Shattering the American Dream: A Comparison Essay between Death of a Salesman And Flesh and Blood
The American Dream has captivated the hearts of millions of cowboys, showgirls, immigrants, and refugees. All walks of life from the impoverished projects to the suburbs have fantasized the prosperity and complacency promised by America. Two novels, with nearly fifty-years between the two, have worked diligently to pierce through this mirage of promise. Death of a Salesman, a play by Arthur Miller, follows the Lohman family for two days of trauma and tragedy as they battle with hysteria, pride, family loyalty, and the feeling of insignificance. Flesh and Blood, by Michael Cunningham, spans three generations of the Stassos family and vividly depicts their tumultuous journey to the realisation there is a thin line drawn between happiness and hopelessness. Where Death of a Salesman works to shed light on the bigotry that is the American Dream, Flesh and Blood manages to pry it apart piece by piece while simultaneously flattening the Dream with it’s audacious motives and even more impetuous style of writing. However, three elements the two stories share with each other in their efforts to show the reality of American life is in their depiction of family loyalty, the illustration of infidelity, and the use of death as a catalyst to snap the chords that seem to hold family together with amenity.
To begin with, loyalty to family plays a major role in both novels. In The Death of a Salesman, Biff’s appreciation of his father is consistently coming into question; “Happy: You’re not still sour on Dad, are you, Biff?” “Biff: He’s all right, I guess.” (pg. 14). Willy is also deeply affected by people’s perception of him; evidence of this can be seen during one of Willy’s hallucinations, “I happened to be calling on F.H Stewart… I heard him say something about ' walrus. And I cracked him right across the face.” (p.g. 29). It would be suffice to say that Biff’s lack of...
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