna seeing a lawyer to help her end the suffering and release her from the heavy responsibility towards her sister. This unconscious part of her personality resurfaced, in her reply to the lawyer, when she says: “Because, she says simply, it never stops” (Picoult, 2004, p. 22). Some may find this very selfish, with total neglect for her sister’s future well being. It results in confrontation with her mother, who tries to make her realize “You went to a lawyer and made him think is all about you – and it’s not. It’s about us. All of us –“(Picoult, 2004, p. 54). Thus, her id rises up and does not care if it destroys other people – parents, brother and her sister.
In Anna’s case her id prevails over ego. The ego is supposed to negotiate a compromise between her id, current reality and constraints. Anna feels some guilt, as her ego makes her think over and ask herself about her decision regarding kidney. “I started thinking about this. Would I have to be in the hospital? Would it hurt? Could people live with just one kidney? What if I wound up with kidney failure when I was, like, seventy? Where would I get my spare?”(Picoult, 2004, p.377). Anna’s superego, is supposed to be her moral guide, conscience to do the right thing. It rises up, specifically, when Anna looks at Kate who is becoming weaker and sicker than before and worries about her future and a possibility of her dying. “What do you think is the best way to die? I don’t want to talk about this, I said. Why? I’m dying. You’re dying. When I frowned, she said, Well, you are. The she grinned. I just happen to be more gifted at it than you are…
…You know, normal people don’t sit around thinking about dying. Liar. Everyone thinks about dying. Everyone thinks about you dying I said. The room went so still… Then a twitchy smile crossed her face. Well, Kate said, at least now you’re telling the truth” (Picoult, 2004, p. 134-135). From this quote it is clear than Anna has difficulty hearing things from Kate, and that her superego is present and possibly regretting the lawsuit action. Perhaps, this is what prompted Anna, to write in her diary that in case of her death, she wants all of her organs to be donated to Kate. In the end, Anna has a car accident and dies, the lawyer who has won the case and got power of attorney, decides to honor Anna’s last wishes: “I have power of attorney for Anna, he explains, not her parents. And there is a girl upstairs who needs the kidney” (Picoult, 2004, p. 416). Anna’s life ends up tragically. One can assume that she fulfilled her purpose in her short life, she saved her sister.
Since Anna was born, she was a regular donor to her sister. One can observe it as continuity vs. discontinuity development. “The first time I gave something to my sister, it was a cord blood, and I was a newborn… The next time she relapsed, I was five and I had lymphocytes drawn from me, three times over, because the doctors never seemed to get enough of them the first time around. When that stopped working, they took bone marrow for a transplant. When Kate got infections, I had to donate granulocytes.
When she relapsed again, I had to donate peripheral stem cells” (Picoult, 2004, p. 21). One can explain continuity as a process involving a gradual accumulation of behavior or knowledge. Anna, throughout her short life was exposed to medical procedure, terms and responsibilities from the moment of her birth. She was growing up among those circumstances and she never got a chance to be a kid. She had to mature faster. Even her vocabulary was unusual for a thirteen years old girl. In his mind, her lawyer thought “This girl’s medical vocabulary would put some of my paid experts to shame” (Picoult, 2004, p. 21).
Discontinuity is defined as a passing through life stages in a qualitative way. Since Anna’s character is presented just as she is thirteen years old, one can assume that for her to be able to think abstractly, indeed she was at concrete thinking stage in her earlier age. Anna would go through many different stages, perhaps having her case won; she would still donate her kidney. Anna’s life ends abruptly in a car accident. The logical sequence of life is death but to Anna it was way too early.
In conclusion, Piaget, Ericson, Marcia and Freud theories were helpful to examine Anna development by using the appropriate key issues. Based on their theories, it is clear to observe Anna’s life and struggles that she is going through. The young age was not an obstacle to deal with some serious adult problems to which Anna was exposed to from an early age. Throughout the story she has dilemmas concerning her sister’s life. By combining the work of these theorists, it was possible to analyze her life from psychological perspective.
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