Lester BurnhamThe protagonist of American Beauty. Lester is married to Carolyn, with whom he has one daughter, Jane. Lester works for an advertising agency, lives in the suburbs, and "enjoys" all of the trappings of modern, middle-class existence. At the film's beginning he is deeply and fundamentally unsatisfied with his life, but by its end he has rediscovered an appreciation for the beauty of human existence.
Carolyn BurnhamLester Burnham's repressed, embittered wife. After marrying Lester, Carolyn earned her real estate license, and she has since become passionately involved in her career. What meager self-confidence she has is derived primarily from the appearance of her own home and the homes she sells.
Jane BurnhamA typical fifteen-year-old girl, the daughter of Lester and Carolyn Burnham. Jane is jealous of her best friend, Angela, and angry with her father for his seeming attraction to her.
Ricky FittsThe son of Colonel Frank and Barbara Fitts, and the local drug dealer. Ricky makes thousands of dollars a week, which he uses to support his hobby: videotaping the world around him, and seeing beauty in mundane images. When the Fitts family moves next door to the Burnhams, Ricky quickly develops feelings for Jane.
Colonel Frank FittsRicky's father. Married to the timid Barbara, Colonel Fitts is a man who believes in extreme forms of discipline and has decidedly off-putting personal habits: he collects guns and strange memorabilia (such as a Nazi plate), beats his son, and berates his wife endlessly. Although he appears deeply homophobic, we ultimately learn that he is repressing homoerotic desires.
Barbara FittsWife of Colonel Frank Fitts and mother to Ricky. Barbara seems to have been irreparably damaged at some point in her life. She is a timid, ghostly presence in the house, and is generally disconnected from the world around her.
Angela HayesJane's Lolita-ish best friend. Angela hides her intense fear of being "ordinary" by inventing numerous sexual encounters in order to prove (both to herself and to others) that she is devastatingly attractive to men.
Buddy KaneThe lead agent for a local real estate agency that competes with Carolyn's. He is extremely successful, the "king" of real estate. He inspires envy and awe in Carolyn Burnham, and eventually becomes her lover.
Christie KaneThe beautiful wife of Buddy Kane.
Jim OlmeyerOne of Lester and Carolyn's neighbors. Jim Olmeyer lives with his partner, Jim Berkley, and together they are the model of a normal, loving relationship.
Jim BerkleyOne of Lester and Carolyn's neighbors. Jim Berkley lives with his partner, Jim Olmeyer, and together they are the model of a normal, loving relationship.
Brad DupreeAn "efficiency expert" brought into Lester Burnham's office to get rid of unnecessary employees. Lester blackmails Brad, ultimately winning sixty thousand dollars in a "severance" package.
American Beauty Essays and Related Content
- American Beauty: Major Themes
- American Beauty: Essays
- American Beauty: Questions
- American Beauty: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Sam Mendes: Biography
- American Beauty Summary
- About American Beauty
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Scene 1 ("The High Point of My Day") through Scene 4 ("The Gym")
- Summary and Analysis of Scene 5 ("Spectacular") through Scene 8 ("My Personal Hero")
- Summary and Analysis of Scene 9 ("I Love Root Beer") through Scene 12 ("I Want to Look Good Naked")
- Summary and Analysis of Scene 13 ("Mom's Mad") through Scene 16 ("The Most Beautiful Thing")
- Summary and Analysis of Scene 17 ("Pass the Asparagus") through Scene 20 ("Massive Psychological Damage")
- Summary and Analysis of Scene 21 ("The Day You Die") through Scene 24 ("Our Marriage is Just for Show")
- Summary and Analysis of Scene 25 ("You Couldn't Be Ordinary if You Tried") through Scene 27 ("My Stupid Little Life")
- Cast List
- Mendes' influence on American Beauty
- Related Links on American Beauty
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources