Arthur Miller and the American Dream

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As Voltaire once said, “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” Similarly, my grandfather compares people to decks of cards. He believes that for each person, different cards are missing from the deck, accordingly giving each person different abilities. In this example, fate is literally in the cards. Though an unsuccessful salesman, Willy Loman’s infallible belief in his dream shows that he never considered the salesman card was “missing” from his deck. The notion of the American dream falls back on the blind optimism and faith of Americans. In Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, Willy Loman futilely chases the American dream, which is an unattainable, impossible fantasy to Miller, used to show the blind faith in Americans, and depicted as a character flaw rather than attribute in the protagonists of the play. To begin, the tone of the novel set by Arthur Miller is a critical and cynical attitude towards the idea of the American dream. A widely accepted definition of the American dream is the perception that through hard work, one can achieve a life of personal and material happiness. Moreover, the representation of the American dream in the play is at odds with the general belief that hard work generates success. Willy tells his sons, “Be liked and you will never want” (33). If this were actually the case, his hard work combined with being well-liked would have been the recipe for personal and materialistic happiness. Though Willy Loman is constantly working, his obsession with the superficial qualities of being liked contrasts with the more tenacious and rewarding understanding of the American dream. Miller shows us just how unbelieving he is in the American dream when he wrote the plot of Death of a Salesman, in which the protagonists chase unattainable desires. Through Miller’s critical take on the American dream, he is...
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