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WEGG Question #22 ~ Gilbert's Meltdown

by Peter Hedges

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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WEGG Question #22 ~ Gilbert's Meltdown

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Apr 23, 2007 8:26 am

Becky holds up a mirror to Gilbert’s face and wants him to “See the hate.” That is the beginning of Gilbert's melt down with Arnie. What happened?
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:17 am

My memory is going I think I shall have to go and re read that :-/

Although I guess it was the first time Gilbert actually looked at himself and saw what others see.
Last edited by Gilbert's Girl on Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Unread postby Linda Lee » Mon Apr 23, 2007 9:26 am

Gilbert sees Arnie in the mirror frosting all over his face, and it's the last straw. His frustrations with his life, not being able to get Arnie cleaned up, seeing the cake he went to "hell" for destroyed, even not being able to break the mirror, break the dam and his anger explodes. Everything he has kept bottled up, probably since he was 7, explodes. He does the unforgiveable, and hurts Arnie.
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Unread postby Endora » Mon Apr 23, 2007 11:16 am

I think he should have written see the lack of love Gilbert didn't have any love for himself, and I wonder if Arnie loved him? Maybe not, Arnie didn't remember things well, he didn't understand how Gilbert thought about him. What I mean to say is that caring for someone like this is a thankless task because this sort of disabled person has no idea of the feelings of others. So however well Gilbert did his caring job, he was never appreciated or thanked.
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Mon Apr 23, 2007 1:58 pm

Endora, it seemed like with Arnie everything was very much in the moment, highs and lows were over soon after they began. I think he probably loved Gilbert but it was just as easy for Arnie to torment his brother. Gilbert had been building up his anger and resentment for a long time but felt he could never let it out and as you said, Linda Lee, the dam finally broke.

GG, that's an interesting point about him seeing himself as others did. I think Becky was trying to force him to do just that.
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Unread postby Iceflower » Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:06 pm

Linda Lee, I totally agree with you about not manageing to break the damn mirror.

And GG, about him not seeing himself.

The mirror makes him think about his life how awful and annyoing it can be. But that he can't do anything. He sees himself and he can't bare it anymore therefor he goes down to a lower point in life.
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Unread postby SamIam » Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:23 pm

Endora wrote:I think he should have written see the lack of love Gilbert didn't have any love for himself, and I wonder if Arnie loved him? Maybe not, Arnie didn't remember things well, he didn't understand how Gilbert thought about him. What I mean to say is that caring for someone like this is a thankless task because this sort of disabled person has no idea of the feelings of others. So however well Gilbert did his caring job, he was never appreciated or thanked.


I totally agree. Gilbert has a lack of love for himself. He doesn't really have hate and he doesn't hate Arnie or his family. He is simply fustrated with his life and how it isn't going anywhere. His meltdown was the straw that broke the camel's back so to speak. He finally gave into the fustration and that's why he had a meltdown. Also, as Endora wrote, Gilbert did care about his job but was never shown appreciation or thanks for all that he does.
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Mon Apr 23, 2007 2:43 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Endora, it seemed like with Arnie everything was very much in the moment, highs and lows were over soon after they began. I think he probably loved Gilbert but it was just as easy for Arnie to torment his brother. Gilbert had been building up his anger and resentment for a long time but felt he could never let it out and as you said, Linda Lee, the dam finally broke.

GG, that's an interesting point about him seeing himself as others did. I think Becky was trying to force him to do just that.


Maybe some of that resentment was due to the fact he felt he was failing in his job as being Arnie's carer, as being the man of the house or something along those lines.

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Unread postby Endora » Mon Apr 23, 2007 3:26 pm

Gilbert's Girl wrote:Maybe some of that resentment was due to the fact he felt he was failing in his job as being Arnie's carer, as being the man of the house or something along those lines.


I really agree with you there. The scene that breaks my heart in the film, and is in the book, is when they are planning the party and they argue, and Gilbert has to ask if he can get down from the table. As if he's twelve or something. And he's the breadwinner, the carer and the guy that maintains their home. No wonder he's resentful.

