The Collapse of the American Dream

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The Collapse of the American Dream

Prosperity, job security, hard work and family union are some of the concepts that involves the American Dream, generally speaking. Some people think this dream is something automatically granted; or in contrast, as in the story "Death of a Salesman" written by Arthur Miller, as something that has to be achieved in order to be successful in life. The play takes issues with those in America who place to much stress on material gain, instead of more admirable values. American society is exemplified with Miller's work and demonstrates how a dream could turn into a nightmare. Arthur Miller's, "Death of a Salesman", is a play that portrays the author's life and the psychological problems that brings the collapse of the American Dream for this in a lower-middle family in an economical depression.

The reader can see how Arthur Miller was inspired to write this play because of his family background using a biographical approach. Miller's father "was a prosperous businessman until the Crash of 1929, after the family suffered through the Depression" (Rollyson) which had a significant influence on his life and works. As we see in the play, Willy Loman in a sense has two different realities. There is a Willy Loman -- "the financially burdened and emotionally exhausted main character (Thompson) -- is broken, an exhausted man in his sixties, near the end of his life. And there is the more confident, vigorous Willy Loman of some fifteen years before, who appears in flashbacks in the story. If we make a parallel between the story and the author's life, these two realities are the before and after of the great depression that Miller's father suffered through when Miller was a child. His life served as the inspiration to create the characters of the story: "Miller drove trucks, unloaded cargoes, waited on tables, and worked as a clerk in a warehouse." (Rollyson)

Moreover, the psychological view of Willy Loman is shown as a person who works as a traveling salesman and decides to commit suicide because the "American Dream" overwhelms him. As Charley says in the story: "the only thing you got in this world is what you can sell". He is a normal person "who embodies traditional American values of success."(Hansberry) In fact, Willy Loman wants to a great extent believe that he is one of the finest salesmen, a winner in life and a great father. For Mr. Loman, the accomplishment of the "American Dream" is so important that he is battling between life and death. In his last years of work, he notices how his presence in the business of selling goods is falling down. First, his body is not as young and energetic as it used to be. Second, he is no longer able to financially support his family. For him, this is an humiliation because having a tumbling career was not seen as a successful life to others or, even worse, he is not giving the right image to his family as the producer of economic wealth . "A man's descent to failure is horrendous to contemplate" (Klinghoffer); therefore, Willy Loman tries to hide the truth to his family for a while until it is obvious to them. Moreover, his life is surrounded by a self doubt of his identity, because he lives for what he was and not for who he is now. He does not accept that he is growing old fast. The dreams that he has in the car of the past represents the desire to be young and the reality of the unwanted present. Loman thinks that killing himself is the only way left of showing his masculinity; but instead, it is a very coward way to escape from the family and economical problems he has.

In a deeper view, what Willy Loman cannot accept is that when we "buy" the "American Dream" we usually don't see the small print of the contract. We are born, we study, we work, we have a family, we raise our children, we get older and we eventually die. This is the cycle of life; but within this cycle of life there are more cycles. For example, when we get older new and...
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