By: Christopher Benson

Calvin is a six year old boy from the comic “Calvin and Hobbes” by Bill Watterson. Named after the theologian John Calvin and philosopher Thomas Hobbes, this comic ran from November 18, 1985 until December 31, 1995. Calvin is the son of two unnamed parents that appear quite often within the comics. The comic follows the life and exploits of Calvin and his “best-friend” or the imaginary tiger friend Hobbes. Hobbes, as seen by Calvin, is his best and only real friend, but is seen by others as simply a stuffed animal. The comic indulges in different aspects of the life of Calvin, including his relationships with his classmates, his school life, and relationships with his parents, and his vivid adventures in his imagination. When looking at Calvin’s personality, it is seen that Calvin is an outgoing, self-centered, bratty, and imaginative young boy that often gets in trouble for his various wrong-doings and outspoken personality.

Freud’s Psychoanalytic Perspective
The Psychoanalytic approach was created by Sigmund Freud which indulged in the theory that we have no free will and is comprised of three parts. The first is the Id. This component of the self contained our inherent desires or drives to satisfy our basic pleasures. This aspect of the mind is deeply rooted in the unconscious. The next part is the Superego, which describes the desire to fit a societal normality and adhere to morals. The final part is the Ego, which balances the Id and the Superego, the drives and the morality, and is the true reality of a person.

Sigmund Freud would argue that Calvin has an over active Id, and an underdeveloped Superego. Calvin is constantly engaging in activities that interest him, and satisfy his wants and desires. He is constantly reacting on impulse rather than thinking about what his actions might be affecting. This is seen in many of Watterson’s comics. Calvin is often seen, again and again, riding down a steep hill in his cart with Hobbes in order to satisfy his need for thrill. Calvin never thinks about the end of each ride which always includes a painful crash at the bottom of the hill. Calvin also has very low Superego. He often disregards societal norms such as friendship and success in school. His lack of desire to adhere to normal terms of friendship is seen in his relationship with Hobbes. He also goes out of his way to annoy the bully Moe, often insulting him and enticing him into getting beat up by Moe. This illustrates Calvin’s lack of constraint of his Id by his Superego. Calvin also shows an extreme desire to go against the norm of participating in educational activities. He always finds a way to avoid his schoolwork, getting caught up in his imagination instead. Instead of actually reading, Calvin imagines himself as a miniature person, lifting the pages with much effort. This shows his lack of control over his desire to stimulate his senses rather than adhere to the work that he has to do. Calvin also does not adhere to morals such as obedience. Calvin never listens to what others want him to do, and is often yelled at by his parents and his teachers for not listening to them. This illustrates that Calvin has little desire to adhere to the values illustrated in the Superego, and instead indulges in the Id.

Sigmund Freud also delved into the idea of Psychosexual Development. This included stages of development that must be completed in order to go on to the next. If resolution of a stage was not completed, a conflict would occur. The five stages where oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. Freud described the Anal stage in the matters of bodily waste. This stage occurs from 18 months to 3 years old in a person. In the Anal stage children seek pleasure in expelling bodily waste. The conflict arises when the child has to be toilet trained. If you do not have resolution with the conflict you develop fixations, such as Anal-retentive and Anal-expulsive characteristics. Anal-expulsive people can be described as those that have emotional outbursts, disorganization, and general carelessness. Often these people are messy too.

Freud might say that Calvin would not have completed this stage of development. Calvin displays characteristics of the fixation Anal-expulsive. Calvin is often careless in his exploits, only wanting to satisfy what he wants to do rather than what is right. In one comic, Calvin floods the house by clogging all the drains to see what happens and casually calls his Dad outside. This shows his lack of carefulness. Also, Calvin is constantly yelling at his parents for not getting what he wants, or even simply to exclaim what he wants, running into the room and screaming. Calvin is constantly messy, coming in and out of the house with mud being tracked on his boots, and always leaving a line of jackets, books and his backpack after coming in after school. These are the qualities that exhibit that Calvin has not yet completed the Anal stage, and is stuck in the complex illustrated by his messiness and Anal-expulsive behaviors

Trait and Skill Aspects of Personality: The Big 5
Developed by Gordon Allport, the Big 5 strived to look into the personality of an individual by examining five aspects of that person’s personality. These five aspects were extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. These aspects can definitely capture Calvin’s personality in different elements.

