Samantha Foster

American Beauty

3 Act Structure


Hero’s Journey 


  1. The ordinary world – When the movie starts out, the life Lester is living looks ordinary, which is the whole purpose of the opening scenes. Carolyn makes a big effort into making everything seem and look perfect in their world. When Lester says something “off script”, Carolyn tells him not to be “weird”.
  2. The call to adventure – Lester’s whole life turns around when he goes to his daughter (Janie) cheerleading performance. Instead of him watching his daughter his eye catches a girl called Angela, and becomes infatuated with her and goes into full fantasy mode. The whole experience seems to wake Lester up to the reality of how terrible and boring his life has become at that point. 
  3. Refusal – Lester is very keen on Angela and realises he needs to make a few changers to himself before he can get someone like Angela as he remains fixated on her, despite the she is underage and his daughters friend. After taking a look at his body and physique he starts working put in his garage to get himself in shape, for Angela.
  4. Mentor helper – Lester takes his new attitude on life with him when he and his wife, Carolyn, to a work party of hers. Carolyn wants Lester to be ‘normal’ and pleasant but he doesn’t and mortifies her. He then goes out back of the party with a waiter called Rick, who is his new neighbour as well. Lester bonds quickly with Ricky relatively quick. The two of them end up smoking weed outside, lester becomes super impressed when Ricky’s boss catches them and rather than trying to apologise and make excuses for slacking off to do drugs, Ricky tells the boss off and quits. Lester admires Ricky’s attitude and tries to copy it.
  5. Crossing the threshold – Lester continues working and pushing foward on his new way of life. He steps

Lester continues pushing forward with his new lease on life. He steps up his exercise regimen a bunch, starts eating healthily, buys an awesome new car, listens to rock ‘n’ roll and smokes pot in the garage, and quits his job (after nailing a hefty severance package) to work at a burger joint.






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Chapter Summary


Chapter 1: The reader is introduced to Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book. Nick talks about his midwestern beginnings and how he came to the New York area to work in bonds. He moves to a small house in West Egg, which is very near to Tom and Daisy Buchanan, who live on East Egg. Daisy is Nick’s cousin and Tom is an acquaintance from Nick’s days in college.

He goes to their home for dinner one evening soon after moving. There he meets Jordan Baker, a professional athlete who is friends with Daisy. While everyone is enjoying their evening Tom gets a phone call. Jordan tells Nick that the person on the phone is Tom’s other woman. Daisy is also aware that Tom is cheating on her, and Jordan tells Nick that almost everyone knows about Tom’s affair. She also asks Nick if he has met his neighbor Gatsby.

When Nick arrives home after the party he sees Gatsby, or who he thinks is Gatsby, standing out on the grass. He intends to go introduce himself but decides against it thinking that Gatsby would prefer to be alone. So he just watches him for a minute or two but the minute he takes his eyes off of him, Gatsby vanishes.

Chapter 2: Nick is takes the train into New York City with Tom. As the train slows down in the Valley, Tom announces that they are getting off so that Nick can meet his girlfriend. Nick explains that everyone in New York knows about Tom’s mistress and that Tom makes no effort at all to keep it a secret that he is cheating on his wife. The two leave the train and walk to a car repair garage. The owner, George Wilson, seems to know Tom and asks him about a car he may be selling and other business matters. Wilson’s wife, Myrtle, is Tom’s mistress. She is in her mid-thirties and Tom manages to tell Myrtle that he wants to see her, without Wilson finding out. Nick and Tom leave the garage and get back on a train. Myrtle lies to her husband, telling him she is going to visit her sister and also gets on the train. Once they get into New York, Nick learns that Tom keeps an apartment for Myrtle. Myrtle calls her sister and some friends and a liquor fueled party develops in the apartment. Nick, Tom, Myrtle, Myrtle’s sister Catherine, and Myrtle’s neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. McKee spend the afternoon drinking alcohol and becoming intoxicated. Myrtle grows combative and, while arguing with Tom about his wife, begins to show “Daisy” as loud as she can. Tom hits her, breaking her nose. The guests leave, and the chapter ends with Tom heading back home.

