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All About Eve: The Nature of Ambition Is That It Corrupts Those Who Pursue It - Do You Agree?

Updated on November 23, 2017

The nature of ambition is that it corrupts those who pursue it. Do you agree?

While it is apparent that the nature of ambition, in Joseph Mankiewicz’s ‘All About Eve’, corrupts those who pursue it, it is questionable whether this ambition is harmful for everyone. Our antagonist, Eve Harrington, in her pursuit of ‘be[ing] somebody’ ends up destroying her relationships with her family and friends, and her idol- Margo Channing. Although Margo herself, in her previous years, had been too absorbed ‘[climbing] up the ladder’ and in doing so she had forgotten that, in retrospect of the values of the time, ‘being a woman’ was a career in itself. In stark contrast, Addison De Witt, a theatre critic, only gains from this pursuit, partnering with Eve when he recognises that they both share an ‘insatiable ambition’. Mankiewicz, through his characterisation, is suggesting that perhaps pursuing ambition is only detrimental for women.

Eve, who desires to ‘be something’ and ‘make Margo like [her], damages both herself, and her relationships with her family and those who considered her a friend and confidant. Margo at the beginning of the film, ‘develop[s] a big protective feeling for her’, and thinks of Eve as a harmless ‘lamb’ ‘lost in [their] big stone jungle’, but when she learns of her midnight phone call to Bill she realizes that Eve had been ‘studying her’, and ‘tr[ying] to take Bill away’. It is quite apparent that Eve targets those who can help her in her climb to stardom; first she tries to seduce Bill- a successful director, and then Lloyd, who is a famous Playwright. In doing so, she loses Margo’s trust and friendship, as well as her family’s support, whom we are told she abandoned three years prior. In the end, she is left discontent, Addison overpowering her and being in complete control of her actions. Eve is left to ‘being very childish’ and throwing tantrums as this is all she can do against Addison, whom she is powerless against as he knows about her past. Clearly, Eve’s pursuit of ambition, ultimately leaves her dissatisfied with no friends or family to support her.

Similarly, our protagonist, Margo Channing, struggles with her insecurities about her age and her relationship with Bill, because of previous years in which she solely strived for a successful career. Although she did become a flourishing actress, we see her struggling with her career as a woman, which she believes ‘is something all women have in common’. The director uses close ups when Margo is speaking of ‘a woman’s career’, and her eight-year age gap with Bill, and uses harsh lighting to emphasizes her age and to make her seem vulnerable to audience, who then at once draw a comparison between Margo’s usually fiery self and the person she becomes when burdened with insecurities. But when she accepts Bill’s proposal, and simultaneously gives up ‘play[ing] parts [she’s] too old for’, claiming she ‘finally has a life to live’ she is shown in the same shot as Bill, which emphasizes their harmonious union. Clearly, by deciding not to continue pursuing a career as an actress, Margo is finally at ease as her previous pursuit of ambition lead to her insecurity about her age and destroyed her relationship with Bill.

In contrast, Addison De Witt seems to only gain from ambition as in the end he is in complete control of Eve and successfully uses her so that he may ‘belong to [her]’ and the theatre. Although at the beginning he claims that he is ‘essential to the theatre’ and that it is his ‘native habitat’ is becomes quite apparent that to the ‘insiders’ of this exclusive community, he is but a ‘venomous fish wife’ with a ‘poison pen’. His desire to ‘belong’ and and to find someone who, just like him, is an ‘improbable person’ with ‘an inability to love or be loved’ is fulfilled. During the final confrontation with Eve, wherein he is standing over her as she is sprawled across her bed, the camera angle is low, which highlights his position of power and authority. His striving to belong to this group and succeed, got him exactly that, and an actress whom he dictates. His pursuit of his desires does not corrupt him or his already weak relationships with people, but instead he stands to gain what he strived for and more.

All about Eve exemplifies that the nature of ambition corrupts those who pursue it, but more specifically it displays how ambition can be harmful for women if they pursue it. Eve destroys her relationship with her family and her friends while Margo struggles with her relationship with Bill due to the previous years in which she strove for success. Although quite on the contrary, Addison only benefits from his ambition, gaining ‘someone to belong to’ and finally belonging in the exclusive community of the theatre. It can therefore be said that Mankiewicz, through the characterisation of Eve, Margo ,and Addison, is suggesting that perhaps ambition is only harmful for women.

Mankiewicz, through the characterisation of Eve, Margo ,and Addison, is suggesting that perhaps ambition is only harmful for women.

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