The Flawed American Dream
Death of a Salesman is the story of Willy Loman, a middle-class salesman who, in the course of a single day, comes to realize that the American Dream, which he has pursued for 40 years, has failed him. Willy's relentless, but naive pursuit of success has not only affected his sense of his own worth but has dominated the lives of his wife Linda and his sons Biff and Happy. In the course of the movie he realizes that his true wealth lies in being loved and known by his family, and in one final attempt to secure his personal dignity and provide a future for his sons through his life insurance, he commits suicide. Willy Loman is a firm believer in the American Dream: the notion that any man can rise from humble beginnings to greatness. His particular slant on this ideal is that a man succeeds by selling his charisma, that to be well liked is the most important asset a man can have. He made a living at this for 30 years, but as he enters the reclining years of his life, people have stopped smiling back and he can no longer sell the firm’s goods to support himself. His ambition was one of greatness, to work hard and to be a member of the firm. However, if he could not succeed in that respect, he should at least be well-liked and be able to sell until the day of his death: When his friends would flock from all over the country to pay their respects. Willy is a multi-faceted character which Arthur Miller has portrayed a deep problem with sociological and psychological causes and done so with disturbing reality. In another time or another place Willy might have been successful and kept his sanity, but as he grew up, society’s values changed and he was left out in the cold. His foolish pride, bad judgment and his disloyalty are also at fault for his tragic end and the fact that he did not die the death of a salesman.
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