Through the comparative study of “Of Mice and Men” written by John Steinbeck in 1937 and “American Beauty” directed by Sam Mendes in 1999, it is apparent that the concept of the American Dream is timeless and enduring. Mendes and Steinbeck use language techniques such as dramatic foreshadowing and filmic techniques to define the American Dream’s spiritual and materialistic aspects. However, from the context of the Great Depression explored in “Of Mice and Men” to the economic boom of 1999 which provides the backdrop to “American Beauty”, society has greatly evolved. Hence, as the context changes, so does our understanding of the American Dream and its perceived values.
“Of Mice and Men” is set during the Great Depression when people were desperately in search of jobs, food and accommodation. Government propaganda at the time persuaded people that their effort would be rewarded. This became the driving force behind most workers who struggled to put food on the table, believing their hard work would pay off. However, as a survivor of the Great Depression, Steinbeck realised the weaknesses behind the propaganda; that not everything in life goes according to plan and he explores this weakness in his novella. In contrast, in “American Beauty” the quality of life has increased significantly as evident in the Burnham household. Their white house, blue windows and bright red door is a deliberate use of the colours of the American flag to symbolise that they have achieved the dream that was so sought after during the Great Depression. It is clear then that in light of the concept of the American Dream, each composer’s context has changed. During the Depression, hope gave people motivation to work towards a purpose and they were content with what they already have. Now, financial prosperity and security has changed the dreams of the Depression to be taken for granted and are no longer enough to satisfy people. Driven by the greed of others, the American Dream has lost...
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