About a Boy by Nick Hornby

Goal: Using Developmental Theory & Concepts to Analyze the Development of a Character in a Book or Film

As we have discussed in lecture and you will observe in your readings, the study of human development can take place at many levels (e.g., at the level of the individual, his/her family, society, or culture) and across many domains (e.g., biological, emotion, cognition, social). Moreover, most theories that purport to provide a reasonably complete picture of human development explicitly recognize the need to cross boundaries, that is, to take account of factors that impinge on development which may occur at multiple levels. In other words, trying to understand an individual’s developmental history or to make sense of their current situation often requires an analysis that spans multiple domains and levels.

In this assignment, you are asked to read a novel, and to examine the development of a particular character with reference to some developmental theory (e.g., Erikson’s theory of development) and/or to address any of the ‘key issues’ (e.g., nature-nurture; stability vs. change; discontinuous vs. continuous development; domain specificity vs. domain generality) in developmental psychology that you may spot in the book/film.

For example, using Nick Hornby’s novel/film About a Boy, one could examine whether the social incompetence shown by the character Marcus is best thought of as stable or changing. Alternatively, one could look at Marcus’ development from the perspective of psychosocial theory and ask whether Marcus has successfully dealt with the developmental tasks he has had to face and how he might deal with future tasks.

In short, you are relatively free to take a topic from any novel and to present me with a paper which incorporates an analysis of some developmental question or developmental issue with respect to a character in the novel. I want an analysis which captures the complexities of the subject you choose and which incorporates at least some of the relevant literature in developmental psychology.

Below is a list of suggested books and authors which you might consider. Please note that these are suggestions only. Many of these have also been made into films (which you are also welcome to base your essay on).


About a Boy by Nick Hornby
Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery
Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff


About a Boy
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
The Breakfast Club
On Golden Pond
Girl, Interrupted