Critical Incidents and Conditions in the Lives of
the Characters in Delores ClaibourneThe film Delores Claiborne, based on the novel by Stephen King, is a suspenseful, well-written drama about a family in Maine. The film gradually unfolds the painful story of a family destroyed by alcoholism and abuse, and of a womans will power and strength to overcome.
The following pages will review Critical Events in the lives of Delores, Joe, and Selena. This will be followed by the Critical Conditions that influenced the lives of the St. George family, including history and culture. Finally, I will review Important Character Statements, things that characters in the film said that provide insight into their character and/or history.
Critical Events- The death of Vera Donovan is a critical event. Although details will not be given of her death until later in the film, her death itself is a critical event in the lives of Delores and Selena. Perhaps the most important consequence of this event is that Selena comes home to visit her mother, Delores, upon hearing that she may be involved in the death of Vera. This homecoming allows the rest of the story to unfold, and had Selena no reason to return home, parts of her history would have never come to the surface, and Selena would still be wrestling with a mistaken view of the past. Her relationship with her mother is greatly influenced by this event.
A second chain of critical events, perhaps some of the most crucial, is presented in flashback format. After being physically and emotionally assaulted by Joe, who has started drinking again, Delores reaches her breaking point. She throws a pitcher of milk at Joe, and threatens him with an axe, then gives him the axe and dares him to kill her. She tells him shes had enough of his abuse, and that if he hits her again, hed better kill her: because if not, she will kill him. What we see in this critical event is the strong willpower and personality of Delores. Her relationship with her husband is altered greatly by this event.
The next critical event we are shown is the harassment of Delores by neighborhood teens. Selena is greatly affected by this, and retreats to the bathroom to take pills to calm down. Her mother tries to convince her not to do this. Selena is quite obviously emotionally distraught. We flash back to a prank telephone call to a young Selena, another critical event. The callers are harassing her about her fathers death. Selena then begins to destroy Christmas ornaments, and engages in an act of self-mutilation by cutting herself on the neck with one of the ornaments. Her fathers death is a great cause of unsettlement in the life of Selena, and she is on various medications while trying to cope with this unresolved conflict.
Yet another critical incident is when Delores confronts a young Selena on the ferry on the way home from work. This confrontation leads Delores to the knowledge that Joe is sexually abusing Selena, which leads her to go to the bank to attempt to withdraw the money she has been saving and run away with Selena.
Since Joe withdrew the money already, another critical event, Delores is torn and does not know what to do. She cries at work and is confronted by Vera, who in yet another critical event, suggests to Delores that she kill Joe and make it look like an accident.
The day of the eclipse, when Vera gives Delores the day off and the eclipse viewing supplies, Vera opens the door for Delores to kill Joe. And, in yet another critical incident, Delores leads Joe on a chase through the front yard which leads to his accidental fall down a well.
Selena refuses to believe that her father ever hurt her until she is on a ferry leaving the island. When she goes to buy a coffee, she remembers an incident when her father sexually abused her on the ferry. This is extremely crucial, because it allows her to see why her mother did what she did, and prompts her to go back and defend her mother. It also allows Selena a glimpse into her own history. This is the first step for Selena in resolving the trauma in her life.
The final critical event is when Selena goes back to defend her mother. If she had not listened to the tape her mother made, remembered the abuse, and gone back to defend her mother, Delores would have gone to jail.
Critical Conditions- The family lives in a small town on an island in Maine. Everyone knows everyone else, and this is a critical condition because Delores and Selena have a permanent stigma attached to them after the death of Joe. Also, being a small town, other incidents were more likely, such as Joes ability to withdraw the money without his wifes position.
Another critical condition is Joes alcoholism, and Selenas alcoholism as well. We see a pattern here of substance abuse within the family. They even drink the same brand, Black and White.
Delores working for Vera is a critical condition. Had Delores never worked for Vera, she never would have saved any money for Joe to steal, she may not have developed such strength and independence, and she never may have killed Joe.
The investigation of Veras death being conducted by the same man who investigated Joes death is a critical condition because he allows his personal vendettas to get involved in the investigation, and has biased feelings and opinions about Delores.
Important Character Statements- The three main women in the film each use the same statement at some point during the film- Sometimes being a bitch is the only thing a woman has to hold onto. This is a strong insight into the nature of these women, and their strength and will to survive.
Your father scraped my old mans boat- When Joe says this, it gives and insight into who Joe is. It shows us for the first time that he sees Delores as less than he is, and can be very cruel with his words.
You hit me one more time and one of us is going to the bone yard- this can be seen as foreshadowing. The next time we see Delores and Joe fight, he does end up in the bone yard.
Im telling you there is a lot of nobodies- We learn from this statement that Selena has difficulty keeping steady relationships.
Im not the one that hurt you when Delores says this, we are given our first insight into Selenas past abuse.
Dont touch me- we learn when Selena tells her mother not to touch her in a panicking voice that her father is sexually abusing her.