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America In The Popular Imagination Essay, Research Paper

Twenty-one years ago, a spectacular film was made by an incredible director of the

highly acclaimed film, “Badlands”. The movie, “Days of Heaven” directed by Terrence

Malick is a movie that shows the confusion of one woman, trying to figure out whom

she loves. The movie stars Richard Gere as Bill and Sam Shepard as a rich, handsome,

Texan farmer, the two men Brooke Adams as Abby falls in love with. Linda Manz plays

Linda, Bill’s sister and the narrator, in the story.

Terrence Malick was born in Waco, Texas, which probably influenced him to make his

first two films, “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven”. Both share a theme of pariahs in the

mid American wilderness, who are on the run from the law.

The late seventies and early eighties were about getting ahead, however you could, no

matter whom you had to step on, never worrying that you could get caught. This is

reflected when Bill wants Abby to pretend that she is in love with the farmer. When

Abby marries the farmer, Bill and Linda move in with them. Linda says “The rich got it all

figured out”. She means that when she was poor, she was considered replaceable and

unimportant. When working in the fields, she says “If you don’t work, they’ll ship you

right out of there; they don’t need you; they can always find someone else.” As a rich

person, and a part of the upper class, she has fun with her life, and doesn’t worry

about what is going on.

“Days of Heaven” is about getting into a higher class. It starts when Bill punches his

boss and needs to get a new job. He, his younger sister, Linda, and his lover, Abby,

become sharecroppers on a farm in Texas, owned by a handsome young man. Bill and

Abby pretend to be brother and sister, because they don’t want people to know. Linda

says “They told everyone they were brother and sister… You know how people are…

you tell them something, they start talking”. Bill is accused by a fellow sharecropper of

being to close with his “sister” and they got into a fight because Bill was very defensive

about that. Linda makes a friend with an older woman on the farm and they play in the

fields. Bill overhears a doctor diagnose the handsome young farmer with a disease and

one year to live. Bill, Abby, and Linda believe that “you’re only on this earth once” so

you should make it as worthwhile as possible. Since the farmer likes Abby, Bill coaxes

Abby to pretend to be in love with the farmer. They get married and Bill and Linda move

in with Abby and the farmer, to live the easy, upper class life. This ties in with the

feelings of the “Me” era, where everyone was trying to get ahead, when you were able

to. One day the farmer sees Abby and Bill kissing and he gets upset. Abby assures him

that Bill is only her brother and while he believes her, suspicion arises. Abby soon falls

in love with the farmer but is still in love with Bill. The farmer’s foreman warns the

farmer about Bill and Abby because he thinks they are con artists. The farmer fires the

foreman because he doesn’t want anyone saying that about the woman he loves. Bill

leaves because of the suspicion. When he returns, there is a plague of locusts that eat

all the crops. The farmer again catches Bill and Abby kissing, and gets very jealous. At

night, when the people are trying to kill the locusts to preserve the crops, a fight

breaks out between Bill and the farmer, and a lantern spills, setting the field on fire.

The next day, the farmer gets a gun to kill Bill. Abby sees him and tries to stop him. He

ties Abby up so that she can’t warn Bill. Before the farmer can shoot Bill, Bill stabs the

farmer with a dagger. Bill, Abby, and Linda are on the run from the law, because Bill

murdered the farmer. The ex-foreman gets the police looking for Bill. Bill is in the woods

and the police are chasing him. Then the police shoot him and he dies. Abby cries over

his body. Abby then has to care for Linda, so she drops her off at an orphanage.

Linda’s old friend from the farm picks her up and they go off into the night.

This movie doesn’t really have a definitive ending. It leaves you wondering… “Now,

what?” This movie can be compare with the movie “The Graduate”. Like in “Days of

Heaven” when Linda and her friend ran off into the night, in “The Graduate”, a woman

named Elaine Robinson is about to marry a man, when the man she really loves shows

up and they run away on a bus. “Now, what?” is what many people ask. This is a

strange but somewhat common style of ending a movie. It leaves the audience to

imagine what happens afterward.

“Days of Heaven” showed that it was tough to be a woman during that time. Her lover

pushed her into marrying the rich farmer because that was the easy way out. By

marrying him, Bill, Linda, and she, could live an easy life. Many women throughout time

have been forced to do things that they didn’t want to do because they lived in a male

dominated society. In the seventies, many women’s groups spoke out frequently.

The movie “Days of Heaven” is not an accurate depiction of America. America is

sometimes called the “melting pot”. This refers to the diversity of our country. A melting

pot takes different things and melts them down as one. America is made up of many

different cultures, which together form our great country. This movie only shows white

people in the upper and lower classes. There aren’t any African Americans, Asians,

Hispanic, or other races. Also, there are no middle class people. You were either poor

and trying to get rich, or rich and could take it easy. This film leaves out much of the

American population, only showing a small portion.

Documented Sources

Days of Heaven. Dir. Terrence Malick. With Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, and Sam

Shepard, Paramount Pictures, 1978.

The Graduate. Dir. Mike Nichols. With Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, and Katherine

Ross. Polygram Video,1967.

Colored Reflections (1997): n. pag. http://net4tv.com/color/70/70About.htm.internet.

20 February 1999.

Film Vault (1995-99): n. pag.

http://desert.net/filmvault/austin/d/daysofheaven1.html.internet 20 February 1999.

Internet Movie Database. (1990-99): n. pag.

http://us.imdb.com/Title?Days+of+Heaven+(1978).internet 20 February 1999.


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