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There is great difficulty in writing about this topic because I don’t want to write off the horrible things that some of the characters have done, or excuse the character for their wrongdoings. Dating your best friend’s boyfriend is pretty terrible, and so is sleeping with your ex-girlfriend’s best friend. But at the same time, these issues aren’t necessarily black and white. There’s a lot more to each and every character.

A lot of what I’m about to discuss goes back to nature vs. nurture. How much of our upbringings and childhood affect how we turn out? Can we control our personalities or is everything pre-destined from the moment we are born?

I think it goes back to the popular saying “hurt people hurt people.” It might be cheesy, but it is incredibly relevant when analyzing the actions of these characters.

First, let’s look at Nate’s anger issues. Nate is terrible. He physically abuses his girlfriend. He holds a gun to her head. He yells at Cassie. He is horrible, controlling, and manipulative. 

That’s unacceptable, but I find something a little fishy about his anger. 

After his father, Cal, decides to leave his family behind, Nate’s mother starts psychoanalyzing Nate. She tells Nate about how he used to be such a nice kid, and that he was so sweet, bringing his mother glasses of water in the middle of the night. And then one day he woke up and was like a giant ball of anger. 

Because of Cal’s and Nate’s similarities, I assumed they were a good father-son duo. However, after Nate remarked that he had felt suffocated by his father, given that when his father finally left he felt like a weight had been lifted, I was surprised. The reality of their relationship was confirmed for me when Nate had a nightmare about his father laying on top of him. It reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, where abusive incestuous relations were insinuated but never outright stated.

It certainly does seem that something very terrible deeply affected Nate to create the person he is today. And while that doesn’t make him heroic or a role model, I think as a viewer maybe we can find some sympathy towards Nate. 

But then again, you can have a traumatic upbringing, like Rue, and still not physically abuse the people you love. 

Olivia Wang

Columbia Barnard '24

Olivia is a Sophomore at Barnard College studying Computer Science. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors and learning new languages.
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