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.


About Marcus

Who me? Introverted, neurotic, self-absorbed, increasingly cynical observer of human nature and part time social critic in hiding. Most of my life spent avoiding growing up. The naive idealistic passions of youth have evolved into the eclectic eccentricities of adulthood. Northeast Florida small-town native, related to people I can't relate to. Simultaneously my own best friend and worst enemy. Politically and spiritually unaffiliated, my personal ideologies put me all over the map or off it completely.
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3 Responses to

  1. You say ‘so-may-to’ and I say ‘so-mah-to’…
    So-sorry, I couldn’t resist. Vaudvillian humor aside, I find this fascinating.
    How long ago did William Sheldon come up with this theory based on his research, and is it now a common or accepted theory/psychological assessment tool?
    Personally, I’m thinking I’m an endomorphic ectomorph. I’m more slim than large, but what I’ve got certainly isn’t muscle…it moves independently.

    • marcsuttle says:

      Re: You say ‘so-may-to’ and I say ‘so-mah-to’…
      My (recent) readings say it was developed in the ’40s, published up into the ’70s but now has fallen out of favor. Apparently the debate about accuracy of the theory goes on and much information can be found on the web. (I fall right into Sheldon’s description of a typical ectomorph)

  2. I think these body type definitions may only apply to guys. I dunno.
    Anyhow, my Matt is skinny and one of the most silly, cheerful people I know. But then again, since he’s 16, maybe he’s a mesomorph in the making.

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