"American Dream" in Death of a Salesman

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In Author Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, there is a reoccurring topic of the “American Dream”. Willy, a traveling salesman, constantly desires to live his idea of the American dream. Willy not only desires to live the American dream, but he also wants the same happiness for his wife, Linda, and his son’s Biff and Happy. The reality for Willy, however, is that the more he reaches for the American dream, the further back he pushes himself and his family. Like most, Willy’s ideas of the American dream are to be successful, own a nice home that’s comfortable and suits the needs of his family and for his sons to live a well and happy.

Willy’s idea of success is not be hardworking and innovated, but to be well liked, personable, and respectable. He is so focused on this idea of success, that he constantly presses this against his son’s, hoping that one day they will live a better American dream that he has. Happy takes his fathers word, becoming a salesman and creating the success that he believes his father had. Biff, on the other hand, chooses manual labor, working hard to get to the top. In Act 1, Happy realizes that what his father has said is not exactly how he is going to gain success. Happy states: All I can do now is wait for the merchandise manager to die. And suppose I get to be merchandise manager . . . I don’t know what the hell I’m workin’ for. Sometimes I sit in my apartment—all alone. And I think of the rent I’m paying. And it’s crazy. But then, it’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, plenty of women, and still, goddamnit, I’m lonely. Although happy is making money and living the life he and his father both thought was the American dream, he is missing something. His wealth, his car and his home are not necessarily what he needed in order to be successful.

Marxist literary critics would explore ideology: an idea or belief that guides an individual or groups. In this case, it would be the Willy’s idea of the American dream:...
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