Assignment on Lasse Hallstrom's What's Eating Gilbert Grape?
Causal Analysis, worth 100 points (4-5 typed pages)
Background: For this assignment, we will focus on what is wrong with the life of the main character, Gilbert Grape, in the film bearing his name. We will want not only to explain what is wrong right now, but to trace, as far back as possible, the causes of the causes of his problem, until we reach the earliest or deepest possible cause, sometimes called the first or primary cause. We will peel back the layers that contribute to his unhappiness and passiveness, until we expose and analyze the deepest underlying cause(s). Each time we locate a cause, we will ask ourselves, "What is the cause of that cause?"
This is a psychological movie, and its meanings continue to unfold as we think and talk about them, so it's important to view the film as many times as possible. View it and talk about it with friends, roommates, family. Become as familiar as you can with the characters and their lives. Each incident, each casual exchange of dialogue between characters becomes important. (Be sure to write about events in the film in the present tense! For example, When Arnie climbs up the water tower. . . not climbed.)
Task: Write a well-developed, carefully supported essay in which you answer the question "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" Your thesis statement will answer that question directly, and your topic sentences will break the answer down into component parts.
Organization: Many possible ways of organizing the material in the film (and your investigation into it) present themselves. Here are just a few that might yield interesting results:
A. This film focuses centrally on food, hunger, and eating. The title uses the idea of eating not in a literal sense, but in a metaphorical sense: something (what?) is eating away at Gilbert, and our job is to figure out what. (Even Gilbert's last name is a food.) The film is chocked full of images of and...
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