In the two films Imitation of Life and All that Heaven Allows, the primary characters live in a patriarchal society where they thrive to accomplish their dreams and are in pursuit of happiness and making a better life for themselves and their loved ones. Despite the societal viewpoints and obstacles set in front of them, the protagonists in the two films Cary, Sarah-Jane, and Lora constantly defy patriarchal society in pursuit of their dreams.
In the movie Imitation of Life, the protagonists Lora and Sarah-Jane attempt to escape from the patriarchal society by trying to chase their dreams. In the scene where Lora is auditioning for Mr. Edwards' new play, she tells him that the scene is dull and should be taken out; amazed at how Lora spoke her she earns the lead role Imitation of Life, DVD, directed by Douglas Sirk (1959; USA; Universal International Pictures; 2003). During that patriarchal time period, women were not deemed important nor did they have many rights. Lora defied the societal viewpoint of a woman's role and became a successful and respectable individual, in turn escaping from patriarchal society as well as the power dynamics of gender. Alternatively, Sarah-Jane attempts to escape from a patriarchal society by pretending to be white because she believed that her race hindered her life and not give her an equal chance in becoming someone.
During the final scene at Annie's funeral a number of emotions were felt by the protagonists. For example, Lora was devastated when she lost Annie because they have been through a lot together. In the scene where Annie was on the death bed, she makes her final requests to for her funeral, she exclaims "I wanna go the way I planned, especially the four white horses, and a band playingâ€¦.no mourning, but proud, and high-steppin like I was gone to glory"(Ibid). This scene was significant because it shows that Annie was proud of whom she was and what she accomplished for herself and her daughter Sarah-Jane. Additionally, Sarah-Jane runs towards the chariot and exclaims "That's my mother" (Ibid), the camera zooms into Sarah-Jane's face to intensify the emotions felt by the audience. Sarah Jane finally accepts who she is and apologizes to her mom for being ashamed of her ethnicity.
In the movie All that Heaven Allows, Cary sacrificed her own happiness by breaking up and not marrying Ron Kirby because she did not want her children to feel embarrassed or shamed by the townspeople. The townspeople frowned upon Cary having a relationship with Ron Kirby because he was much younger than her and was her gardener; the class differences between Cary and Ron made it difficult for them to be together. Despite of their love for one another, Ron did not have a successful career and did not fit into the patriarchal societal definition of a "man", which would require him to have a stable and respectable career.
In the final scenes, Cary realizes that she loves Ron comes back to the mill; however she does not find Ron she drives back. Meanwhile, Ron sees Cary and begins yelling her name in hopes of her hearing him, and he slips off of the cliff and falls. Later that night, Alida comes over to Cary's house and tells her that Ron was in an accident and is resting at his mill. Cary rushes over immediately to find Ron lying in bed. She then exclaims to Alida "You told me once that Ron was so secure within himself because he refused to give importance to unimportant things." All that Heaven Allows. DVD, VHS, directed by Douglas Sirk (1955; USA; Universal International Pictures; 1995) This quote is significant because in the final scene Cary finally realizes what it truly means. Cary realizes that she should disregard what the community thought of her relationship with Ron because as their love and happiness, was the only thing that matted. Moreover, in the very last scene before the credits Ron asks Cary "You came home"? And she replies "Yes darling, I came home."(Ibid) This implies that Cary and Ron's relationship was rekindled and that their love for each other never faded, but was delayed due to Cary's uncertainty.
Lastly, the sun rising and shining into the window and the baby deer demonstrates a great use of mise en scene because it shows the audience the innocence of Cary and Ron's love for each other and how it has risen once again (Ibid). Moreover, it signifies that Cary has finally realized that her and Ron's happiness is the only thing that matters, and in this realization they can finally continue on their romance and build a new life together; a new beginning.
In conclusion, the various characters described in these two movies had various ways of escaping a patriarchal society. Sarah-Jane attempted to escape race discrimination by pretending she was white, whereas Lora took her future into her own hands, and became a successful actress without cheapening herself. Cary was a lonely widow seeking love, and when she found it, the townspeople; however in the end, she realized that the only thing that matters is the happiness of herself and Kirby. Furthermore, I think that the characters did indeed escape from a patriarchal society because in the end, all of them came into a self-realization and in turn finding what was most important to them.