Disillusioned and disenchanted, both Arthur Miller's Willy Loman and American Beauty's Lester Burnham share sexual frustrations and a dissatisfied longing for their respective pasts, but Willy, like T.S. Eliot's equivocating Prufrock, is unable to move beyond the failures inherent in his mediocrity and instead retreats into his delusions.
On the surface, Willy and Lester have all the elements of settled, prosaic lives shaped from the pattern of the "American Dream": large homes in middle- or upper-class neighborhoods, successful children, loving wives. But under this facade, both share a need that has devastated men and engendered distrust in their families for generations: the extra-marital affair.
Willy's affair with The Woman is a crucial turning point in his relationship with Biff, his oldest son. When Biff catches Willy and his mistress, Willy first attempts to distract his son and then be rid of him. However, his attempted cover-up fails and forever shatters the idolatrous relationship between father and son.
Willy: She's nothing to me Biff. I was lonely, I was terribly lonely.
Biff: You... you gave her Mama's stockings!
Willy: I gave you an order!...
Biff: You fake! You phony little fake! You fake! (Miller 1850)
Biff's discovery of his father's indiscretions shatter the Loman family's fragile facade of middle-class happiness. Although Willy is genuinely remorseful for his conduct, neither his repeated refrains of "stop crying, I gave you an order!" (1850) nor his apologies can mend the rift between him and Biff. Yet even as Biff loses his football scholarship and wanders, not unlike hi...
... middle of paper ...
...the passive salesman and the aggressive quitter. Where Willy Loman quickly makes society's ideals his own and then falls victim to his own dissatisfaction, Lester achieves happiness because he rejects the standards that society sets for a middle-aged man.
American Beauty. Dir. Sam Mendes. Writ. Alan Ball. With Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. Dreamworks SKG, 1999.
Eliot, T.S.. "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: Norton, 1996. 2459-2463.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Viking, 1965.
Millar, Jeff. "The Rise and Fall of Everyman: `American Beauty' Proves Potent Family Portrayal." Houston Chronicle 24 Sept. 1999, Star ed.: 1. Academic Universe. LEXISNEXIS. Madden Lib., Fresno, CA. 13 Apr. 2000 <http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/>.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- American Beauty Spacey and Bening play the unhappily married Burnhams. They have a daughter Jane (Thora Birch) and a nice house in the suburbs, replete with expensive tasteful furniture and a Mercedes SUV. Spacey's character is Lester, a sarcastic but weak-willed advertising writer who inwardly loathes his job and regards his wife with disdain--though he obeys her. Bening is Carolyn: a high-strung career-minded woman with an elaborately coiffured hair, garden, and lifestyle.... [tags: Fim, Movie]
668 words (1.9 pages)
- The Impact of Different Life Crises Stress and everyday annoyances are not crises. Situations that interfere with normal activity, inspire feelings of panic or defeat, and bring about deep emotional reactions are crises. A crisis is a 'turning point'; or a crucial time that will make a difference for better or worse. The Chinese word for 'crisis'; is made up of two characters -- one means despair and the other means opportunity. When a person experiences crisis, there will either be a negative outcome or a positive one.... [tags: Crises Crisis Death Life Essays]
1448 words (4.1 pages)
- While reading “The Kugelmass Episode,” I realized the emotional distress that someone can be put through after being a part of an affair. I also came to the realization Sidney’s affair might have been caused by a midlife crisis. A midlife crisis can cause several different changes in people’s normal life style, an affair being one of them. An affair is a relationship between two people without the other spouse knowing. Usually complications with the marriage will be the first thing considered when an affair is occurring.... [tags: Marriage, Love, Adultery, Wife]
1078 words (3.1 pages)
- Synthesis Essay #2 The definition of beauty is a characteristic of a person, animal, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction. Beauty has negative and positive influences on mostly people. Beauty is described by the inside and outside of us. Due to beauty, our self-esteem has been hurt dramatically, especially towards girls. Beauty is not always about our outside looks but it’s about our inside personality also. First of all, beauty has negative and positive influences on about everything.... [tags: Beauty]
916 words (2.6 pages)
- One of the many challenges that marketing managers can face is a form of a company mid-life crisis. Just as people do companies may find that after a certain amount of time, success and growth that they need to reevaluation their priorities and goals. Wal-Mart provides an example of a company mid-life crisis, as its growth after 2005 dropped to 2% and faced a growing set of major competitors. Just a people can turn a mid-life crisis into a positive midlife transition, Wal-Mart can potentially use holistic marketing to successfully adapt to a competitive and dynamic economic environment.... [tags: business, marketing management]
885 words (2.5 pages)
- There are so many different opinions on what beauty is. The idea of beauty is purely opinionated. Beauty is your own idea, skinny or thick, long hair or short hair, light skin or dark skin. How people define beauty is unique in many different ways everyone has a different opinion. No ones idea of beauty is the same. In society today it has become more materialistic based if you wear the latest designer or you have the newest pair of sneakers out and the true meaning of being beautiful has escaped our souls.... [tags: Beauty, Aesthetics, Human physical appearance]
1849 words (5.3 pages)
- ... In Aschenbach’s eyes Tadzio is “a precious artifact of human nature” who reveals true beauty to him (25). Aschenbach has trudged through his life with hard work. He misses out on the simplicity of beauty in his childhood, but Tadzio embodies “the figure of the adolescent” (25). This vision of beauty leads Aschenbach into a life he has never had. It leads him to crave the simplicity of beauty rather than to continue his endless life of work. Aschenbach breaks away from his normal view to see the basics in life and he is left “in bliss” (25).... [tags: world, trap, true, beauty]
618 words (1.8 pages)
- Not long ago, a woman’s success was measured by the success of her husband and her domestic prowess. Today, a woman is presumed successful if she can emulate the standards of beauty portrayed in the media. Unfortunately, this subliminally enforced standard is unattainable to some women, regardless of the quality of their character. Let’s examine how western women went from being pioneering superheroes, to people who measure their worth against airbrushed photographs of impossibly beautiful women.... [tags: Beauty]
724 words (2.1 pages)
- Midlife Crisis: Myth. Imagine being forty or fifty and asking yourself questions like: What have I done all of my life. Why am I sitting behind a desk. And what am I doing driving a 1994 Grand Am, when I could be driving a BMW z3. Then you come home and your partner says, "Honey, I set up and appointment for you to see Dr. Sherwood." and you reply "What for?" Going through some a midlife transaction is common in men. From having symptoms, then coping with it, and getting professional help.... [tags: essays research papers fc]
1325 words (3.8 pages)
- Beauty and the Beast is probably one of the most well known fairy tales that the Grimms’ reproduced. In it’s original form it was a long, drawn out story that was catered to adults. The Grimms’ changed the story to be more understood by children and made it short and to the point. Unlike many of the other fairy tales that they reproduced, Beauty and the Beast contains many subtle symbols in its purest form. It shows a girl and how she transfers to a woman; it also shows that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.... [tags: Beauty And The Beast]
1453 words (4.2 pages)
- A Comparison of Hubris in Catcher in the Rye, Scarlet Letter, and Great Gatsby
- A Thousand Acres as Movie is Melodramatic and Bogus
- Blindness, Sight and Eyes in Sophocles' Oedipus The King
- Dante's Divine Comedy - Good and Evil in The Inferno
- The Paradox of A Clockwork Orange
- Britney Spears as Role Model for All Women