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American Beauty & Death Of A Salesmen Sacrifices

586 words - 3 pages

“The relationship between an individual and his or her society is responsible for the sacrifices he or she makes.”

The contexts which societies implement on individuals mould the individual’s dreams and are hence responsible for the sacrifices they undertake in order to achieve it. This concept is explored in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman and Sam Mendes’ movie American Beauty where the concept of the American dream predominantly weaves into the lives of the characters, affecting their relationships and consequently allows the audience to question the extent of society’s unconscious influence on people.

Embedded in Death of a Salesman and American Beauty is the concept of the American dream which embodies primarily freedom, success and the pursuit of happiness. These values are evident in Willy Loman’s questioning of ...view middle of the document...

This is your Uncle Ben, a great man! Tell my boys, Ben!” Furthermore in regards to the dream in American Beauty, Carolyn Burningham’s concern with perfection emphasizes her desire for personal happiness and satisfaction. This is shown through her proud voice that Janie “didn’t screw up once!”

The sacrifices that occur in order to achieve the apparent American Dream suggest that it is rather, an empty veneer of unrealistic expectations. In American Beauty, the opening symmetrical shot of the setting evokes a sense of repetitiveness and ordinariness in the suburbia and intertwined with the slow monotonous voice of Lester Burningham that “in less than… I will be dead”, foreshadows the disintegration of an apparent normal looking life. Lester’s sacrifice in personal happiness is shown in the medium shot of him behind the window, symbolizing a sense of imprisonment and along with the subsequent blurred shot of Carolyn cutting the American beauty roses, a symbol of real beauty all lead to the breakdown of the American Dream. The ultimate act of suicidal sacrifice by Willy in Death of a Salesman is presented in a dual view, shifting between the present tense, contrasting directly to the flashbacks of past family happiness and therefore through the movement of time emphasizes the futility of the American Dream and how it has thoroughly consumed Willy and his life.

The relationships in American Beauty and Death of Salesman are strongly affected by the prioritization of choices by the characters in aiming for the American Dream. This is evident in Lester’s attraction to Angela with the typical desired American appearance creates a direct link to Lester’s values as an American. Through the repeated editing and close ups of Angela unzipping her clothes and the motif of the American beauty roses accompanied by the recurring sinister music with a less defined rhythm highlights to the audience that it is purely a dream and the unzipping of Lester’s relationship with Janie.

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