The American Dream in Death of a Salesma

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In Arthur Millers “Death of a Salesman” the life of an average man of the mid nineteen forties is played out on stage. The play tells the story of Willy Loman and his family. Willy, like so many other men, just wants to be successful and raise two successful sons. He wants to live the so called “American dream” that was so important during this time period. The success of a man and his family was how he was judged, if he and his sons were successful then he must be a great man. The seduction of the American dream is what Willy lives for, and dies for. As Arthur Miller shows in this play, the power of the American dream is enough to drive a man crazy, and even end his life. The setting of this play tells a lot about how the American dream is being represented. Everyone always wants the big house with the white picket fence and a garden in the back. The Loman family used to have all of this when the boys, Biff and Happy, were growing up with the big city as just lights in the distance. As Terry Thompson of Georgia Southern University explains; “Critics have long emphasized the importance of the main setting in Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman, explaining how the small home of Willy and Linda Loman-once situated on the green fringes of suburbia and blessed with shade trees, a backyard garden and plenty of open space for two rambunctious sons- has become palisaded by ruthless urban sprawl” (244) the once happy country home of the Lomans has been suffocated by urbanization. Willy is disgusted by this growing city, saying “the way they boxed us in here. Bricks and windows. Windows and bricks” (Miller 1872). Willy Loman once lived the so called American Dream, but it is being taken away from him. Willy wants the American dream, but is not willing to work hard for it. Willy Loman expects everything to come easy to him and his sons. In high school, his son Biff was the football star and both of his sons were “well liked” and they all think that this will carry them through the rest of their lives. As Thompson puts it; “like eternal sophomores, they continue to believe that the greater world will embrace them, will proclaim them, simply because they are superficially charming, are occasionally witty, and can bluster and brag with the best of them” (247) he points out the flaws in the Loman boys thinking, because the success, or lack thereof, has been revealed in the play.in the first act, Biff, the oldest son, realizes this; “Maybe that’s my trouble. I’m like a boy. I’m not married, I’m not in business, I just – I’m like a boy” (Miller 1875) this at least shows the maturity of Biff who can realize his own flaws, unlike his father. Willy never fully accepts the fact that he and his sons are not as successful as they wished and though themselves to be. Willy still lives in a fantasy world and refuses to accept that his life is crumbling around him. Willy is notorious for talking to himself and his dead brother, Ben, and daydreaming of the past. Willy daydreams about his brother constantly, because he envies him, he wants to be as successful and important as Ben was. As Thomas Porter says in his article; “In Benjamin Loman, the struggling and insecure salesman sees the embodiment of the mystery of success, the Eleusinian rite knows only to initiates” (porter 30). Willy’s older brother Ben was a very successful man who walked into the jungle at 17 and walked out at 21 and “by god was I rich” (Miller 1888). Willy always compared himself to his older brother and was never fully satisfied because he was never like him. Willy had the opportunity to go with Ben when he went to Africa but he didn’t, because he was already married with kids and had a job as a traveling salesman, so he didn’t want to leave all of that behind. After his brother came back rich Willy was never fully happy because he though he missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime and ever being rich and powerful like his brother. Willy wanted his sons to grow up to be...
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