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Tony Montana escaped Cuba to achieve the American Dream. But his idea of the American Dream is vastly different from majority of other immigrants. The film has many instances of strain theory.
Strain theory was brought about by Robert K. Merton back in the 1930’s. He theorized that crime happens because of the societal pressure put onto individuals that do not necessarily have the means to do achieve their goals.
Tony Montana came to America with one thing in mind: making it to the big time. Starting out with a murder to get himself the green card required for entry, it was clear that Montana was willing to do anything to get himself to the top. He works his way up the food chain throughout the film, and eventually becomes the biggest drug lord in the state of Florida. But, all of the pressure from his colleagues, the police, and his own paranoia eventually gets the better of him. In the end, all the pressure on him signals his downfall, a truly legendary scene.
The first instances of strain theory is when Tony and his friend are in the refugee camp. He was asked to do a favor by killing somebody within the camp, and in exchange he would be guaranteed a green card. Tony took the opportunity to defy the social norms because he did not have the means to obtain a green card by himself.
Another example of strain theory is when Tony and his friend Manny go to kill his former boss, Frank Lopez. Granted, Tony did have an excuse to kill him, as Frank sent assassins to kill him in the previous scene. Yet, Tony used the opportunity to get higher up on the food chain and defied social norms even further.
Another example that has less to do with Tony’s American Dream is the way he handled the situation between Gina Montana and Manny. Tony was extremely protective of his kid sister, even from his own friend. Tony went beyond social norms with killing Manny on the spot for being in a relationship with his sister. Tony defied social norms because most people do not kill their sister’s romantic interests with circumstances such as these. Early in the movie, when Tony was in the large tub, he said ‘I don’t need him,’ he was referring to his friend Manny. It could be related to the killing of Manny, where Tony still believes he does not need him to achieve his goals and kills him over something that should not have escalated to that level.
Scarface is a great example of Strain Theory. He was willing to do anything to achieve and get what he wanted. From killing one person in a refugee camp, to killing his longtime friend, he defied the norms set by society.
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