eating gilbert grape – response Topic 1: “I want to be a good person,” says Gilbert. Does the film suggest that he achieves this At various times during the film, the dialogue and actions expressed by Gilbert and other characters, convince the audience that he wants to be a good person. The film puts together the whole image of Gilbert like a jigsaw, piece by piece, scene by scene. During the film, Becky has asked Gilbert what he wants. [The topic quotation was taken from this is the part of the film].
It is a general question, she wants him to tell her what he wants in life. He is deep in thought, as the audience observes his closed eyes, but takes his time in answering, which irritates Becky. Forced to speak, the words that come out of his mouth are – “a new house for his family, for Mama Grape to take aerobics classes, a new brain for Arnie (his disabled brother) and for Ellen to grow up.” Becky admires this, but she prompts him, “What do you want for you.” This shows the true kindness of Gilbert, he wants so much, and cares so much for other people, he forgets about himself. Gilbert’s ‘wants’s tarted from wanting for his family, then his mother, Arnie, Ellen and we get the impression the list would have continued ‘wanting’ for other people, had Becky not interrupted. Gilbert’s good nature is apparent from the very start when he and Arnie are waiting for the caravans to pass through Endor a. We can hear Gilbert describe the scene as a ‘yearly ritual’ in a very tired voice.
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Yet, we know he is doing it for Arnie. It pleases Arnie so much to see the caravans along the road, and Gilbert feels satisfaction that his brother is happy. To make someone else happy creates a warm feeling inside. From Gilbert’s facial expressions and body language, the audience knows he gets this feeling an awful lot. There is an impression created that Gilbert is lead in a very unchanged, enclosed life from the way he describes the town, and the nostalgic tone that he uses to introduce his family. As the movie rolls on, Gilbert evidently tries to be a good person, it’s just there are so many things eating him.
Living in the town ‘where nothing ever happens, and nothing ever will,’ tied down to look after his family, same old job working in Lamson’s grocery, same people, same routine. This life could eat anyone up. It could even be described as depressing and suffocating. Yet, the character of Gilbert Grape is strong-willed and has good intentions for everyone, not just himself. Gilbert is anything but selfish, he gives up his life for his family, especially Arnie.
Gilbert continues to play “Where’s Arnie” games with Amy, even though it seems they have played this game over and over, ever since they were young. He manages to keep a smile plastered on his face that generates a smile on Amy’s and Arnie’s faces too. His good nature becomes more evident during the film, as there are many occasions with Arnie climbing the water tower, and Gilbert being the one who makes sure he is safely brought back. This repetitive activity by Arnie would almost certainly create anger and frustration within the normal person, but Gilbert knows there is no limit on his brother – you either have great patience for those you love, or you don’t. Speaking of important people in Gilbert’s life, Mrs. Carver is very unlike a member of the Grape family.
In more ways than one, Gilbert is a good person to Betty Carver. He delivers not only groceries, but himself. Their affair permits the audience to hear the older woman’s comments about Gilbert: she manages to compliment yet insult him with “I knew you’d always be there” implying he is dependable and stable. Her last words to Gilbert were “If my boys turn out anything like you, that would be nice” demonstrating her high opinion of him and how much she admires his persona. After Betty left town, Arnie’s party is the last true time we see evidence of Gilbert’s good nature. Arnie has ruined his own birthday cake, so Gilbert felt sorry for Amy and went to pick one up at FoodLand.
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The only problem is, his boss saw him carrying a product from FoodLand, and we as the audience can see the anguish and guilt portrayed by Gilbert’s facial expression. It could be described as an innocent child’s face who has been caught opening a Christmas present a day early. The average person would have no worries shopping somewhere else, yet Gilbert is especially regrettable as he already told Lamson that he would “rather die” than shop at FoodLand. Mama Grape’s death is like the final piece of the jigsaw, the final scene that convinces the audience he wants to be, and is a good person. She tells him “You ” re my knight in shimmering armor… shimmering you glow,” and this is likened to the recognized expression ‘knight in shining armor’, a savior, a saint, a helper.
Mama Grape has confirmed the ideal Gilbert as a knight, someone who dutifully carries out jobs and looks after those who need to be looked after.