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Growing Up: All Locked Up Essay, Research Paper

Growing Up: All Locked Up

A person’s ability to develop is due to two factors, maturation and learning. Although maturation, or the biological development of genes, is important, it is the learning – the process through which we develop through our experiences, which make us who we are (Shaffer, 8). In pre-modern times, a child was not treated like they are today. The child was dressed like and worked along side adults, in hope that they would become them, yet more modern times the child’s need to play and be treated differently than adults has become recognized. Along with these notions of pre-modern children and their developmental skills came the ideas of original sin and innate purity. These philosophical ideas about children were the views that children were either born “good” or “bad” and that these were the basis for what would come of their life.

In the play, Life is a Dream, by Calderon, Segismundo is a character that has been deprived through his life of the developmental skills that are needed to become a mature, normal adult male. He is locked away in a tower, because of his own fathers fear. He learns nothing about how society is and how a person’s actions are developed through interacting with others. He says, “All I know is pain and I don’t understand why I must live like this, what crime did I commit? The worst thing I do is to exist. (Calderon, 7)” From this quote the reader sees the dysfunction that has been learned by Segismundo. He has done nothing wrong, and yet he feels that just being born is a crime. These kinds of feelings and thoughts can only become dominant if a person is trapped in a life that they do not know, and are taught nothing about.

Since Segismundo is locked away, and has not had the ability to develop socially it is shocking for him when waking one day outside of the prison he once lived in to find an extremely different life in a beautiful palace that is now his knew home. Not only is he overwhelmed with its splendor, but also before he gets a chance to engulf his new findings, he is found comparing his old life to the new. This is not healthy because he has not learned that when knew opportunities come along, old ones should not be compared to, but should be kept in mind only to help excel in the new place. He has to learn how to develop his temperament, characteristic modes of responding emotionally and behaviorally to environmental events (Shaffer, 398). This temperament would have normally come at an early age if he had been exposed to certain environmental stimuli, but he has yet to do so.

Since the story is based so heavily on the behaviors of Segismundo, it is important to consider his development along with the society. Like previously discussed, his temperament might very well have been placed under control if he had experienced a different childhood. In any sociological aspects of life, there must be a consideration for any relationships that may have been developed. Segismundo has developed a distinct relationship with Clotaldo, the man who imprisoned him in the beginning. After he learns of what life he was born into, Segismundo develops a hostile aggression, an act of aggression stemming from feelings of anger and aimed at inflicting pain (Aronson, Wilson, Akert, 457). Hostile aggression is seen in the relationship that Segismundo has developed in his new life, due to the fact that Clotaldo is the one who must explain to him that he is the son of a king. This new life is so extremely different, and when Segismundo is not told how to behave he becomes outraged with anger, and begins killing and other violent acts, “Thank you God it could be done. He fell from the balcony into the sea” (Calderon, 41). Since Segismundo has now become this horrific person, he must be returned to the tower.

Although Segismundo does not know it at the time, he has become a victim of his fathers idea of how he is going to act, or his self-fulfilling prophecy-the case whereby people have and expectation about what another person is like, which influences how they act toward that person, which causes that person to behave consistently with people’s original expectations (Aronson, et. al, 76). Since his behavior is so aggressive, and vulgar, Segismundo has filled the role that his father assumed he would, “?I read Segismundo would be the most brutal man, the cruelest prince, the most vicious monarch” (Calderon, 21). Basilio, the king, feels that if he reads this about his son, it will come true, so the fear develops and later on is fulfilled by the acts of Segismundo.


For any person to succumb to change, there must be action from an experience, or maybe a word that has become engrained. In Segismundo’s case, he changes because of both. He first is persuaded by an army, to fight against his father, and also by words from Clotaldo, “?But if he makes use of the power of reason a good-hearted man can overcome the stars” (Calderon, 36). These words are a large facilitator in what causes Segismundo to realize that to make life more understandable. Although he is told of the palace life being a dream, he comes to step cautiously into his next life, but realizes that he can be a good king, and that even if he would like to be aggressive, it is not right.

Segismundo’s character can be compared to the story of Oedipus Rex. He also was born into a life that was feared of him, and has to set way on a journey through a dream-like life to find out who he really is. The journey includes the always-painful experience of looking at oneself through an analytical world. Segismundo follows the path of Oedipus, in his own way, solving the enigmas of his unique life, which is his own ability of facing his human destiny. Oedipus only realized what he was when he recognized that which made him vulnerable and destructive was the reason he must redesign his life. He became friends with truth, his own particular truth just like Segismundo did. One of the main lessons of this myth is that self-acceptance is fundamental (Freud, 1920, pp. 53). Just like in Life is a Dream, Segismundo has to realize that he is what he is, and although it may be because of his father, he must overcome the past and set forth to do well in the rest of his life.

Shaffer, David R. Developmental Psychology: Childhood & Adolescence.

Feud, S (1920), Beyond the pleasure principle, S. E., 18.

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