The American Dream as It Relates to Death of a Salesman

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The American Dream as It Relates to Death of a Salesman

By | Jan. 2008
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The American Dream as it Relates to Death of a Salesman
The theme of the American Dream is extremely prevalent in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. It is so prevalent that there are literally hundreds of different to ways to analyze how the theme is used in the play. One interesting perspective is that the different characters in the play represent different versions of the American Dream. Biff represents the 19th century version of the American Dream, Happy represents the 20th century version, and Willy represents a combination of the two, and is torn between them. In the 19th Century the American Dream was symbolized by the ownership of rich farm land or the attaining of independent craftsmanship. Biff is representative of this as he works with land and horses out in the American West. It is interesting to note that Willy was initially supportive of Biff's idea to work on a farm, but felt that by the age of 34, Biff should have accomplished his dreams. He asks how Biff could find himself on a farm, stating that he supported it when Biff was young but he should have found himself after ten years. The irony of this of course is that Willy himself, in middle age is also floundering. Perhaps realizing this, Willy then says that "certain men don't get started until later in life", (Miller, 833) giving a vague citation of Thomas Edison or B. F. Goodrich as an example. In accordance with this 19th Century Dream, Biff was a man of "many dreams and plans". He has tried to build himself up but really wants to be out of doors with his shirt off. He's worked in Nebraska, the Dakotas, Arizona and Texas, among beautiful mares and new colts, but he still finds himself unhappy. He still wants to go out west with Happy and buy a ranch but his plans always seem to fall through. The elusive dream is always beyond his grasp. Happy is the character used to represent the 20th century version of the dream. He is the one who wants growth in his career. He wants to be...

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