Chapter 3: One summer evening Nick goes to Gatsby’s house for the first time. He is invited by Gatsby’s chauffeur and it ends up being a very large and crowded party. He knows no one at first, but sees Jordan and stays with her for the most of the evening. He is a very mysterious man to them and everyone has their speculations as to how he obtained his money. Some say he was a bootlegger, some say a spy during the war, and others think that he has the look of someone who’s killed a man.

While moving through the party Nick finally meets Gatsby, although he did not know that at first. They make small talk and find out that they had seen one another during the war. But their talk is short lived because Gatsby has business to attend to. Jordan says that Gatsby is an Oxford man. He notes that Gatsby seems detached and distant from almost everyone.

Later in the evening Gatsby asks to talk to Jordan. When she is finished Nick is there and she tells him that Gatsby has told her something amazing that she can’t talk about right now. But she asks Nick to look her up sometime.

Nick does end up calling on Jordan. They start to spend time with one another and he likes her company. But he says that he has to end his “tangle back home”, the engagement misunderstanding, before he can start a relationship.

Chapter 4: Nick goes to another one of Gatsby parties and finds out that Gatsby bought a house close to his taken interest daisy and would throw parties hoping she would come but she wouldn’t so Gatsby asked Nick to set him up on a date with daisy behind her husbands back.

Chapter 5: When Nick returns from the city that evening he finds Gatsby admiring his house. He tells him that he plans to invite Daisy over for tea. Gatsby tries to act casual but it is obvious he is excited. During their exchange Gatsby tries to offer Nick some kind of job, but Nick sees it only as a polite gesture and turns it down.

The next day Nick invites Daisy to tea and tells her not to bring Tom. Gatsby comes over to inspect everything to make sure that the tea goes perfectly. Daisy finally arrives and Nick goes out to meet her. When they return inside Gatsby is nowhere to be found. A moment later there is a knocking at the door and Gatsby walks in. He and Daisy look at one another in awkward surprise. Nick tries to make the afternoon n go smoothly but realizes that the two would like to be alone. He goes out to his porch to let them catch up. When he returns the two seem relaxed but entranced with one another. Gatsby invited them over to see his house. While walking over Nick asks Gatsby about how he made his money but is answered with a curt “that’s my business”. The group walks through and Gatsby tries to impress Daisy with all of the possessions he has filled his house with. Nick, again realizing that his presence is not needed, leaves the two alone.

Chapter 6: A reporter comes to Gatsby’s home one day wanting to learn about him since Gatsby has become a sort of celebrity through the parties he throws. He asks questions about many of the myths surrounding Gatsby, but Nick gives us the truest account of Gatsby’s life. He was born James Gatz in North Dakota. His parents were poor farm people and to escape the blandness of his existence, Gatsby created a fantasy world. Part of this fantasy included the name Jay Gatsby. As a young man he worked along the shore of Lake Superior doing odd jobs. He tried a small college for a couple of weeks but quickly grew restless and went back to the shore. While walking the shoreline he spotted a yacht owned by the wealthy Dan Cody. He warns Cody that he might have sailing troubles. Cody takes Gatsby under his wing. When Cody died Gatsby was supposed to get a large portion of his fortune but was tricked out of it. But Gatsby had created a persona for himself and found something that he wanted to achieve at all costs.

After an absence of several weeks due to work Nick goes over to see Gatsby one Sunday afternoon. While there Tom Buchanan and two others arrive on horseback. Gatsby tries his hardest to be hospitable to the trio. They make an attempt to invite Gatsby with them somewhere, but when he goes to get ready they leave without him.

At the next party Gatsby throws Tom and Daisy arrive. Tom immediately dislikes the party and begins to question how Gatsby came into so much money. Daisy also seems to be unhappy at the party which frightens Gatsby. He tells Nick that he will make things right with her and they will be able to go back to how they once were. After hearing this Nick tells the reader of an evening Gatsby and Daisy spent together in their youth. The moment was so perfect and beautiful to Gatsby that he has spent all of his time trying to recreate that moment. It is this recreation that he believes will make him happy.

