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The Shattered Dream in Death of a Salesman

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The Shattered Dream in Death of a Salesman  

     In America, anyone with some drive, some talent, and half a brain can be a success.  Or so Willy Loman believes.  Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman tells the story of a man who seems predestined for failure, though he tries his best to succeed. Willy Loman is a symbol for the common man who tries and tries and tries, but is somehow unable to attain the "American Dream" of status and success. 

            Miller combines the archetypal tragic hero with the common American citizen. The result is the anti-hero, Willy Loman. He is a simple, unsuccessful salesman whose only goal in life is to become a respected, successful salesman.  Nevertheless, Willy's waning career and old age aren't enough to alert him to the fact that simply being a failure isn't enough; you have to admit the fact to yourself.  As a result, the drama of the play lies not so much in the unfolding of events, but in Willy's deluded perception and recollection of them as the audience gradually witnesses the tragic demise of a helpless man.

In creating Willy Loman, Mille...

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... ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Death of a Salesman. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice, 1983.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Literature. Ed. Sylvan Bates New York: Longman, 1997. 1163-1231.

Parker, Brian. "Point of View in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman." University of Toronto Quarterly 35 (1966): 144-47. Rpt. in Koon. 41-55

Stanton, Kay. "Women and the American Dream of Death of a Salesman." Feminist Readings of American Drama. Ed. Judith Schlueter. Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1989. 67-102.


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