Conflict in Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”
In “Death of a Salesman,” Arthur Miller’s use of conflict develops the setting and secures the interest and attention of the reader. Conflict achieves the intrigue needed to hold the audience’s attention to allow the author to express the significance of the story. Miller uses his main character, Willy Lowman, to analyze the conflict of the American Dream versus happiness through material wealth. The conflicts of illusions versus reality, individual versus society and self versus individual are supplementary conflicts that enhance the entire plot of the drama.
The American Dream versus happiness through material wealth is the main conflict that sets the outline of the story. Willy Lowman had been a salesman throughout most of his life, however did not have much success. He believed that he would find happiness when he attained material wealth. In truth, he was certain the being an American would ensure that he would acquire wealth and happiness. However, in his search for his dreams, he alienated those that were closest to him. Towards the end Lowman’s career he was forced to deal with his failed ventures and the consequences his skewed beliefs and dreams had on his life and family.
Another significant conflict is the illusion of stature and the reality of what we are or can be. In illusion versus reality, Lowman believed that “being well-liked” will lead him to success as a salesman, although in reality he is an average person who struggled in a profession that he was not good at. He committed himself to an ideal of success that he would never achieve as a salesman. He also instilled the same illusion into his son, Biff, that anything would be possible if he was “well-liked. For example, he told Biff that he would succeed in the Algebra class if he was “well-liked,” not by learning. Throughout the story Lowman is filled with delusions about his own abilities and accomplishments and those of his sons....
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