Term Paper: American History X

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American History X

Our Hero is Derek Vinyard, a Californian neo-Nazi racist played by Edward Norton.

Derek has most of the physical features of a neo-Nazi gang leader, with his head shaved bald, and a muscular body marked with swastika tattoos. His reason for choosing the racist path is having his fireman father murdered by a black man whilst trying to put out a fire in a drug dealer's house. He is in a process of promoting his beliefs by tutoring the vulnerable young minds of Venice Beach. He aims to push the neo-Nazi barrier to a new level by starting with his neighborhood and he just won by having overtaken power from the hands of other non-white gangs. The film illustrates the transformation of a full of hatred young skinhead into a mature individual through incarceration. The prison time helped him realize the foulness, the corruption and the absurd, the real faces of the skinhead doctrine.

2.Despite having a typical American family, Derek's life changes after his father's death and takes a new course with the aid of Cameron Alexander, a villain dedicated to persuading young troubled minds into doing his dirty deeds, covered by an imaginary fight against the evil forces performed by all non-whites coming to overtake America and the American life. The Vinyard family life started to tremble and later to welcome total chaos with the disappearance of the head of the house and with Derek's fall into Cameron Alexander's hands. Derek quickly puts his managerial skills to good use and manages to become second in command of the neo-Nazi community he joined.

3. During a basketball game between blacks and whites, Derek proposes playing white vs. black game for the local basketball court and eventually triumphs in driving the blacks away from the turf. Derek is put to test later as two of his earlier basketball black opponents attempt to steal his car and then to shoot him while trying to get away. The black men are shot down and brutally murdered and thus Derek gets a three-year sentence to imprisonment. Being sent to jail, Derek finds himself in a more powerful neo-Nazi faction which he immediately joins, only to discover his new acquaintances prove to be drug dealers and black sympathizers. Derek then breaks with the skinheads for a solitary living among the blacks, but gets violently raped by his old neo-Nazi companions for socializing with his black cell-mate. His transformation is impressive as he realizes that all the neo-Nazi propaganda is just a bunch of lies meant to be a cover for all the business going underground.

4. Instead of joining his friends and selling drugs to his own kind, Derek decides to break up with the neo-Nazi prisoners without any hold-backs after having learned the corruption and the real interests of the neo-Nazi system, both in prison and at home with Cameron.. He later builds a friendship between him and his friendly black cell-mate

As he took the decision to abandon all that was related to neo-Nazism and its followers, Derek confirmed his strong beliefs in a real and dedicated nationalist system which did not have any pecuniary motifs.

5. After being raped in prison by his former skinhead companions, Derek receives a visit from Bob Sweeney, his former high school principal now studying the skinhead movement in Venice Beach. This character is played by Avery Brooks. Sweeney is determined to rehabilitate both Derek and his younger brother, Danny, played by Edward Furlong, a character fascinated by his own brother and keen on following his footsteps. Derek soon finds great support in Sweeney and later in his cell-mate, characters that are symbols of the tolerance in black men who accept whites as their fellows in spite of the treatment some whites gave them.

The situation Derek was in allowed him to think further than his white pride and to understand the pointless fight for an imaginary freedom he was engaged in. With the help of a concerned Sweeney, Derek decides to repent by listening to his savior and choosing a life by himself instead of the support of some group with the risk of being put to death at any moment either by the skinhead faction or by the blacks he formerly hated.

6. Having abandoned his former way of living, Derek realizes the danger he is in and patiently waits for someone to eventually get to him. The new inhospitable setting that Derek stumbles upon is full of threats and villains waiting around the corner to put an end to his misery. He decides to live in fear for the rest of his imprisonment time being certain that his days were numbered and his only chance was for Sweeney to intervene and influence the board committee's decision concerning his parole. Prepared for a potential conflict, Derek waits in vain for something to happen, but in spite of the odds nothing happens and his sworn enemies keep avoiding him for the rest of his days in prison. Derek's life takes a 180 degree turn as he learns to appreciate humanity and to see the beauty of living a free, non-violent, life that didn't just differ from his former, but was in opposition to that.

7. Derek's main force of motivation and practically involuntary ally is his little brother Danny who became the product of his brother's former style of living. The people willing to assist Derek seem to be weaker and powerless compared to those that want to either hurt or discourage him. During the film Derek fights his racist nature, his most powerful enemy. Sweeney is an icon of the dedicated professor expressing great interest in both Derek and Danny. In spite of their anti-black nature and their fascination with Nazism, Sweeney tries to understand them and to bring the two confused young people on the right path. With the help of his old principal Derek manages to get himself together after the rape and to get out in time for saving Danny from Cameron. Derek's survival in prison and his life had been owed to his cell-mate, a small time thief named Lamont. The character is played by Guy Torry, an amusing warm-hearted crook who seems to sympathize with Derek and even to fight keeping him out of the hands of his prison enemies.

Derek's main enemy is the whole neo-Nazi faction, both in prison and outside it. His most powerful physical enemy is Cameron Alexander, a white-power supporter that lures white kids into an organized group that increases substantially by the time Derek gets out of prison.

Derek successfully prevails over the impediments he meets and he manages to stay be devoted to his beliefs, both pro-racist and anti-racist. Having his moral crushed after he gets raped by the skinhead prisoners, he gets over it by and becomes stronger than before.

8. Derek encounters the most challenging part of his performance in prison, as he chooses to desert and to ignore the neo-Nazi prisoners in favor of having no one to support him in jail. The shower scene provides the major defeat for Derek as he is incarcerated, let down by his own and later raped.

9. As he reaches the point of learning the wicked ways of the neo-Nazi system, Derek is face-to-face with a decision that would change his life permanently. Surprisingly, his choice is similar to committing suicide, as denying the skinheads left him alone against those he despised. He grows hair and disposes of the skinhead habits agreeing to become an average inmate with no racial preferences whatsoever. The easier way of coping with the situation would leave Derek involved in drug trafficking and against all he previously stood for. This situation would have been less painful and even profitable, but in fact it would have killed the concept of freedom and of a free America.

10. Derek's decision allows him to still have respect for himself by not kneeling in front of all that was wrong. Because of previously being a good and devoted student to Cameron, Derek had also learned to keep his beliefs regardless to what the consequences might have been. Ironically, by keeping his head up, Derek wins his freedom inside prison by keeping his mind free from the corrupt system. As he wins Sweeney's trust to support him at the board committee meeting, Derek also has a material prize in the form of freedom.

11. Having become confident and independent, Derek proved a normal being's capabilities of metamorphosis and freeing himself of his own demons. The road back to his family is assured both by Sweeney's intervention and his own transformation. As he returns, Derek finds a disorganized family living in a small apartment and his brother Danny a true fan of Cameron's. Derek now has to deal with the reformation of his family's life habits by making his mother quit smoking, assuring a good education for both his brother and sister, and getting a job. Derek's worst greatest task… [END OF PREVIEW]

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American History X.  (2008, June 21).  Retrieved July 22, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-history-x/5550014

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"American History X."  Essaytown.com.  June 21, 2008.  Accessed July 22, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/american-history-x/5550014.