Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Balcerzak, Scott

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of English


United States--Study and teaching; Motion pictures--Study and teaching


In this thesis, I examine the figure of the American Adam as resurrected by Warren Beatty along with the affect that this innocent masculine archetype has juxtaposed against the explicit violence in the films Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971). Beginning with a discussion of the change in censorship in the Hollywood film industry in the late 1960's, I analyze the filmmakers, Arthur Penn and Robert Altman's agendas of social commentary in which violence stands in as an epideictic rhetoric. This rhetoric lays blame for the violence and unrest as well as the corporatization of America at the feet of the establishment. The Vietnam War, the protests it generated and the political assassinations of the period inspired the reckless violence of Bonnie and Clyde. The cold-blooded violence of McCabe and Mrs. Miller is a reaction against the corporatization of America as well as the Hollywood system. This thesis claims Beatty's agency as producer, writer, and star along with the films' directors is a direct reflection of the reaction of the American male of the 1960's to a loss of value embodied in the Vietnam draft. I situate the figure of the American Adam with its innocence, optimism and can-do attitude as a saving figure for the men of the time; connecting the post-World War II masculine crisis from which this figure arose in the literary critique of R.W.B Lewis with the crisis occurring during the Vietnam years.


Advisors: Scott Balcerzak.||Committee members: Alexandra Bennett; Ibis Gomez-Vega.||Includes bibliographical references.


42 pages




Northern Illinois University

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