In a previous post I included this quote as the only line in Thomas Pynchon’s ‘V.’ which resonated with me- “Being an ectomorph he was inclined to brood.” (yes, that caused me to brood a little after looking up ‘ectomorph’ in the dictionary)
Rereading Huxley’s ‘Brave New World Revisited’ this week I now realize Pynchon might have based his statement on the work of psychologist William H. Sheldon. Sheldon’s research focused on how an individual’s temperament was closely linked to their physical body type. Endomorphic – large and prone to obesity, Mesomorphic – muscular and athletic, Ectomorphic – slim with minimal muscles; each associated with specific personality traits. These were called “somatotypes” and I find it interesting that ‘soma’ was Huxley’s word for the commonly used drug in his novel ‘Brave New World’. The words Huxley used which made me stop and think this week were – “an extreme ectomorph will always be cerebrotonic, introverted and over-sensitive”. (now for me that hit extremely close to home in several areas) Sheldon didn’t just have three distinct categories but allowed each person to be described on a sliding scale in all three areas. But now I better understand how the stereotypes of the jovial fat person and the skinny geek persist.