Norman's Interpersonal Communication in the Movie, On Golden Pond
The movie On Golden Pond is a fantastic vehicle with which to consider
six facets of interpersonal communication. The main character of the movie,
Norman, provides for a multifaceted study in relationships, both with his
"self" and with others.
I have chosen to focus this paper on several aspects of Norman's
interpersonal communication. On Golden Pond is a fascinating study in the
discovery of Norman's need to communicate with those he cares about in new
Our textbook defines communication being interpersonal "when the people
involved are contacting each other as persons" (4). On Golden Pond is rich
with excellent examples of interpersonal communication.
For example, Norman's relationship with his wife, Ethel, is most
certainly interpersonal. As I watched the movie I was struck by how
comfortable Ethel and Norman were with one another. Our text explains that
"the term interpersonal labels a kind of communication that happens when
the people involved talk and listen in ways that maximize the presence of
the personal" (16). Ethel and Norman treat one another as unique
individuals - each bringing different experiences to the relationship -
because each has a differing view of life. Norman is afraid of his own
mortality, and therefore he views life as threatening. On the other hand,
Ethel dances, sings, and smiles her way through each day.
Examples of impersonal communication can also be taken from the movie.
Norman treats two teenagers pumping gas into his boat very impersonally, or
nonpersonally. The boys could just as easily have been lampposts. Norman
does not consider the boys as being anything more than objects that are in
his way. Norman has a similar way of communicating with his mail carrier,
which is interesting as Norman and his family have known this mailman for
years. Even though the mail carrier attempts to communicate with Norman,
Norman will not let down his guard and connect interpersonally with him.
During the movie we learn that Norman is actually quite capable of
moving towards the interpersonal side of the communication continuum.
Norman develops a friendship with Billy, a teenager staying with Norman and
Ethel for a month. Throughout the movie Norman stretches his normally
closed communication patterns as he grows to care for Billy. Evidently
Norman is able to transcend his old pattern of shutting everyone out. He
learns that he must be willing to disclose a bit about himself if he wants
a relationship with Billy.
Our text defines self presentation as "the process of revealing or
disclosing ourselves by verbally and nonverbally telling other people
something about who we are" (233). Norman's self-concept is that of a dour
old man waiting to die, and this is how he presents himself. He views
himself as a patriarch - a man worthy of...