Chapter 7: Nick goes to the Buchanans for an afternoon with Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, and Jordan. While they are there the group, including Gatsby, sees Daisy’s child for the first time. As the group is talking, Daisy says she loves Gatsby in front of Tom but he thinks nothing of it. Being a hot and uncomfortable day they all decide to go into the city to find something to do. Tom asks to take Gatsby’s car. It seems odd to Gatsby but he lets him and Tom, Jordan and Nick drive off together with Daisy and Gatsby in Tom’s blue sports car.

Tom stops at Wilson’s garage to fill up the gas tank and speaks to Wilson. Wilson alludes to the idea that he thinks his wife is having an affair and that he wants to get some money to move out west. While this talk is going on Nick thinks he sees Myrtle watching them from the window. The groups meet up in the city and decide to get a hotel suite and make a few cold drinks. While there, Gatsby and Daisy begin to act more obvious about their affections in front of everyone. Tom begins to get angry and starts shouting at them. As the fight goes on Gatsby tells Tom that Daisy has never loved Tom and has always been in love with him. Daisy quietly agrees. Tom, enraged, says that he has investigated Gatsby and found out that he earned his money through being a bootlegger. The argument dies down and Gatsby and Daisy decide to leave in his car. The rest of the group quietly exits with Tom.

Meanwhile Michaelis, a neighbor of Wilson’s stops by to see him and finds him very ill in his office. Wilson tells him that he locked his wife up and that they will be leaving tomorrow. Wilson never tells Michaelis why they are leaving or why Myrtle is locked up. He leaves Wilson alone. Later, he comes out of his restaurant and hears Wilson and Myrtle fighting. During the fight she runs into the road just as two cars are approaching in either direction. She is hit and killed but the car does not stop. It is later found out that the car was Gatsby’s and Daisy was driving it.

Tom pulls up a little later when he sees all of the commotion around Wilson’s. Wilson believes that it was Tom who hit his wife since Tom was driving that car earlier in the day, but Tom assured him it wasn’t. When the group arrives back at Tom’s Nick decides to wait outside for a cab. While waiting Gatsby appears from behind a bush. He admits that Daisy was driving the car. Nick asks Gatsby to come back with him but Gatsby wants to wait outside the house to make sure that nothing happens to Daisy.

Chapter 8: Early the next morning Nick goes over to check up on Gatsby. He has been at Daisy’s all night, watching to see if she was safe. He and Nick stay up talking about Gatsby’s past. Gatsby is being very honest with Nick and tells him that Daisy was the first nice girl he had ever really met. He was in love with her and planned on marrying her but the war split them apart. When it was over he intended to go back and marry her but ended up at Oxford instead. When he finally made it back to America and went to Louisville, he could not find Daisy. She was on her honeymoon with Tom Buchanan. Nick has to leave Gatsby to get to work. He is concerned about him, but Gatsby insists that he will be fine. After Nick leaves Gatsby decides to go swimming in his pool and relax. Nick now tells the reader about what happened at Wilson’s to start the chain of events that would occur. Michaelis has stayed with Wilson to make sure that he is all right. Wilson tells Michaelis that someone killed Myrtle on purpose, whoever was having the affair with her. Michaelis thinks it is all nonsense and tries to talk reasonably to Wilson. He ends up staying there until late. A man Michaelis recognized from the day of the accident offers to stay with Wilson. When Michaelis returns, both Wilson and the man are gone. Wilson had gone looking for Gatsby. Someone had told him that Gatsby was involved. When Wilson finally finds Gatsby’s home he shoots Gatsby in his pool and then kills himself as well.

Chapter 9: Nick calls Daisy’s house to speak to her but she and Tom have left without any way to be reached. He also tries to get in contact with Meyer Wolfsheim but cannot. Wolfsheim sends a letter later saying that he cannot comes to Gatsby’s side. Shortly after, Gatsby is killed. A few days later Henry Gatz, Gatsby’s father, comes to the house. He had heard about Gatsby’s death in the paper and came at once.

The day of the funeral Nick goes into the city to see Wolfsheim. Nick has to force himself into Wolfsheim’s office, but Meyer refuses to come to the funeral saying that he can’t get mixed up in another man’s death. When Nick returns to the house he and Mr. Gatz talk about what Gatsby was like when he was younger. Gatz shows Nick a schedule that Gatsby wrote out when he was younger that shows a very driven, determined young Gatsby.

