Will's history of abuse and abandonment has led him to believe that he is mean, unlovable,
and on his own in the world. He sees change and love as unnecessary risks. He is afraid of
being vulnerable because it is incongruent with his self-image, an image he developed in
order to function in a lonely, painful world. He has learned to react with anger towards
words of affection because, to him, they imply that he is weak and that threatens his
identity. He cannot assimilate these unselfish motives with the motives in his existing
schemata because he has never known agape. A similar conflict exists with his
intelligence. He doesn't see himself as special or worthy of praise. He is comfortable
being a poor "Southy" because the mainstream looks down on this group as he's
been looked down on all his life.
Will makes choices that will verify his self-concept. He feels comfortable being a poor
Southy and wants to stay there all his life. He chooses friends because loyalty and
reciprocity are the only aspects of love he can understand from his logical perspective.
There are no risks when you don't aspire to dream. On an unconscious level, however, his
social "me" is looking for praise, working in a comfortable position amongst
bright people where he risks being discovered, and chooses to quit when he does. He
chooses to fight and get in trouble in order to confirm to himself that he is mean and
belongs with his friends, he needs to belong. In that we can obviously see cultural
aspects to Will's feelings and behavior. These activities are their way of forming
intimacy. An important choice Will made was to talk to Sean, as Sean applied a Rogerian
approach to verify Will's will. Will shares a joke that reveals his antagonism towards the
roles that confine him, for example the poor, tough Southy. But, more importantly, he
reveals his fear of risks, and decides to continue seeing Skylar.
Then Will makes the biggest mistake of the movie. He lies to Skylar, a mistake I am all
too familiar with. When beginning a relationship we play roles that attempt to hide what
we believe to be our flaws. These flaws are actually the cornerstones of our identities,
deeply symbolizing how we see ourselves. Will doesn't want to seem vulnerable to Skylar.
When he reveals the truth, the timing of the disclosure leaves him very vulnerable and he
can't control the way he has learned to deal with these emotions. He cannot assimilate
Skylar's propositions as being genuine with his beliefs that people want something from
him. He chooses to push her away, feeling threatened. He then goes on and rationalizes
that he doesn't need the jobs he is offered because he'll be bored. He is afraid of being
used, he's afraid to take the risk and change his entire life. He wouldn't be comfortable
To find the antagonist of the story you need look no further than the title of the film.
Will Hunter, hunting for the will to reach his potential, against his self-image. The
challenge is to conquer his self-defeating behavior in order to unleash his genius. His
friends have kept him alive all these years by giving him a sense of belonging, comfort,
intimacy, and acceptance. Then, he is given an opportunity to grow, and growth is
frightening and difficult. Sean challenges Will to take risks and dares him to love. This
relationship helps Will to see the incongruency in his self-image that is not allowing him
to grow. Skylar gives Will the experiences that prove to him that he is not as unlovable
as he thinks.
The timing and quality of these relationships proved to be exactly what Will needed to get
"unstuck". His friends show him that he was special with a gift. His best friend
reveals that he did not expect or want him to give up this opportunity, and that he would
not lose his friendship. This helped Will see the opportunity and the real reason why he
didn't want to take it. Sean gave Will goals to reach and taught him the flaw in his
thinking, "It is not your fault". The past was not his fault, he is not a bad
person, and he cannot avoid risks all his life by thinking of what can go wrong. Will
finally heard what Sean was saying and realized his resistance. Will's sense of self has
changed at the resolution of the movie. He takes a risk and goes after Skylar. Surely he
is vulnerable, but the qualia of love cannot be felt in any book, and there exists no
other risk so worthy of the taking.