In what ways have the changing values and attitudes of different times been shown by the study of your two texts?

    While many aspects of life, mainly in the fields of knowledge, science and family have gone through tremendous changes over the last 50 years, some human characteristics seem to be imperious to change; the desire to achieve better and the most of everything seems to be one of these. The two texts, The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and American Beauty by Sam Mendes demonstrate this. Particularly through the characterisation which is the focus of my essay.

      The belief in the American Dream has been a thread running through American society since the Great Depression. When World War2 ended, America embarked on a period of economic prosperity, which fostered in the population a desire for status and material comfort. Willy is a typical American who displays his preoccupation with being ‘well liked’ However he suffers from relying too much on credit, ‘what do we owe?’ struggling to keep up the payments. Individuals like Willy and Biff are the focus of Miller’s censure of a system that discards those who no longer ‘belongs’ to the society, ‘…we don’t belong in this nuthouse of a city!’ The use of seeds represent for Willy the opportunity to prove his effort to cultivate and nurture his children. And yet his attempts to grow vegetables signify his shame about having nothing to leave his children when he dies. Through Willy Miller criticises the notion of American Dream.

      Similarly, this faith in the American Dream is criticised by Mendes. The film shows the frustrations and catatonic daze that hide under the perfectly manicured surfaces of their lives. Carolyn represents American consumerism and the belief that things can replace relationships. She devotes her life to cultivating the image of success, ‘Act happy tonight’. Lester tries unsuccessfully to bring back their relationship into focus but he gives up as he realises that...