MBTI Type: ENTP
The film showcases the growth of an immature ENTP desperate to succeed and win approval to a more mature, balanced way of life. A bastion of ideas and an unapologetic dreamer, Barnum woos Charity in their childhood by singing to her about the life they are going to lead, and a “thousand dreams.” He is forever looking for opportunities and ways to financially profit, from his decision to “go west” and earn his fortune to his purchase of a derelict museum with an eye on what it can be and how he can improve it, rather than the reality (it’s a failing business and it’s hard to sell anyone tickets). He sells his children (and other people) dreams through hyperbole and imagination. It takes his children pointing out to him he needs something “alive” in his museum for him to understand what draws a crowd; then he recruits “freaks” into his side show by selling them ideas, renaming them, and making them larger than life (sometimes literally). When one man objects to the idea of being laughed at in public, Barnum points out that “you are being laughed at anyway, kid, you may as well turn a profit off it.” He shamelessly uses amoral tactics to his advantage, stealing worthless papers off his previous bankrupt place of employment and using them as collateral with the bank. He’s also obsessed with social inclusion, proving himself to the upper class, being accepted as a “real” showman (instead of selling people lies; he admits he doesn’t consider himself a swindler, because everyone coming to the circus “knows they’re being duped”). Barnum has a good ability to bring them together in a spirit of ‘family’ but tends to put how others see him ahead of them (when he thinks he’s about to become accepted into high society, he kicks the people who helped him become rich to the nosebleed section and won’t allow them to meet his opera singer in public out of shame for their appearances). The entire story becomes a vessel through which he “finds” his inferior Si – all his life, he’s running away from his past and an ordinary life, something his wife already understands (she knows he needs nothing more than “this”), and at the end, he concludes that he will always “come home” to what truly matters – his family.
Enneagram: 3w2 so/sp
Barnum is all about prestige, pursuit of climbing the social hierarchy, and keeping his personal and professional life separate (he does not want his ‘sideshow’ friends to mingle with his ‘upper class’ friends). He so much pursues external success, he fails to realize what he truly wants in life until a scandal forces him to introspect. He’s obsessed with ‘fitting in,’ and makes every situation about himself (which his wife remarks on; that not every slight against their children is about him). He has a 2 wing – he orients himself outward, into both climbing the ladder of success and inspiring others to climb with him. He can be warm, gregarious, and generous with his time and expertise – he takes Philip under his wing to ‘train’ him as much as use him for publicity’s sake. At the end, you see him starting to disintegrate to 9 after losing his theater (passivity).