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Lester Burnham in American Beauty

Lester also maintains lies and secrets. He secretly harbors lust for his daughter's teenage friend. When he overhears her say she would sleep with him if he lost weight and was in shape, he begins to smoke grass in the garage and workout in the hopes of bedding her down. Lester blackmails his boss at work, winning a lucrative year's worth of severance pay, which he intends to use to take a year off and find himself. Ironically, despite the lies and secrets of his life that have made him 'feel like [he's] been in a coma for the past twenty years,' Lester will lose his life to his mentally unbalanced neighbor who thinks he is having an affair with his son (Mendes, 1999). Because of the lies and secrets they maintain in their hostility and resentment toward each other, Lester and Carolyn also lose any relationship with their daughter, who takes off with her neighbor whose father abuses him and ultimately kills Lester.

When Lester finally has his big chance to sleep with Angela, she informs him that she is not the loose slut that everyone assumes she is. This truth is more than Lester can bear. He cannot take advantage of an innocent virgin and passes his chance to have sex with her. Ironically, this redemptive moment in which Lester faces the truth of who he is without secrets or lies is not enough to save him or provide happiness. He is killed by his neighbor based on mistaken assumptions. In sum, at the moment Lester has a chance to finally live an honest life it is taken from him. Thus, while Lester almost escapes the web of deception he has built around him, his lies and secrets ultimately cause him to pay the ultimate price.

Mendes, Sam, (Director). American Beauty, (Film). USA: 122 min, 1999.


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Lester Burnham in American Beauty. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 04:43, September 21, 2017, from
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