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Motifs in "Death of a Salesman"

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Motifs in "Death of a Salesman"

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  • April 15, 2007
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Throughout the play, "Death of a Salesman" many motifs were displayed but no more prominent than the American Dream. My interpretation of the American Dream was the belief that someone with very little could become something great, and being a post-great depression time nothing was more important than achieving the status of a great American. The criteria of a great American was and still to this day, fame, woman and wealth. Fame was very important because in order to become famous you were required to have a high level of personal attractiveness, something that Willy and his boys sought for strongly. Wealth because of the respect and financial security it held, and women because it was a way of verified superiority over others. This was a powerful motif that perpetually loomed over all characters in Death of a Salesman and especially the Loman's, as I will demonstrate in this essay.

The first feature that fulfilled the American Dream was fame. Willy best describes his concern of fame and personal attractiveness as he reminisces with Linda about Biff when he was a teenager, "… Remember how they used to follow him around in high school? When he smiled at one of them their faces litup." (Death of a Salesman, page 20) This quote strongly demonstrates Willy's concern for fame because this is an extremely trivial moment his sons life. Only a parent with utter concern for fame would even retain it. Later Willy's son, Happy literally presence his concern for fame in a conversation with his brother Biff, "I gotta show some of those pompous, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade." (Death of a Salesman, page 24) This quote is almost ironic; Happy exhibits his distain for those who are affluent and famous while simultaneously saying that he wants to attain their stat0us. These two examples of the American Dream component fame are different because in the first example Willy through a flashback insinuates his son Biff was famous through...