Academic English 11
May 7, 2012
Willy Loman and the American Dream
The term “American Dream” is used in a number of ways, but essentially the American Dream is an idea which suggests that all people can succeed through hard work, and that all people have the potential to live happy, successful lives. One of Arthur Miller’s most recognized characters is Willy Loman, who is an average American trying to live out the American Dream. Yet, Willy Loman has come to represent the opposite of the American Dream: as hard as he works, he does not get very far; and he is haunted by his fatherless past and his brother going to Africa and becoming rich.
When Arthur Miller wrote the play “Death of a Salesman” most people took “Willy Loman as representing the forgotten ‘little man’ in America” (Bruccoli and Baugman 1). According to Matthew Broccoli and Judith Baugman, “There was the reality and there was a myth of solidarity during the Depression. The latter was beautiful, but the most of the time it was dog-eat-dog in reality” (1). Eventually Willy comes to realize this when he notices the handshake is meaningless, and all the deals he made with former owners do not mean anything because the new owners do not care (Bruccoli and Baugman 1). Miller suggests that for many Americans- such as Willy Loman and his sons- the American Dream that Dale Carnegie, who wrote the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ claimed is within easy reach is an ideal goal that may never be realized (Bruccoli and Baugman 1). In Arthur Miller’s play of “Death of a Salesman” he makes Willy out to be the American Everyman and the Lomans as a typical American family (Bloom 8). Bruccoli and Baugman stated, “If Willy Loman’s dream is the American dream, it is alos a dream shared by all those who are aware of the gap between what they might have and what they are” (1).
Most people believe Willy Loman decides to “bring tragedy down on himself, not by opposing...
Cited: Bruccoli, Matthew J., and Judith S. Baugman. “Willy Loman.” Student’s Encyclopedia of
American Literary Characters. 2009: n.p. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Web.
28 March 2012.
Miller, Arthur. “Salesman in Beijing” (1984). Rpt. in Major Literary Characters: Willy Loman.
Ed. Harold Bloom. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991. 27. Print.
Bloom, Harold, ed. “Introduction.” Bloom’s Guides: Death of a Salesman. Broomall, PA:
Chelsea House, 2004. 7-9. Print.
Williams, Raymond. “Modern Tragic Literature: From Hero to Victim.” Modern Tragedy
(1996). Rpt. in Major Literary Characters: Willy Loman. Ed. Harold Bloom.
Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1991. 15. Print.
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