What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade April 2001

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By Claire Bolto In the film "What's eating Gilbert Grape?"� Gilbert does not lose our sympathy after he belts into Arnie, despite his earlier proclamations and advice. The act may seem hypocritical but by knowing and understanding Gilbert's character, we can find reasons to justify his actions. There are many components in Gilbert's life that drive him to this one act and by exploring these different issues, we can gain a better understanding of why the viewer retains sympathy for Gilbert, even after his behavior in this scene.

Gilbert has had a traumatic family life that has left the rest of the family very dependent on him. Several years back Gilbert's father committed suicide, hanging himself in the basement of their home. After this incident his Momma, Bonnie Grape, fell into a terrible depression which has left her obesely overweight and unable to cope with daily household chores.

This has meant that her children, Gilbert, Arnie, Ellen and Amy, are left to look after themselves and cope with the housework, as well as care for their adversely affected mother. Amy, although she has finished school, cannot hold a job because she is needed at home to do everything their Momma can't manage. This has left Gilbert, in the expectation that he will take over the role of "man of the house"�, to be the sole income for the whole family. Ellen, who is still at school, can't concentrate on her study and things such as her trumpet lessons because she does not have the freedom, nor the money to develop in these areas independently. Ellen is very aware of these obstacles that their family situation presents to her, and she often acts out in resentment, mistaken for selfishness, throughout the movie. Arnie is Momma's youngest son...