What's Eating Gilbert Grape (Novel) Background

What's Eating Gilbert Grape (Novel) Background

What's Eating Gilbert Grape focuses on a small town in Iowa called Endora, and tells the tale of a dyfunctional family living in this closed off community where small meaningless parts of everyday life hold literary significance.

Published in 1991, What's Eating Gilbert Grape was Peter Hedges' debut novel, yet his experience as a playwright shines through as the characters feel fully realised and simultaneously theatrical. Growing up in Iowa himself, he paints country life with astute attention to detail with the narrative voice picking up the nuances of the colloquial Iowan tongue.

Despite the eccentricities of his characters, for example the mentally disabled brother (Arnie) of protagonist Grape and his morbidly obese mother (Bonnie), Hedges has stated in interview that his ethos for his writing was one of ensuring dignity. The novel can be read as the acheivement of dignity for characters who have been denied it through their ostracisation for society shown through the microcosm of Endora.

The book was a huge success for Hedges, catapulting him into the limelight of the literary world. It was subsequently adapted from a screenplay written by Hedges himself into an equally successful motion picture in 1993. The movie received multiple accolades and saw Leonardo di Caprio nominated for his first oscar in 1994. Hedges continues to write books and movies, often focusing on relationships within the family such as the famous "About A Boy" published in 1998 and adapted in 2002.

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