I was glad he cracked and hit Arnie. It was what he needed, to do something dangerous and just for himself. I know Arnie didn't dereve it, but Gilbert didn't deserve what life had given him either.
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Mon Apr 23, 2007 3:46 pm

I agree that Becky seemed to be forcing Gilbert to take a good honest look at his situation, but I didn't really find her action that cool. He was pretty well aware of the mess he was in, but what choices did he really have unless Momma shaped up or died? Becky just piled a little more anger and frustration and self-loathing on him at a very difficult time, and he exploded and did something he never thought he'd do, something he would never let anyone do. I don't think he really needed that kind of 'help.' :-/
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Apr 23, 2007 4:21 pm

I’m of two minds on this, Betty Sue. On the one hand, he is stuck if he wants to do the right thing—which is to do be responsible and stay. On the other hand, I feel that he has a right to have some happiness and live life for himself for a change. I think that is what Becky is trying to get him to see. I think the meltdown was something that had been building up for a long time; and unfortunately Arnie got the brunt of it because he walked in with frosting on his face at the wrong time. It could have been Ellen or Tucker or Momma if Arnie hadn’t walked in then. I don’t think Gilbert would have lashed out at Becky, though. It had to be someone who he felt was weaker than himself.
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Mon Apr 23, 2007 4:33 pm

I completely agree with you, Liz, but I think Gilbert was well aware that he had the right to seek his own happiness (was even half-heartedly making plans to do this...) but still felt the need to put others' happiness before his own. Just don't think her actions were helpful in any way...
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Unread postby gemini » Mon Apr 23, 2007 5:55 pm

Betty Sue wrote:I completely agree with you, Liz, but I think Gilbert was well aware that he had the right to seek his own happiness (was even half-heartedly making plans to do this...) but still felt the need to put others' happiness before his own. Just don't think her actions were helpful in any way...


I agree with you here, Betty Sue. I don't think much of what Becky did was really to enlighten Gilbert, more to open him up to her. Gilbert has been aware of the pluses and minuses of his situation for some time. He doesn't like it, but stays out of loyalty, and because even though he resents them he loves his family. This doesn't mean he doesn't want a life of his own some day and Becky might represent the future.
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Unread postby Parlez » Mon Apr 23, 2007 6:18 pm

I got the feeling in the book (moreso than in the movie) that Gilbert had come up with impossibly high standards regarding Arnie. Arnie was NEVER to be hit; Arnies was NEVER to be called names. Even though in his imagination Gilbert was perfectly capable to doing both, outwardly he set himself up to be a paragon of virtue when it came to dealing with his little brother, who could be extremely provocative. Gilbert put a big limiting boundary around his own reactive behavior toward Arnie, but at the same time there were no such boundaries for Arnie - he could (and would) do anything. I think the frustration just got to be too much. I think Gilbert had to 'let go' with Arnie in order to likewise let go of such idealized standards and expectations for himself. He had to start seeing himself as human.
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Unread postby Red Shoes » Tue Apr 24, 2007 9:11 am

I agree, Parlez. Gilbert expected so much of himself, but expected nothing of Arnie. Arnie wasn't required to follow many rules or stick to any standards of behaviour, there were no consequences when he upset or hurt anybody and he was enormously coddled by his mother. All of which is perfectly understandable, of course, but I did get the impression that Arnie would be capable of understanding and accepting more discipline if it was presented.
That would become immensely frustrating for Gilbert, trying so hard to react perfectly all the time to so much provocation.

I don't blame Gilbert for being annoyed by Becky's weird little mirror thing. The last thing he needed was one more person having high expectations of him. And then seeing Arnie with the frosting just reinforced the feeling of not meeting expectations.

I think Gilbert had to 'let go' with Arnie in order to likewise let go of such idealized standards and expectations for himself. He had to start seeing himself as human.


Yes, exactly. I like the way you put that.
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