“Ordinary People” Analysis and Maslow Hierarchy of Needs


The way nurses carry out their day-to-day responsibility is very important in determining client satisfaction and subsequently reputation for any healthcare organization. There are various theories proposed to explain human satisfaction. Maslow hierarchy of needs theory describes how human beings achieve satisfaction. This paper examines how the film Ordinary People highlights the Maslow hierarchy of need theory as directed by Robert Redford.

Maslow hierarchy of need

Maslow describes the concept of human satisfaction based on the nature of the needs. Satisfaction of a more important need must precede that of a less important need (Rosdahl & Kowalski, 2008, p.44). The hierarchy ranks different needs according to their importance to a person’s survival. When one class of need is satisfied, it ceases to be a motivator. The essential human needs from the lowest to the highest in an ascending order of significance are described below.

  1. Physiological needs: These are the fundamental needs for supporting human life itself, including oxygen, food, water, clothing, shelter, and sleep. Primary needs are important to sustain life while secondary needs concerns quality of life.
  2. Security and safety needs: This level addresses both physical and psychological needs. People at this stage yearn to be free from any form of threat/fear whether physical threat or even fear of not having to provide one’s needs either through job loss or property among others.
  3. Love, belonging, and acceptance needs: Conventionally, people need affection and acceptance. Love, affection, and belonging are essential human needs. Two ways a person can meet these needs include having friends as well as engaging with others in teams and organizations (White, 2001, p.5). Satisfying these needs is particularly important for psychological health.
  4. Self-Esteem needs: one can meet the needs of this level by attaining success in work and other functions. Acknowledgement by others raises self-esteem and feelings of pride in personal accomplishment.
  5. Self-Actualization needs: self-actualization represents the highest level of Maslow hierarchy of needs. It is the desire to maximize personal potential and accomplish a task. An individual with high self-esteem is able to exploit his/her full potential to accomplish a specific task.

Scenes highlighting hierarchy of needs

The film Ordinary Men captures the first level of the hierarchy through the class of the family. The family, which is an upper class, resides at a wealthy Chicago suburb. The family class reflects that they are comfortable with meeting their physiological needs.

The film portrays the second level of hierarchy through Calvin (father), who initially is trying to reconcile with his wife (Beth) and son based on his natural instincts and the inclination to sustain the secure arrangement of the system, but overlooks the element of human-mind intricacies. He senses that the death of his elder son poses a threat to the family’s organization. In addition, the mother attempts to keep her false self-esteem by cutting herself from emotional expression to any member of the family. She tries to safeguard herself from the impending anxiety. She also blames her husband for siding with their son to oppose her. She senses that her security is threatened.

The film also highlights the third level of the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs through Conrad (the second son), who in order to satisfy his love, belonging, and acceptance needs, seeks for support from both his parents but his mother responds adversely. He then tries to strike a relationship with Karen even though she is not a member of the family. Moreover, the father attempts to make amendments with his son to mend the wounds and express concern for each other throughout the movie. In the film, Conrad develops a flourishing relationship with Jeannie, which helps him develop self-esteem, because he feels loved despite his mother’s adverse attitudes. This scenario expresses the fourth level of hierarchy.

The film ends with the father and the son coming to a warm embrace and this gesture implies that they are happy about their triumph over the tragedy, which threatened their integrity. Love between them is able to triumph over the emotional storm they experience following the death of Buck (the eldest son).

Application of Maslow hierarchy of need in nursing

An individual can help another meet his or her hierarchy of needs. Nurses can help patients achieve their hierarchy of needs in numerous ways. The subsequent paragraphs describe certain ways by which nurses can help a client meet their hierarchy of need.

A nurse maybe faced with a situation where s/he is required to feed an infant, to provide full range of motion to a patient who suffered stroke, bathe a patient who is in complete body cast, or provide a tube feeding to a patient who experience swallowing problem. I can help a client meet the need for love and acceptance by organizing visiting session for clients to meet with their relatives and their significant others. In addition, I would express a great care about the wellbeing of a client to show him or her love.

A nurse maybe involved in eradicating threats to safety from the environment of the client in various ways. For instance, by using appropriate handwashing methods, checking wound infection by applying sterile dressing, using a night light, locking up poisonous substances in a home to protect small children, and immobilizing the gas stove in a home of a patient of Alzheimer’s disease.

A nurse should commend a patient who is undergoing physiotherapy in any efforts she/he makes to move forward or support self with the limb concerned. In addition, I would talk with the client on the progress s/he is making as often as possible. Finally, I would discuss the mode of treatment with the client and emphasize how s/he can contribute to his or her recovery.


A family offers the best setting in which Maslow hierarchy of needs is developed. Family members play a significant role in helping an individual climb up the ladder of need. Therefore, family members should support one another in meeting their hierarchy of needs as portrayed in the film, Ordinary Men. Similarly, nurses can help client meet their needs by helping where necessary as exposited in this paper.

Reference list

Redford, R., dir. (1980). Ordinary People. Paramount Pictures. Film.

Rosdahl, C. B., Kowalski, M. T. (2008). Textbook of basic Nursing. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

White, L. (2002). Foundations of nursing: caring for the whole person. New York: Delmar publishers.

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