Sample donated: Debbie Bishop
Last updated: February 11, 2019
Demi Muguerza Mrs.
White AP English Literature – pd 6January 20, 2018Existentialism and American History X Essay American Warrior X, a film reflecting the consequences of poor decision making of a previous neo-nazi and the effect it as on those around him, proves to express several existential tenets through the the storyline and characters. As a troubled young man’s prison experience is unfolded before us by the narration of his confused younger brother. Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton), a former neo-nazi who is serving time for the murder of two young black men, expresses three existential tenets specifically through character development through the entire movie.
In the film, we can observe and gain understanding on the existentialist ideas of People are Free, and Freedom Results in Angst, that Existence precedes Essence, and People are Isolated and Alienated from One Another, all through Derek’s life story. The opening scene of the movie depicts Derek murdering African Americans after catching them attempting to break into his late father’s gift of a pickup. As he is being arrested, we are given an explanation as to why he’s become this way as a result of his father’s murder; this lets us dive head first into the existential idea that existence precedes essence. At this point in the playing out of Derek’s life, he identifies himself as a skinhead, extremely dedicated to enhancing the white population by eliminating any other race and their influence as much as possible. Here, we can pick apart Derek’s mindset to match the idea that a person is defined by what they do and how they think. In an interview about his recently killed father, he says, “These problems are rooted in the black community, the Hispanic community, the Asian… very non-protestant group in our society.” and then later says, “Millions of white Europeans came tothis country and flourished within a generation! A generation! So what the fuck is wrong with these people?!”(American History X).
Here, we can see how Derek is beginning to be defined as racist because of what he thinks/believes in about all races other than white, thus applying his existence is thanks to his thoughts on all races and their importance. You can again observe this when he gives his speech of inspiration prior to the market store raid with fellow men who identify themselves as skinheads. As Derek declares, “We’re here tonight to show the government how we feel about minorities taking over our country.”, we can observe how he defines himself along with the other skinheads as those who take action against immigration for “the good of the country” (American History X).
At this point in the story, Derek likes to see himself built only upon his decisions to take action against anyone who isn’t white and his thoughts regarding all non-whites. He reveals his own course of action of creating his identity concerning neo-nazism, thus exposing the audience to the idea that to Derek, existence does indeed precede essence. Later on into the film, we are given the vivid experience of Derek’s prison sentence.