Extroversion is the first of the Big 5, looking at whether a person is high in social skills, enthusiastic, and assertive or on the other hand introversion describes the features of shyness and being reserved. Calvin is definitely an extroverted person. Calvin is constantly engaging with those around him, even if they find him annoying. His is very assertive in trying to get his way and make his point clear. He is always screaming out his point of views for his parents, teachers and classmates to hear. For example, in one comic, Calvin smells that his mother is cooking in the kitchen and talks to himself that it smells horrible. In the next panel Calvin blurts out to his mother that it stinks in the kitchen and claims that whatever she is cooking, he will not eat. In others Calvin walks right up to his parents and demands what he wants, whether it be a VCR for their television, or a flamethrower. Calvin is constantly expressing himself, showing that he is an extrovert in the eyes of Allport.

Calvin is however low in Agreeableness. Agreeable people are viewed as cooperative and affable while those that are low in this trait are untrusting, mean at times, disagreeable. Calvin is never very trusting of others outside of Hobbes. He is constantly questioning his parents, teachers and babysitter showing his distrust in them. Calvin is often mean to those around him too. In one comic Calvin asks his classmate Sally for a quarter for a magic trick, and precedes to run off with it. In another, Calvin steels a wheel off his dad’s tire to make himself a tire-swing. It appears that Calvin has a knack for always questioning and going against the grain, making him not an agreeable person.

Another trait that Calvin is low in is Conscientiousness. People who are high in this quality generally are viewed as cautious and responsible. Calvin is the exact opposite. He consistently is acting upon his impulses, even at the expense of others. His hyperactivity and disregard for his schoolwork or chores depict his lacking in this trait as he is very careless and only acts on whatever gets his way. He is constantly trying to avoid his schoolwork, whether it be jumping out the classroom window or cheating on tests, he never puts too much effort in the few responsibilities he does have. Overall, he is a very impulsive rather than controlled kid.

Calvin is however high in Openness. Openness is a trait that illustrates a person’s artistry. Calvin is very high in imagination. A lot of the comics over the years of Calvin and Hobbes depict Calvin’s vivid fantasies. Calvin creates alter egos such as Spaceman Spiff who battles aliens after crash landing on their plant, and Stupendous man where he transforms into a superhero from a comic book. Often Calvin is emerged in these journeys throughout his day, getting lost in them in order to escape from boredom, or to overcome an obstacle such as escaping from his babysitter, Rosalyn’s clutches.

The last trait that Allport described was Neuroticism. This trait is categorized by nervousness and worrisome individuals. Calvin is very low in this trait. While he does ask a lot of questions throughout the publications of this comic, at no time does he worry for his future, or even his current well-being. For example, many of the comics in which Calvin discusses issues that many would stress about, he simply discusses them with Hobbes rather than obsess about them, such as life after death. Calvin chooses to engage in subjects that people who are neurotic would stress about with a sense of curiosity instead. Therefore Calvin is definitely low the trait of Neuroticism.

After observing Calvin’s characteristics through the eyes of Sigmund Freud and his Psychoanalytical theory as well as Allports’ Big 5, we really can begin to understand Calvin’s personality. We can see the impulsivity, imaginative, disagreeability, untrusting, and at sometimes meanness of Calvin. Having low Conscientiousness Traits and low Agreeableness explains the self-centered, impulsive and disorderly behaviors that Calvin exhibits. Always escaping into other realities and having a best friend that is imaginary is explained when Calvin is evaluated is explained through having in Allport’s trait of high Openness. Calvin’s overactive Id pushes him into a level of overindulging his desires, and without a large enough Superego to contrast him, he is left without the concern of real world problems. When this is paired with his low Conscientiousness and low Agreeableness, makes Calvin a very self-indulgent and disorderly kid. Calvin’s underdeveloped Ego, therefore the lacking reality, and his high level of Openness, show that Calvin escapes from his reality often in his alternate worlds, alter-egos, and his imaginary friend Hobbes. Overall, Calvin’s personality characteristics can be seen through the Psychoanalytic and Trait and Skill approach in a clear manner.

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