The State of Despair in American Beauty
In life, everyone must make choices. Choices give an individual the freedom to decide upon the path to which they will follow. Since it’s beginnings, the film making industry has focused on showing the direct relationship between the choices that people make and the resulting consequences they must face. In the movie American Beauty, the character of Lester Burnham must make many important choices that could either lead to his ultimate happiness, or draw him further into his despair.
In the movie American Beauty, it is evident that Lester Burnham is in a state of despair. Lester’s dull and monotonous voice introduces the audience to his daily routine of life. When Lester declares plain and simply, “This is my neighborhood, this is my street, this is my life,” he exposes the lifelessness and unhappiness to which he has become accustomed. The hopeless tone that Lester has set continues when he cynically comments, “jerking off in the shower will be the high point of my day.” He realizes his family life is no better when he becomes aware that both his disdainful wife and his troubled daughter consider him “a gigantic loser.” It is easy to recognize and understand Lester’s disheartenment through analysis and symbolic car scene. In this scene, Lester sits slouched down in the back seat with a look of emptiness while his daughter Jane sits up front, next to his wife Caroline who is driving the car. The symbolism is shown through Carolyn driving the car, as she drives the family (especially Lester). She has evolved into the decision-maker, and leader of the Burnham family. Sitting in the backseat, Lester avoids further conflict with his wife, leading him to become an even unhappier and more desperate person. It is understandable why Lester feels like a sedated visitor in his own life. It is also easy to empathize with Lester when he states that he feels “in many ways already dead.”
For Lester, his life at work is nothing better than his life at home. After fourteen years on the job, Lester is asked by an efficiency expert at work to write a memo justifying his position. This requires making the first of several choices, which will ultimately affect his future happiness. Should he justify his job and continue to provide for his family or choose freedom and a new life? To answer this question the audience must examine and understand Lester’s status as an employee in his work. Lesters job is not vital, nor is it an important component of the company. This is obvious by observing the large room he shares with dozens of co-workers. The cubical Lester had is identical to the dozens of cubicles filling the room. Like all other cubicles, the workspace the employees shared was small and confined. Looking at Lester’s workspace, the audience can identify the bland and uniform area that Lester has faced on a daily basis. Lester was considered by others to be an “expendable employee”, having a job that was not...