The name of the central character in the film American Beauty; adroitly portrayed by Kevin Spacey. Essentially, the story is a retelling of several classics, like Death of a Salesman, and Lolita. The movie acknowledges this in wry ways: the former next door neighbors are referred to as the Lomans, a reference to Willy Loman, tragic figure of Death of a Salesman. The name Lester Burnham is itself an anagram for "Humbert Learns", after the character, Humbert Humbert, from Lolita.

He is a petty magazine writer in the film American Beauty, and creates the idea 'round which the movie exists. Happiness is supreme.

The film begins with the three images of the levels to which this man has sunk: 1) his daughter wants to kill him, at least enough to pose the question in a somewhat serious manner; 2) the image of his jacking off in the shower 3) the overview of modern suburban society, with the overhead view of row houses in cul-de-sacs, followed by the.

These images create a man so completely dissatisfied with his society, in which he has only the slight pleasure of masturbating lackadaisically in the morning, that all events other than those directly affecting him become irrelevant; being happy is supreme above all other worldly desires and needs.

This change is brought about by three stimuli: his wife (and his daughter's best friend as an extension of her), his daughter, and his daughter's boyfriend. His wife is the spur of his character change. Late in the movie, Lester recounts wistfully his wife's past character, when they were young, as being a feisty boisterous woman who went naked on the roof to tease the passing traffic helicopters. In contrast, his wife is now shown as a materially obsessed woman who stops Lester in the middle of foreplay for fear that he will spill beer on the couch.

With his wifes sexual energy (indeed, all her energy) transferred into possessions, Lester is drawn out of his normal, steady world into sexual desire for his daughter's best friend. This begins with the rather 'pathetic' flirting in the parking lot of his daughter's high school. He then attempts to call her, only to stop in fear, and starts working out in order to look good naked. This culminates eventually in the best friend offering her virginity to him in the final scene, but he has achieved happiness in that scene and pities the best friend, not wishing to open unnecessary potential wounds in her.

As with his daughter's best friend's drawing him back into the world of sex and physicality, his daughter's boyfriend reintroduces him to drugsand serves as Lester's 'role model' until Lester himself has acheived happiness. These incidents separate him from the normal mold of graying forty-year olds. He is reinterested in life by these things, once considered only a part of his youth, and from there makes the logical conclusion that his own happiness and contentment are what matters to him.

Thus comes the thesis of the movie and its inevitable outcome in our world. Lester has achieved his ideal; he is happy, content, and generally good . He has brought himself back to his happiest times, and he is free, for not only is he beyond caring what society thinks of him, but he also is separated from his culture's moral system. Frankly, he does what he wants, and since he at this point wishes no harm onto others, he will never do 'wrong' as said in our society. He has achieved a buddha-like state; he is enlightened. However, as said in the node The guy who may as well already be dead and therefore doesn't care about the consequences of his actions and is able to move with perfect freedom for the remainder of what will likely be a tragically short life, this view of someone detached from physicality (though in that node it was in reference to characters like Tyler Durden) cannot survive in our society. Contentment is in such direct contradiction to 'modern' ideals that the person who practices it will always be viewed as an aberration; his ideals will never be accepted into modern society.

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