Comparing my micro-system to the analysis of Donnie Darko

The micro-system I’m writing about for Task One is me. I am a part of at least two different educational systems, and felt that I was the only individual I knew well enough to be able to conduct a thorough analysis. I felt comfortable with the definition of a single individual as a micro-system.

Because I am an individual and Donnie was also, there are similarities in the way I relate to others in the educational system. I am part of larger meta-systems (schools) both where I work and where I attend as a student. In the case of Donnie, Donnie was a part of one school only as a student, so the fact that I am also employed at one is a difference. Also, Donnie is a high school student, attending physical classes at his school, and I am a doctoral student, attending virtual classes at my school. The classes would be a meso-system. I am enrolled in two classes this semester. Donnie would most likely have been a part of six or more classes at his school. Additionally, he may have been involved with clubs or other extra-curricular activities. As a virtual student, I don’t have many opportunities to participate in activities outside of class.

During our discussion in Week 3, we focused quite a bit on some of the peripheral characters that influenced Donnie’s actions or had an impact on his life. These included Frank, Gretchen, Dr. Thurman, Roberta Sparrow, and Professor Monnitoff. Frank is of special interest, as he plays a critical role in many of the decisions Donnie makes throughout the movie. Despite our discussion in class and reading numerous analyses on the topic, I have not yet decided whether Frank is a part of Donnie’s system, or if Frank is a part of the environment and is just acting on Donnie’s system to stimulate change. Because one of the analyses I read lean toward Frank’s influence as a figment of Donnie’s imagination (Bishop, 2006), that would make him a very distinct part of Donnie’s system.

When looking at my own life and trying to determine if I have similar influences, I know that I have people who serve as mentors for me. One of my mentors is the person who held my job before I did. He was in the process of going to school for his doctorate when I first met him, and I was then a master’s student. I watched him struggle his way through his dissertation and finally graduate to become Dr. Williams, receive a job offer for a full time tenure-track faculty position on our campus, and eventually get offered and accept the position of department chair when our existing chair of Instructional Technology left. He has the kind of success story I’d like to be able to put on my vita one day, and he started were I am right now.

Another such influence in my life is one of my professors, Dr. Warren. In one of the first classes I took with Dr. Warren we were asked to write minor and major arguments. I remember the first couple I turned in were so redlined and marked up, I literally cried myself to sleep after receiving them. I had always considered myself a good writer, and these argument papers have been bled over. I nearly lost confidence in myself. But I forced myself to try harder, and I took the criticism and used it to refine my work and make improvements, and turned the papers back in with the requested changes. Beyond that, I made sure not to make those same mistakes in the next papers I turned in. By the end of the class, my articles were coming back with fewer and fewer marks on them. I really feel that although it may have hurt my pride at the time, Doc challenged me to become better and as a result I am a better writer because of it.

My husband is also sort of a hero for me. I have been in school full time since 2010, and this is my second time in school in our married lives. When we were first married, I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree, and I came with baggage in the form of an 18 month old son from my first marriage. Ron accepted Michael as his own child from the beginning, and didn’t take that role lightly. Within our first year of marriage I had to take night classes; Ron would come home from work and see to feeding Michael and putting him to bed.

For the past four years, Ron has been integral to keeping this household together. I make supper every evening when I get home from work unless I have a synchronous class to attend, in which case we have fast food or TV dinners. I also do the weekly menus and most of the grocery shopping. The lion’s share of the household chores, however, from the dishes to the laundry, fall squarely on Ron’s shoulders. Despite working 12 hour days four days a week, Ron manages to ensure that the food gets put away every night and the dishes get washed while I spend my evenings plugging away at school. He spends his days off washing all the clothes and sweeping and mopping the house. I would not be able to continue to attend school if he wasn’t willing to do this, and he has never once complained. He is my hero, and when all this is over, he’ll be the one I to whom I owe my success.

Filling sort of an antagonistic role in my life might be my mother. We have a working relationship of sorts at the moment, but she and I have had a fragile relationship at best through most of my childhood. I always felt that I was never good enough for her, and that she loved my brother more than me; these feelings of inadequacy lasted long into my adulthood and persisted even when I would come to visit her as an adult with children of my own. It was only recently that I discovered she always felt threatened by the shared intellectual bond I held with my father and always felt inadequate to be a good mother to me. These feelings of inadequacy, rather than keeping me down, strove to make me do better; to try harder. I constantly wanted to be the straight A student, to do things that would make my mother proud of me. I realize now that she always was and that the jealousy I felt toward my brother was unfounded, but the feelings I held as a child formed the basis of my perfectionist personality and made me what I am today.

In my case, I think Ron and my mother are parts of my system for sure, because I think family is a part of an individual and has a direct impact on that individual. I am not sure if Dr. Williams is part of my system or just my environment. It could be argued that Doc Warren, being one of my instructors, is definitely part of the system of which I’m part, and since he had a direct impact on me, I’ll even go so far as to say he is part of my system.


Bishop, M. K. (2006). A Case Study of Donnie Darko, Analyzing Interpretations and its Cult Status. (Doctoral dissertation). Accessed from

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