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Interpersonal conflict is “a struggle that occurs when two people cannot agree on a way to meet their needs” (Beebe, Beebe & Redmond, 1999, p.248). Interpersonal conflict can be of love, spirituality, morals etc. In American Beauty (film), interpersonal conflicts are shown as reason to destroy household. Household that appears to be perfect and imaginary from outside, are moth-eaten from inside, owing its failure to interpersonal conflict within the family. Many characters versus character conflicts are shown like interpersonal conflict between Lester Burnham and her daughter Jane, between Angela and Jane, between Col Fitts and his son Ricky, unhappy marriages of Lester and Carolyn and that of Col Fitts and his silent wife, but the conflict between Lester Burnham and his wife Carolyn is of much importance as it was not handled properly.
. Three types of conflict are shown in the Lester’s and Carolyn’s interpersonal conflict, namely pseudo conflict, simple conflict and ego conflict.
Lester Burnham and his wife Carolyn are living in a pseudo environment where both hate the life in which they are living since the start of the movie.
This conflict somehow seemed to last throughout the movie and was not handled properly regardless of the efforts made by the couple. The conflict between them was attributed to the egocentric attitude of Lester and Carolyn towards each other, seeds of lust and adultery, materialistic and pessimistic approach of Carolyn towards happiness and Lester’s lost of interest in the family. The couple should have encouraged healthy discussions in the family and should have avoided the show-off of fake life .
As Scott suggests that conflict are more than just debates, or negotiations, in that they are an escalation of everyday competition and discussion into an arena of hostile or emotion provoking encounters that strain personal or interpersonal tranquility or both.
During this conflict, they did not even realize how far it was taking them from their daughter Jane. Giving proper time to their daughter and family would have stopped the conflict from escalating. Seeds of adultery, cheating and lust took them away from each other. Carolyn viewed Lester as a loser. Carolyn view materialistic objects as success and Lester sees happiness as success. Lester’s normal life with a monotonous dead-end job and Carolyn’s hard luck in real estate because of pseudo-competition buddy “The King” Kane was depressing for the couple.
The conflict within the couple multiplies day by day. Their physical distances added fuel to fire. Both are sexually frustrated and this was evident in routine fights even fight over song played during the dinner. However, intimate relation with each other would have protected Lester from his interest in Angela and that of Carolyn’s in Kane. Given that couple had focused on the inner beauty of life before than their focus on materialistic beauty (Lester finally realized), the interpersonal conflict would have resolved.
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