The minister arrives at the house and seems ready to start the funeral but Nick asks him to wait for more people to show up, but no one does. When the small group goes to the cemetery another man ends up showing up for the service. He was a man who came to Gatsby’s party that summer and thought he should be there out of respect. A few days later Nick goes to see Jordan to formally end things between them. She tells him that she is engaged to another man and although not surprised, Nick pretends to be. Another afternoon Nick sees Tom on the street in the city. Nick is obviously disgusted with Tom and asks him what he said to Wilson. Nick has figured out that Tom was the one who told Wilson that it was Gatsby that was having an affair with his wife and who ran her down. Tom denies it but Nick is certain.

Nick goes back to his home one last time and decides that he doesn’t want to live in the East anymore. He believes that he, and all of the others, were not fit to live out in the East and that is why they failed there.


  • Describe April’s dreams:  April had dreams of getting away from the stereotypical life they were living, she anted to live her life.
  • Explain what gets in the way:  
  • Explain how she responds:

Symbols & Themes

  1. Identify 2 important themes in the film. The American Dream will be one.                      One important theme in the film American Beauty is the american dream, this means that the film was based around the family wanting the american dream, the theme american dream means the classic white picket fence, a good well paying job, a nice expensive house, a wife and kids etc. That was a very common theme throughout the film. Another the comfority/non comformity
  2. Identify and describe 3 examples of each theme being shown in the film.
  3. Which symbols are linked to this theme? Explain why

Change in a character


Choose a character and….

  1. Describe the character at the beginning of the film: The character Lester at the beginning of the film was unhappy and not content with his life. He seemed miserable and looked like he didn’t want to be alive.
  2. Include visual/verbal features features to support your description: A quote from Lester that backs up my statement about him not having any value in his life is “feel like I’ve been in a coma for the past twenty years. And I’m just now waking up.” and/or “Look at me, jerking off in the shower… This will be the high point of my day; it’s all downhill from here.
  3. Identify and describe the event or person that influenced a change in the character: When Lester met Angela his whole perspective on life changed, Angela was his daughters good friend. The event was at his daughters cheerleading performance when he met Angela.
  4. Explain how the character changed: Lester changed as he turned around his lookout on his life. He started working out, buying the things that he always wanted i.e his favourite car and he started standing up for himself to the people that put him down i.e standing up to his wife and also quitting his job.
  5. Include visual/verbal features: Lester standing up yo his wife Carolyn “This isn’t life, it’s just stuff. And it’s become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that’s just nuts.”  When Lester was telling hs family that he quit his job “Lose it? I didn’t lose it. It’s not like, “Whoops! Where’d my job go?” I QUIT.” Janie today I quit my job. And then I told my boss to go fuck himself, and then I blackmailed him for almost sixty thousand dollars.”
  6. Explain the outcome of this change. What did the character learn from this? The outcome of Lester’s change ended positive because eventually he became content and happy with the way his life had turned out. He did sadly get murdered but in the end he died happy, he wasn’t angry nor upset with his life. He learnt how to not care as much and that things don’t matter as much as he thought they did, he also learnt to stand up for himself and didn’t let people walk all over him.

American Beauty Setting and Effects


  1. Explain the effect that the setting has on the life of Lester Burnham: The setting that Lester lives in is very ordinary and standard suburban area, there is nothing special about it. As he lives in such plain area he is very boring and ordinary, he doesn’t have much of a personality at this stage which i think is based off the environment he is living in.
  2. Explain what you think the director wants us to learn about Burnham by placing him in this setting: The director wants us to learn that Lester is bored and is feeling drained is unhappy with his life, as his setting is boring and un-exciting so he carries out his life out that way.
  3. Repeat the above for another character of your choice: The character of my choice is Ricky Fitz, he lives with his two parents who are very different. His father has no trust in him and beats him while his mother seems very ‘out of it’ so it comes out on Rick negatively as he hides and lies about himself to his parents.Which is why the director put that in so we know why  he comes across reserved and ‘weird’.
  4. Imagine how the setting would affect you. write a blog to describe how  you would react to the setting. Include specific examples from the film: If I was put in Lesters setting I would probably be similar to how he is, i’d also be un-happy and tired of the life he is living as there is no happiness and excitement.

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