Honors American Literature
April 16, 2011
Willy Loman & the American Dream
“...There are two versions of the American Dream,” according to Harold Clurman(132). The authentic dream from the very beginning of America was of freedom and equal opportunity. Achievement, itself, is all the dream requires. The awry dream of vocational success came about during the Post-Civil War period. The basis of this dream for successfulness was that of business ingenuity, perseverance, and audacity. Even this dream has changed in recent times, particularly after WWI instead of perseverance and audacity, salesmanship enters the erroneous dream’s basis. Salesmanship indicates an evident aspect of trickery: the art of selling a product no matter the usefulness of the product. Profit is ultimately the justification to making a sale (Clurman 132-133).
Repercussions can be catastrophic to all people surrounded and supported by a person who is affected by a false dream. Miller proposes two thoughts on the American Dream in Death of a Salesman. He starts off saying that we all have dreams, whether they are singular or numerous, straight forward or shady. Miller impresses upon the viewer that dreams control everyone’s lives, but it is when people have the wrong dreams, it slowly starts to eat away at the person following the dream and his/her family(Badaraco 89). Throughout Death of a Salesman, Miller criticizes two aspects of the modern American Dream and the people following it by showing how they affect Willy and the people around him.
Miller first finds fault with the aspect of “hitting it big” and exemplifies this throughout Willy’s career. Willy relies on two things to keep him going during his endless time as a road man. The first of which is hard work. Unlike some of the salesmen that Willy knows who make large commissions with very little effort and the people who buy from him that laugh at all the trouble he goes through, Willy, each year, manages just enough to keep scraping by. Though, he hopes that one day he will hit it big. When Willy realizes that his dream is unattainable, he focuses his emotions on Biff, who becomes victim to Willy’s dream of the “get-rich-quick” idea. (Badaraco 90-91)
No matter what case, business success is not achieved through being regarded as a goodman, success is achieved through the art of salesmanship. The contrary to this false assumption is seen in the three most affluent men in the play. Howard, Willy’s employer, does not want to cope with his dream, and instead of handing Willy the promotion that Willy believed he deserved, he lays Willy off of his sales position because of his inability to produce. Ben, Willy’s brother, the most affluent of all characters, obtained his wealth through the contrary thought of occupational opulence no matter if he was liked or not. Lastly, Charley, Willy’s neighbor, does not want to listen to his views on business success, but he does supply Willy with a job so he can somewhat continue to support his family (Moseley 14). The only figure in the play to have succeeded off his character in the business world was Dave Singleman (Moseley 16).
After the premier of Death of a Salesman, critics often describe the play as a denouncement of post-depression capitalism. The blue-collar Loman family had become prey to the false chase of wealth. After 34 years of Willy’s struggle to hit it big, he was thrown out a failure. Willy’s monetary achievement should have depended on the arbitrary nature between salesmen and clients. Miller clarifies that Willy’s dilemma is not only the societies fault, but also his own (Dunkleberger 68).
Miller’s next denounced aspect was Willy’s false notion that being well liked was ultimately the goal of occupational success. Despite many situations pointing toward the contrary, Willy fails to recognize the fault in his plan. Being well liked, to Willy, means more than making money. Willy’s kids are caught in the...
Cited: Badaraco, Joseph L. “Willy Loman had the Wrong Dreams.” Suicide in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Des Chenes, Elizabeth. Greenhaven Press, Inc.: San Diego, CA, 1997. Print.
Centola, Steven R. “Arthur Miller and the Art of the Possible.” Arthur Miller, New Edition, Bloom’s Modern Critical Views. New York: Chelsea Publishing House, 2009. Bloom 's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 1 Apr. 2011.
Clurman, Harold. “Willy Loman and the American Dream.” Readings on Arthur Miller. Siebold, Thomas. Greenhaven Press, Inc.: San Diego, CA, 1997. Print.
Dunkleberger, Amy. A Student 's Guide to Arthur Miller. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2005. Print.
Dusenbury, Winifred L. “Loneliness in Death of a Salesman” Readings on Arthur Miller. Siebold, Thomas. Greenhaven Press, Inc.: San Diego, CA, 1997. Print.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem. New York: Viking, 1949. Print.
Moseley, Merritt. “The American Dream in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” The American Dream, Bloom’s Literary Themes. New York: Chelsea Publishing House, 2009.Bloom 's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 1 Apr. 2011.
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