To understand this story, it might be best for anyone to read a story by a writer called Charlotte Perkins Gilman called "The Yellow Wallpaper" or read Virginia Woolf's "500 Pounds and a Room of One's Own" or to watch a Twilight Zone episode called "Something in the Walls" (newer TZ episode series from 1988).Mabel is a woman who is not allowed to be herself, and her constructed self, to appease the family, has no real point of genesis, in which case, when she can't "act" as in acting well or when her "act" as a performance does not work, this constructed self dissolves. Most people notice in this movie that the 2 mothers are also beaten down creatures who do not offer Mabel any sense of gender culture or support or sorority because they themselves have been abused in like manner over the years and have not recognized it for what it was. Mabel is perfectly adequate as a square peg...she fails when she tries to fit into the round hole of her dim husband's notions of what a wife should be. Moreover, he's not grown up, either and has his and her family there as a constant audience and Greek chorus because he does not recognize that being a man is more than working at a job. The spaghetti scene is really Mabel being sarcastic and angry without realizing it. She is a creative person, she acts, dances and sings for her children. This same talent is what's brought her so low-she's been a good actress to appease her husband, so the meal is about her saying "am I being a good enough drudge now?" She doesn't recognize her own anger and therefore can't express it effectively. Nick flies into rages because he thinks she's embarrassing him, but he's the embarrassment because he's too much of a hypocrite to stand up for her before both sets of parents and his friends to say " I like her as she is-she's MY eccentric wife, not yours and I'll have her the way she is".His cruelty stems from his stupidity and immaturity. There are so many men like him in the world, always out to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. These performances as some other reviewer said, are harrowing because most people recognize these people in themselves and in members of their OWN families. He wants to crush the very thing he loves about her-this is the basis of her neurotic behavior, trying to crunch herself into a tiny box to be socially acceptable, rather than making her husband realize that his lack of acceptance of her as she is is the problem. Use your hand to cover the kitchen faucet-what happens? The water just sprays out around the sides and splashes everything else. The faucet is not at fault-it can't operate well with your hand over its opening. The side spray is Mabel's psyche trying to find some release somewhere. This is not an easy film to watch, nevertheless you must watch it. The dynamics of the creation of dysfunction in a family here are as true and as recognizable as they are in the biblical Story of David. Her only support are her children; they recognize that she's fine and that her activities with them are an outlet, and they love her for her flights of fancy, her creativity which has otherwise gone undeveloped, and her tenderness towards them. Nick's true inadequacy becomes apparent in his attempts to be a good father-he loves them, but he's no more equipped to be a parent than a spouse. He does not have the courage to leave his wife alone during his wife's process of defining herself. His Neanderthal male posturing and dimwitted outlook make him think it's his privilege to define her himself. If Mabel can't be herself, she thinks,then "who am I?". Everyone's trying to prevent her from being herself. Her intelligence and sensitivity terrifies and intimidates everyone in the family, because they know they have knuckled under to mere role-playing in life. They have hidden rage against her because she has more guts than either set of parents or her husband. They literally try to beat it(and fry it=electroshock therapy) out of her.Mabel is the very true and hideous image of the results of emotional oppression.