A Psychological Look At Will Hunting

In American society for many years now, there is a trope about how a man should think, act and behave. There are a wide range of qualities that a man should have, feelings that he should feel or not feel and thoughts about the world, confined to what it means to be a man. Since there is no set societal or cultural definition of what it truly means to be a man, each one of us holds our own opinions; and so does Hollywood. Hollywood often depicts men in an exceptional way, varying very little. Yet no matter how most lead men are portrayed in film or television, we the audience, tend to carry our own feelings of sympathy towards these characters, many of whom partake in acts that are morally and socially unjust. One male character in particular who often behaves in a way that is hardhearted, coldblooded and downright cruel, but nonetheless leaves us feeling sympathetic and understanding was Will Hunting of Good Will Hunting.

Will Hunting is a determined but often stubborn, working class individual. Growing up in multiple foster homes after being abandoned by his biological parents, Will experienced many run-ins with the law. His “rap sheet” includes assault, grand theft auto, impersonating an officer, mayhem, and theft. But what makes Will most rare and unique is the fact that he is a pure genius. He did not have much real formal education, but spent his time reading and learning and understanding advanced mathematics, among other subjects. However, from his latest arrest, he is sentenced to a long prison sentence, unless he agrees to help an M.I.T. professor with advanced, finite mathematics and to also see a therapist for psychological purposes.

Will has quite the temper and is at times uncontrollable with it. There was the time when he relentlessly attacked a guy who used to bully him as a kid. He simply did not let up on the guy, waling on him until the police showed up. And even when they did he hit one of them and resisted arrest. He has such strong aggression and fears, whether he acknowledges it or not, which leads him to take it out on people like the guy he beat up on the basketball court. In addition, Will lies a lot about various things. These things typically are personal matters, which he is afraid to speak about. For instance, he alleges that he has twelve older brothers, and bends the truth on some occurrences of his past. He also rationalizes a lot of his behaviors by making up logical and socially acceptable explanations for his actions. The way he so perfectly described what might happen if he took that prestigious National Security Agency job, is a clear example. While the excuse makes sense, it would be such a rare occurrence and only someone with a strong defense mechanism would think of something so extreme.

The pressures of life are holding Will back from accomplishing greatness and showing love. He pushes aside the threatening thoughts of his foster father beating him when he was a child, and ultimately refuses to acknowledge any anxious behavior he experiences, denying things that have happened to him in the past, and refusing to ask for or seek help. When his girlfriend Skylar says she wants to help him, in a rage Will wonders why everybody thinks he needs help, he says, “Do I have a sign on my back that says ‘save me’?” But it is more than denying the “help”, he just does not want to let anybody in on his true thoughts and feelings.

The audience understands that Will struggles with finding true love. The struggle started with him not being loved as a child, bouncing from different foster homes, raised an orphan. It then extends to him never even looking for love, and only allowing his closest friends to know much of anything about him. We notice this because we are aware, like Sean, of Will’s actions and feelings towards everyone around him. The audience sees that at one point Will explains to his closest friend Chuckie that he does not ever plan on leaving South Boston, where he lives and grew up. Even though he has a gift that is rarely seen, he expects to raise a family there and work a low-income job, because he is afraid to basically cash in his winning lottery ticket. But Chuckie makes it clear that he owes it to people like him- the people who do not and will not ever have an opportunity like this to better their life and better the lives of those around them.

What ultimately leads to Will’s breakthrough is the great sense of trust he builds with Sean. Sean gave him his own insight on matters that included art, women, war and most importantly love. His example of how much love he had for his late wife and how he does not regret a day he spent with her, encourages Will to open his heart and find love for the first time. Will was on the verge of being overly isolated and independent and had no hope of returning, until he met someone he truly loved, and someone who could guide him on his true path. And it is not until the very end, after the breakthrough, that Will makes the personal decision to take a chance on his life by moving to San Francisco, to be with the one he loves. It is understood that that shows personal growth of how he becomes motivated to develop in a more positive manner.

Overall, many viewers can understand why Will acts the way he does. Abandoned by the people who were supposed to love him most, and going from various foster homes, he never had anyone to teach him things like initiative and all around know-how. Instead, he experienced shame in being beaten and even guilt on that matter and to overcome feelings of inferiority, he went through phases where he had no regard for the law. The only loyalty he has is to his friends, because they are loyal to him. His actions are not justifiable, but they are understandable. A lot of people try to avoid little problems or a huge past physical or emotional scar that they have been left to live with. And with his vast attachment to the neighborhood, it’s truly a tough place to leave. City-life, with working class people around you, thinking about how much people sacrificed for you and expecting to live your life in the only surroundings you know. While you want to better yourself, you make reasons why staying in that environment was fine for the people you know and will be fine for you. It is tough for anyone to leave the place they know, and people they love, even if it means bettering their life in some way.

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