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E.T. the Extra Terrestrial : Childhood Conflicts in the Real World

Array ( [0] => ENGL 4360 Spring 2017 [1] => no-show [2] => student exhibit )

Childhood Conflicts in the Real World 

Image from the film. Shows the three siblings. Each sibling falls into a different age category.


For a blockbuster sci-fi fantasy kind of story, the film is surprising tethered to reality. Aside from E.T. of course, all of the main characters are just part of an average family in some suburban town. The children in the family are Elliot, the ten year old protagonist, and his younger sister Gertie, who is six, and there is his older teenage brother, Michael. The three of them are being watched by their mother Mary, who has recently split up with their father, which ties into the main childhood struggle in the film.


Elliott is seen dealing with many aspects of loneliness and even death. With a recent divorce that has happened in the family, there is a kind of confusion hanging around. Elliott is able to understand what is happening with his father, but not why. While Michael understands both, and Getie understands neither, Elliott is feeling lost and lonely, which is greatly affecting his feelings toward basically everything. In Magistrale’s article, he explains that “it is clear that his affluent life in suburban California is painfully incomplete without parental influence” (Magistrale, 223). Magistrale's argument about the missing parent causing problems in Elliott's life desplays just how lonely he really is. Secondly, Elliott is lonely in the aspect that he doesn’t have any friends. Any activities he does are either with his siblings or his brother’s friends, otherwise he’s alone. Also, when Elliott does try to hang out with his brother’s friends, they are often picking on him and excluding him. Finally, Elliott is also seen dealing with death. After E.T. breaks the psychic link between them, he dies, leaving Elliott alone again. Elliott is forced to begin to cope with his friend’s death and he gets through his entire farewell to him and is leaving the room before he finds out that he is alive.


Despite all of these problems, Elliott is saved by a friendly stranded alien. E.T. fills all of the voids in Elliott’s life. E.T. is able to simultaneously assume the role of both friend and father figure. Elliot knows how intelligent E.T. is through their link, and E.T. is a great role model. When E.T. dies, Elliot is lost again, but when he comes back to life, Elliot is filled with hope. E.T.’s departure is able to provide Elliott with a sense of closure in his life; Elliott knows that his extraterrestrial friend will always be in his heart. Also E.T. more than likely solved many of his problems permanently. Since their psychic link causes Elliot to cause mass hysteria in the classroom as he freed dozens of helpless frogs and kissed the girl he had a crush on, he probably became a school hero. Also, Elliott would be closer with his siblings and his brother’s friends forever after that day, since they all flew through the sky together.


Magistrale, Anthony. "Innocence Unrewarded: A Note on E.T. and the Myth of Adolescence." Science Fiction Studies. 1984, Vol. 2, p.223-225.