What Makes a Hero? a Comparison Between the Great Gatsby and American Beauty, with Reference to Author's Context and the Corruption of the American Dream.

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How does one define a hero? is he someone who rescues single mothers from burning buildings? Is he someone who chases his dream no matter the consequences? Is he someone who reaches ultimate fulfillment with his life? Is he merely the main character in a piece of literature? F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" and Sam Mendes' "American Beauty" both explore these questions in a variety of different ways and it becomes clear how their vastly different backgrounds have influenced them and shaped their works.

In "American Beauty", Mendes uses symbolism in the colour red when showing us Lester Burnham's life. Lester claims, "...I have lost something. I'm not exactly sure what it is but I remember I didn't always feel this... sedated." Following this, Lester sets out to regain what he's "lost" and when, in the final scenes, he "finds" it, Mendes clearly wants us to view Lester as a hero and uses symbolism to convice us. Mendes allown the colour red to symbolise beauty from Lesters fantasies of Angela covered in red rose petals, to Lester's brand new 1970 Pontiac Firebird. "The car i've always wanted." Mendes uses this rich shade of red in nearly every scene to show that beauty is all around us if we just "look closer". When Lester discovers this beauty, we view him as a hero, just as Mendes intended.

Similarly, Fitzgerald uses symbolism in "The Great Gatsby" to compel us to see Gatsby as a hero. Nick Carraway, the narrator, notices, "I could have sworn I saw him [Gatsby] trembling... ...looking out at a single green light. Minute and far away." The light is actually one hanging from Daisy's fron tporch and the trembling indicates Gatsby's ultimate goal: Daisy. This is where Fitzgerald's social context comes through. "The Great Gatsby" was written in the Roaring Twenties, or, The Age of Excess. So named because people tended toward wild spending on luxuries and "excesses". Also, people tended to 'live in the now' and, as such, had little or no hopes, dreams...
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