Essay on ‘Splendor in the Grass’ Mental Illness

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Elia Kazan's film "Splendor in the Grass," released in 1961, explores the delicate subject of mental illness and its impact on individuals and relationships. Set in the 1920s, the film tells the story of Deanie (played by Natalie Wood) and Bud (played by Warren Beatty), two young lovers whose relationship is tested by the pressures of societal expectations and personal struggles with mental health.

The film presents a critical examination of mental illness, highlighting the ways in which societal norms and expectations can exacerbate its effects. Deanie's character is particularly emblematic of this portrayal. At the beginning of the film, she is depicted as a vibrant and carefree young woman. However, as the story progresses, her mental state deteriorates due to various factors, including her repressed sexuality, familial pressure, and the loss of her relationship with Bud.

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One of the critical aspects of the film's depiction of mental illness is its emphasis on the impact of societal expectations, especially regarding gender roles and sexual repression. Deanie's struggle with her sexuality and the pressure to conform to societal norms becomes a significant source of her mental distress. The film highlights how the suppression of her desires and emotions takes a toll on her mental well-being, ultimately leading to her breakdown.

Furthermore, "Splendor in the Grass" explores the stigma and lack of understanding surrounding mental illness during that era. Deanie's behavior is often dismissed or misunderstood by those around her, leading to a lack of support and appropriate treatment. The film sheds light on the detrimental effects of this ignorance and how it perpetuates the cycle of suffering for individuals with mental health issues.

In addition to Deanie's character, the film also touches on Bud's struggle with mental health, although it is portrayed in a different light. Bud's experience reveals the pressure placed on men to conform to societal expectations of strength and stoicism. His internal conflicts and suppressed emotions contribute to his own mental turmoil, albeit in a different way than Deanie's. The contrasting portrayals of mental illness in Deanie and Bud's characters further emphasize the complex and multifaceted nature of mental health issues.

Overall, "Splendor in the Grass" presents a critical examination of mental illness and its relationship with societal norms and expectations. Through the characters of Deanie and Bud, the film delves into the emotional turmoil and struggles faced by individuals grappling with mental health issues. It highlights the damaging effects of repression, societal pressures, and the lack of understanding surrounding mental illness during that time.

By exploring these themes, "Splendor in the Grass" invites viewers to reflect on the importance of empathy, support, and understanding when it comes to mental health. It serves as a reminder that mental illness is not solely an individual burden but a collective responsibility to create a more compassionate and inclusive society.

In conclusion, "Splendor in the Grass" offers a critical portrayal of mental illness, shedding light on the impact of societal expectations, gender roles, and the lack of understanding on individuals' well-being. By examining the characters of Deanie and Bud, the film invites us to reflect on the complex nature of mental health issues and the importance of empathy and support for those who experience them.

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Essay on ‘Splendor in the Grass’ Mental Illness. (2024, April 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 12, 2024, from
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