Running head: GILBERT GRAPE
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
Mara J. Briere
Concordia University- St. Paul
Gilbert Grape 2
Respond to the following questions:
1. What were the issues?
The presenting issues included: Arnie surviving to celebrate his eighteenth birthday; Becky and her grandmother waiting to have a part delivered so that they their truck could be fixed; Mrs. Carver is looking for security; Gilbert wants, “a new house, new family. I want Mama to take aerobics. I want Arnie to have a new brain.” “What do you want just for you?” “Be a good person.”
As I watched the movie, I thought, “This is a substance affected family.” The Grape family manifests the identified roles in substance affected families as first identified by Sharon Wegsheider-Cruse (1992) and expressed by Permazon (2007). “Mama,” is the “Addict.” The Addict’s role is to be the center of the family. She is morbidly obese. Because of this, she does not and cannot function in a constructive way. She has relinquished her role as a parent yet the family revolves around her as evidenced by the family meal. Gilbert, the oldest son living at home, has assumed all of the responsibilities of his deceased father, i.e. maintaining the dwelling and the subsistence of the family, earning money, assuming the role of primary caretaker of Arnie, the mentally challenged brother. Gilbert plays the role of the Family Hero; he makes all the other role players look good . Each of the other siblings play their roles as well. “Arnie,” is the Scapegoat. The Scapegoat is the role player who draws attention away from the Addict. Arnie acts out for attention and accepts the family’s blame for its problems. An example of this is Arnie’s infatuation with climbing the water tower, an event that has caused the family and the good people of Endora much consternation. “Amy,” is the Lost Child/Caretaker. The Lost Child makes no waves, careful not to make any
Gilbert Grape 3 problems; the Caretaker tries to keep everyone happy, the consummate enabler. Amy is directly responsible for taking care of Mama and her needs. Although she would like to be a chef, she has to stay home to care for Mama. The scene when she sits in the kitchen after Arnie eats his birthday cake, and she cries quietly, saying, “I just can’t bake another one.” “Ellen” is the Family Mascot, the family jester, the family member who uses humor to cope with the family interactions. She is (typically) the youngest child, cute, and uses humor as a weapon to hurt the other family members because she is embarrassed and ashamed of her mother and her mentally challenged brother. Throughout the movie, Ellen’s caustic comments to Gilbert and cruel actions towards Arnie are contrasted by her social circle of friends. She can appear cute to outsiders however she is anything but to her family.
2. What were the primary characters main concerns?
Gilbert’s main concern was to engage in the task of becoming his own person, “differentiation of self,” as Bowen (1974, in Price, 2007) would say. He wanted to be free of the responsibilities imposed on him by the toxic interdependence engendered by Mama and his siblings. He is ambivalent about his relationships with his family, simultaneously protecting Mama by having the floor shored up to be safe enough to bear her weight and allowing the neighborhood children to gawk at her through the window. Arnie’s main concern was to be accepted as he was, safe, with Gilbert as portrayed in the scenes when he is bullied and Gilbert tells him, “No one hurts Arnie. Gilbert won’t allow it!” Mama’s main concern was that Gilbert take care of Arnie which she says repeatedly, blaming him when Arnie gets in trouble by saying, “You have to do better about watching Arnie!” Becky’s main concern was to make the most of the delay in Endora as
Gilbert Grape 4 an opportunity to explore the world with an open mind, accepting what IS without succumbing to what COULD be. Grandmother’s main