To Die For

898 words | 3 page(s)

Jimmy is an example of a character who demonstrates cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a defense mechanism that people use when they get psychologically uncomfortable because they hold two opposed ideas or values at the same time. When an idea comes in that crowds out the idea that they previously held, human beings will do everything in their power to try and reconcile the ideas to one another. If there is no way to reconcile those ideas, then people will do what they can to avoid those situations where they have to deal with the opposed values or ideas. Jimmy is a person who is disturbed, but at his core, he is very gentle.

He has a belief in things like honor and loyalty, but he is thrust into a situation where he is being asked to do terrible things. For one, he is hooking up with a married woman, which causes him some grief. In addition to that, he is asked to kill a man, which is outside of his nature. In order to reconcile his values of honor and gentleness with his need to kill Larry. In order to try and reconcile these things, Jimmy focuses on the fact that Larry has – according to Suzanne – been abusive toward her. This is a lie that Suzanne constructs, but it is one that Jimmy is able to hold on to in order to help himself deal with the difficulty of doing something that is opposed to his values. His situation is a good example, though, of the fact that often, human beings are not able to resolve these conflicts, even when they put in tremendous effort. Jimmy still feels much guilt when he commits the murder.

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Suzanne is an excellent example of rationalization, in a couple of different ways. At her core, she is a free spirit. She is someone who is ruthless in her pursuit of a career. That is her life goal, and it is something that she wants to do at her core. However, she eventually marries Larry, which seems like something that one would not do if one wanted to have a career at that point. She rationalizes her decision to get married by telling herself that Larry is going to be able to take care of her. Larry has a family business, and he has the kind of money that makes him a stable man for her future. What this means, then, is that she can depend upon him to keep her afloat if her own career does not pan out. Even though it might appear from the outside that getting married is not the best decision in her situation, she has rationalized it away by thinking of the limited benefits of the arrangement. In addition, she rationalizes the need to kill Larry by thinking that he is trying to get in the way of her career. She takes something of a “what must be done must be done” position on her husband when he begins to get in the way of what she perceives to be a growing, high-potential career.

Compartmentalization is another element that allows people to protect themselves from the things that might hurt them in the world. Joe is a person who practices compartmentalization. He is someone who is a good father. He has a good head on his shoulders, and he spends his time in a very quiet manner. However, he has mafia connections, and he is not afraid to use them. Late in the film, he uses these mafia connections to kill Suzanne after he becomes convinced that she was the person who was responsible for the death of his son. At the end of the day, he practices compartmentalization by keeping various elements of his life very separate. On one hand, he is a family man who cares very deeply for those around him. He is what some people might call a very stoic man, and he keeps this part of his personal life to himself. At the same time, he is a person who is capable of ordering a hit from connections that he keeps away from other parts of his personal life. This is the essence of being able to compartmentalize his life, building walls and barriers between the different things that define him.

Larry is someone who uses denial in order to protect himself, at least until he is finally dead. During the early part of the film, it is clear that Larry is in a relationship with a person who does not truly value him. While Suzanne is good at hiding some things, there are signs that would be clear to most men that they should stay away from her. They should know that she was just using them for their money and the like. Larry lives in denial because it is not fun to think about the fact that a person who you love might be using you in this way. With this denial, he begins to think that she is willing to do for him the things that a normal wife might do. This leads him down a dangerous path, having him ask her to put her career aside for a little while. If he had not been living in denial, then he might have seen the reality of the situation, and he might have protected himself from the pain.

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