William Wordsworth expressed: "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Passion (overall story concern-innermost desires) denied (relationship story inhibitor) is the very essence of Splendor in the Grass. The negative feel emanates from focus on avoiding the overall story problem of following your conscience, instead of pursuing the solution--falling to the temptation that will set you free. Director Elia Kazan and writer William Inge present a variation on the Romeo and Juliet theme with an end almost more tragic than that of the classic star-crossed lovers.
Deanie (main character) and Bud (influence character) are the swoon couple in their 1920's Kansas hometown. Sweethearts who dream of living happily ever after (relationship story concern-future), their economic and social status (relationship story domain-situation) are markedly different. Bud's domineering father pays lip service to his son's wish to marry Deanie and humbly ranch (ic symptom-help)-but is ruthless in his determination (story driver-decision) to avert it from ever happening (ic response-hinder). The town's oil industrialist, Mr. Stamper deftly reminds Bud of his obligation (ic critical flaw) to the family business at every turn.
Deanie is a good girl who wants nothing more than to become (mc concern) Mrs. Bud Stamper. Her mother is enthralled with this prospect as well-but makes certain there is no consummation before a church wedding (mc problem-conscience). Deanie is willing (tendency) to surrender to heedless passion (mc solution-temptation), yet Bud won't allow her to trip off of her pedestal (ic thematic issue-morality). That doesn't stop the local athletics hero from giving into his own urges with the high school hussy (ic thematic counterpoint-self-interest)--who looks remarkably like his "headstrong flapper" boy-crazy sister.
Honor thy father and mother. Deanie and Bud obey this commandment and suffer the consequence. They have no future together. Bud reluctantly goes off to Yale and Deanie goes off of her head (mc domain-manipulation).
After a wrenching and slow recovery, Deanie returns from the psychiatric ward prepared to "forget the ideals (mc signpost 4-conceiving) of youth" (mc resolve-change). In voice over, she recites Wordsworth's poetry:
"...The radiance which was once so bright
Is now forever taken from my sight.
Though nothing can bring back the hour of splendor in the grass
Of glory in the flower
We will grieve not
Rather find strength in what remains behind (judgment-good)."
In the final bittersweet scene, Bud and Deanie bow to the reality of the doomed relationship (outcome-failure)--but there is no desertion of life on prosaic earth, they instead settle for pale imitations of one another (limit-optionlock)-"love's desperate alternatives."