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American History X: Analysis Of Key Themes.

680 words - 3 pages

In American History X, the key determinant ideal is the "capacity of oneself to change". That is, our behavior is a result of environmentally deterministic events, and thus we have the ability to change our thoughts, our behavior, and our life situation. In doing so, we hold a virtually limitless power to determine the circumstances surrounding our lives and the consequences of those circumstances.The focus of the story centers around the primary character, Derrick, as we witness his tremendous psychological transformation from radical, racist skinhead to enlightened, mature leader against the very hate that he previously wrought. His miraculous, 180% transformation is a result of two aspects in his life - his experiences with both skinheads and blacks in prison as well as his interaction with his former high school mentor, Dr. Sweeney. Both Derrick and Sweeney believe in the potential of self-determinism. Even prior to his arrest, Derrick relays his view that people are responsible for their actions. In talking about the riots after the Rodney King incident, Derrick states, "They're (blacks) not products of their environments...that's crap."The second, though no less important, story of the movie intertwines with Derrick's story. Derrick's little brother, Danny, has followed, or is attempting to follow in his brother's footsteps, and subscribes wholly to the propaganda of the skinhead movement. Through his involvement with Dr. Sweeney and, later Derrick, Danny is forced to re-think the validity of the skinhead agenda. Again, we see the influence of Sweeney's confidence in the belief in self-determinism. In discussing Danny's seemingly adopted racist doctrine, Sweeney tells Murray, "He learned this, Murray. This racist propaganda...this Mien Kampf psychobabble. And he can unlearn it, too." Against the pressure he has been facing for the last three years from Cameron and the like, Danny evolves over the course of the story into a younger model of Derrick; liberated from the burden of hatred and bigotry that has...

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