Death of a Salesman

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The Great American Disillusionment in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Conjecture clouds an American man’s pursuit of success, leading to unfortunate ends in Arthur Miller's timeless production, Death of a Salesman. A post-depression era drama, Death of a Salesman challenges its audience to analyze universal components of the American Dream. Most people consider success a collision of past effort, future goals, and an appreciation for the present. Miller's character Willy Loman is convinced attractiveness, popularity, and physical prowess is all any man needs for prosperity.

In the beginning, Miller introduces Willy's flawed insight linking personal attractiveness to success. Act I opens with a conversation between Willy and his wife, Linda. While discussing their son, Biff, Willy wonders how, “a young man with such – personal attractiveness, gets lost” (Miller 1237). Proudly, Willy continues his high praise asking Linda if she remembers how they all used to follow Biff around in high school and, “When he smiled … their faces lit up” (1237). As critic, Chester E. Eisinger points out, Willy so thoroughly indoctrinates his sons with his dreams of success they, are victims of illusions” (Eisinger 101). They invent, “impossible schemes for making money,” (101). Willy’s corruption, “prevents his sons from achieving a mature manhood” (101). Willy even stoops to dishonesty and self-destruction in his efforts to appear successful. His appreciation for physical appearance extends to his belief that he must appear to be the ultimate salesman.

Miller then illustrates Willy's belief that popularity or being well liked opens all doors to prosperity in life. When Biff is in high school, Bernard tries to warn Willy he, “heard Mr. Birnbaum say that if [Biff] don’t start studyin’ math, he’s gonna flunk [and] …won’t graduate” (Miller 1246). Then Willy tells Bernard not to be, “a pest,” and calls him, “an anemic” (1246). Biff tells Willy...
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