One often reads a book or watches a movie and finds a specific meaning behind the whole story, a moral. After watching American Beauty it is easy to see a resemblance in the characters to that of Paradise Lost. In this way you could say that by reading Paradise Lost the characters in American Beauty could have related and changed the way they handled their situations. In particular, Lester Burnham could have saved his life if he had only read Paradise Lost.
Today society is constructed around the notion that happiness is found through material success: a rewarding big-money job, a nice house in a quiet neighborhood, a fancy car, and a great spouse. American Beauty's Lester Burnham, on the surface, seems to have it all. In reality he is rapidly beginning to realize that his lifestyle has left him without a soul. Burnham is an advertising writer who finds his job unbearable, his wife frigid, his teenage daughter a stranger, his life in general intolerable.
While masturbating in the shower one morning, Lester declares this event to be as good as it gets all day.
So he takes a fall. Lester Burnham complicates his life further when he becomes infatuated with his daughter's best friend. After seeing this young girl at a basketball game, Lester succumbs to his delusion of a new and improved life. What he does not realize is that his motivation for this change is superficial, rather than earnest. Lester quits his job, gets a job in a fast food drive-through, buys drugs from his neighbor's son, and buys a sports car he has wanted for years. Lester's reaction to his unhappy life causes dismay to the lives of those around him, which ultimately causes his death. All of this may have been avoided...