- Bonnie Grape. Since her husband's suicide, she's eaten herself into morbid obesity, at the expense of her good looks, and refuses to leave the house. When she's forced to go outside for the first time in years, she makes the painful discovery about how much of a laughing stock she is as the whole town stares and makes fun of her. Even before that, Gilbert was letting the neighborhood kids sneak a peek through his window to gawk at her like some sort of side-show attraction.
- Her death, especially considering that the way it happens has happened to plenty of real-life obese people, not to mention that any attempt to get her out will be humiliating: her body is so heavy it'd take a forklift to move, and the closest thing to a casket her size is a piano case. Even if there was a less disgraceful option, there would be a crowd, staring and laughing at her even in death.
- The way Arnie and, by extension, the audience realizes that she's dead.. At first he's delighted that she's playing the same sort of hiding game he plays with his brother and sisters...but he slowly shifts to frustrated and frightened when the game doesn't end, finally becoming distraught as he realizes something's wrong. His anguished howls and pleading are genuinely heartbreaking and upsetting.
- Darlene Cates eventually died in her sleep as well, making the whole scene eerily prophetic (although Cates had dropped and impressive 240 pounds by that time).
- If you want proof of how effective this scene is, watch the parody of it in the American Dad! episode "Irrigarding Steve," which features a b-plot of the movie being reenacted by squirrels. It's not meant to be taken seriously, but it's still just as sad.
Tear Jerker / What's Eating Gilbert Grape