In American Beauty, there are a lot of similarities to Herman Hesse's Siddhartha. Lester, the main character, is on a trip to find and improve himself and at the same time, to escape from his reality. Siddhartha was trying to reach the ultimate goal of Buddhism, Atman or the pure self.
Lester starts out in the movie as a total loser whose marriage is a loss, according to his daughter, "sprays his shorts" whenever she brings a girl friend home from school. He over hears his daughter's friend Angela say that he should "get buff," so he decides to do so. This starts his period of self-improvement. At almost the same time, his search to escape reality begins. He meets the new neighbor's son and starts to smoke weed with him, which gives him a sense of confidence. This sense of confidence causes him to quit his job and tell everyone exactly what he thinks of him or her.
After quitting his job, he applies at a fast food restaurant and by chance, finds out that his wife is cheating on him.
Siddahrtha was the son of a Brahmin and knew all there was to know about how to reach Atman, but never could find it. Through persistence, he convinced his father to let him join the Shramanas. While with them, he went through numerous exercises to try to separate his self from his body and hopefully attain Atman. None of these practices worked and he still felt unfulfilled. After hypnotizing the head Shramana, he went on to follow the Buddha. Siddhartha and his best friend had heard numerous stories about the Buddha and were curious to see if he had in fact found a way to attain Atman. After hearing all that the Buddha had...