The American Dream can be defined as a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. Willy Loman, the protagonist of the play Death of a Salesman, believes wholeheartedly in the idea that a ‘well liked’ and ‘personally attractive’ man in business will indubitably acquire the material comforts offered by modern American life. This however is a skewed perspective of what the American Dream really stood for. Instead of believing that hard work without complaint is the key to success, Willy’s fixation with superficial qualities of attractiveness and likeability stand in the way of his own personal success.
Bernard is a character in the play known as a ‘nerd’ to the whole Loman family, although Willy seems to maintain an almost childish dislike towards Bernard for his academic interests and his constantly reminding Biff that he needs to study for his exams. Even when his own wife agrees that Biff needs to buckle down in order to pass his class, Willy explodes at her “There’s nothing the matter with him! You want him to be a worm like Bernard? He’s got spirit, personality . . .” (Miller 1156) Willy Loman is convinced that in order to have success you must acquire some sort of charisma, and through that character trait it will be simple to obtain a financial gain and any material comforts you desire. For
example, when Bernard doubts that Biff will graduate just because he printed the University of Virginia on his sneakers, Willy objects “What’re you talking about? With scholarships to three universities they’re gonna flunk him?” (Miller 1152) It is evident that Willy’s perception of the American Dream is skewed. He expects his oldest son to be a success just through his athletic talents, where in reality he needed to be pushed towards building his future in order to have become a well known and...
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