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Exploring The Art Of Sacrifice Through The American Dream In John Steinbeck's Novel "Of Mice And Men" And Mende's Film "American Beauty"

1244 words - 5 pages

The dreams, which a society creates, have an important role in the lives of the people in that society. In particular, the 'American Dream', for the characters of both John Steinbeck's prose fiction Of Mice and Men and Sam Mendes' film American Beauty, is presented as a powerful concept through its appealing nature, which offers happiness and a better life. However, for the characters to live this dream they must make sacrifices.Within the two texts, the 'American Dream', governed by the society's context, values, and ideals, presents the society's depiction of happiness. Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men was written in the 1930's, set in California, America -focusing on the many lives of itinerant, manual, male-workers who were affected by the Great Depression. The lack of security and stability in this life resulted in great loneliness and hardship for the men, as they were solely dependent on the whims of employers and the availability of work. In these times of adversity, the workers created dreams for themselves to sustain their unpleasant life and give them hope for the future. The dream for the majority of the workers revealed a longing for a better life, stereotypical of the American Dream; one of independence, equality, wealth, the prospect of owning their own land, untarnished happiness and the freedom to follow their desires such as to "say the hell with goin' to work".In contrast, the society of Mendes' film, American Beauty, reflects the middle class white suburban America during the 19990's. Their dream conveys the notion that happiness is achieved with superficial values; including perfection, materialistic possession, a successful image, beauty, a 'white picket fence' suburban home, and the perfect family. The artificial beauty aspect of this dream is signified by the films title American Beauty; a direct reference to a specific breed of roses, which is outwardly perfect through its cultivation for flawlessness. Conversely, like most house-grown roses, it has no scent, and therefore the definition of beauty and perfection becomes replaced with falseness.To accomplish these dreams the characters, in their respective society, sacrifices different aspects of their life, this in turn affects themselves and the people around them. In American Beauty, the character of Angela represents the television-sitcom stereotype of an American teenager; a typical blonde-haired, beautiful, male-attention-seeking, popular girl. Angela puts on a superficial sexual exterior to mask her tremendous insecurity and fear of being "ordinary", by trying to exist as an adult in an adult world despite the reality of her youth. In doing so, she has sacrificed her integrity to obtain reputation and the image of perfection, created by the 'American Dream'. How Angela approaches the value of beauty is highlighted through the mirror motif, which symbolises her vain nature. This concept of a false beauty is echoed in representation of the 'American Beauty' rose as an...

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