American Dream. the Catcher in the Rye vs American Beauty

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In both text, ‘American Beauty’ and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, the illusion of the American Dream is explored. These two texts rely heavily on symbolism to convey messages of desire. In ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, the red hunting hat is symbolic for Holden’s desire to be an individual. The presence of the hat mirrors the central conflict in the book: Holden’s need for isolation versus his need for companionship. The colour red is symbolic, in ‘American Beauty’, for desire as well. Angela, Lester’s desire is always surrounded by red roses or petals when he sees or dreams about her. It is later discovered that Lester does not desire Angela’s physicality, but the attention she supplies him with. Each character has an idealistic view on how they wish their lives were and this is supported by the symbols mentioned above.

Characterisation is another aspect that confronts the illusion of the American dream. Each character is on a journey, determined to succeed their goals, through doing whatever it takes. This is evident in ‘American Beauty’ when the character of Angela wears a facade in order to acquire her dream of becoming a professional model. She lies to her peers, saying that all men desire her and that she ‘sleeps around’, whereas in actual fact, she is a scared, timid and insecure teenager who is afraid of failing in life. She consistently repeats her worst fear, “there’s nothing worse in life than being ordinary”, and is shattered when Ricky, Jane’s boyfriend, tells her “you’re boring and ordinary... and you know it”.

Another example of a character that portrays the illusion of the American dream is Holden Caulfield. This novel consists of historical context due to it being set in Post World War II, New York. During this time, people were searching to be different after the mass of society’s togetherness due to the 6 year war. His journey throughout the novel is emotional, as he in on the quest to find out who he is. Due to Holden’s lack of life...
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