“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 Biff “if he was making any money. Is that criticism?” emphasizing his desire for financial prosperity, an area in which he was unsuccessful. The implication of such a belief is evident through the use of simile through Uncle Ben, an image of success that, “when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich,” forming the basis for which Willy attempts to follow. This relationship between Willy and his acceptance of the value is shown through his enthusiastic imperative reply in “Listen to this. 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...