The Imitation of Life Essay

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Delilah Johnson: An Imitated Life

Imitation of Life can indubitably be considered one of the most moving and influential films ever produced in American cinema history. Based on the 1933 novel by Fannie Hurst, the movie is directed by John Stahl and stars actresses Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers; it depicts the story of two widows, one black and one white, who meet, become friends, and work together to obtain their piece of the American dream for their daughters and themselves (Flitterman-Lewis, 325). The two women’s success is countered by despair that is ultimately the result of their daughters’ actions. One mother looses the man that she loves when she realized that her daughter has become her rival for his affection,
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Essentially Delilah is unable to pursue any real interest of her own. In order to enjoy emotional companionship she spends her time comforting Bea (late nights rubbing her feet and talking about matters of the heart), and in the beginning of their relationship Bea served as a “man figure” for Delilah, in the sense that Bea went out and worked and played the role of the breadwinner while Delilah stayed at home and took care of the house and the children. As time goes by and Delilah feels the need to experience true male affection she coaches Bea on how to show interest in males that try to court her, telling her “It ain’t romantic to want a man, just natural” and goes as far as to give Bea her rabbit’s foot to give her better luck (Flitterman-Lewis, 332).
Bea and Jessie’s relationship also serves as an example of the mother-daughter relationship that Delilah would like to have with her own daughter Peola. All of Delilah and Peola’s problems stem from the fact that Peola wants to denounce her blackness and assimilate into white culture. She despises her mother for being the reason that she has black blood running through her veins, and is irritated by the fact that her mother’s overbearing presence is the root of her every failed attempt to pass as a white girl. Delilah works to take Bea’s place in Jessie’s life as Bea becomes wrapped up in work