Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Identity Issues

By Jeffrey S. Kaplan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Identity within the Family:
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's
The Year of the Gopher

Lois T. Stover and J. Roy Hopkins


INTRODUCTION AND SYNOPSIS

"Who am I?" That is a question with which young adults wrestle throughout their teenage years. They try to find answers by examining their role within their family, rethinking their relationships with their friends, considering their sexual impulses, exploring career options, and investigating their values and beliefs. They test out various combinations of possibilities in a whirl of activity that makes them seem confused and rebellious to their parents and other significant adults in their lives. When Phyllis Reynolds Naylor The Year of the Gopher (hereafter cited as Gopher) opens, George Richards, age 17, is in the midst of determining what he will do after he completes his senior year and graduates from high school. A good student, and generally a "good guy," George has not spent a great deal of time contemplating his options up to this point in his life. When confronted with the reality of his parents' expectations for his future, he begins to rebel, eventually taking a year off from school to work as a "gofer." He uses this year to think about what he wants for his future and learns a great deal about himself; he also teaches his parents some important lessons at the same time. Naylor's novel can serve as a useful backdrop against which to discuss important issues related to the process of answering the question "Who am I?" It also provides a useful case study of Erik Erikson's psychosocial theory of identity development.

George is the second of four children, and the oldest boy in the Rich-

-1-

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