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The American Dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and Fences by August Wilson

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The American Dream is a common theme in literature. The American Dream as defined by Webster is: an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity. Egalitarianism is defined in two ways: 1: a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic rights and privileges and 2: a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people. To most, this sounds like the perfect society, however what happens when the obsession takes away the truly important things in a person's life? In Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization, are all components necessary to function fully in society. With The American Dream, society is obsessed with the physiological needs and therefore has trouble moving to the next level. In literature more often than not, The American Dream does not work out to be quite what is expected.

In Fences and The Death of a Salesman, The American Dream becomes more of a nightmare. In these two pieces, it is obvious that the obsession of The American Dream drives the two main characters to destroy any chance that they or their loved ones have to achieve the full range of needs. The protagonists in both pieces become bitter and delusional, which prevents them from having any meaningful relationships. Both pieces argue that when the quest for the social ideals becomes an obsession, then not only do they not realize their dream, they destroy the ones they love through their bitterness and disillusion and create a cycle from which their loved ones may not escape.

The Death of a Salesman, written in 1949, Arthur Miller introduces Willy Loman, a sixty-three year old failing salesman from Brook...


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...ect him by banishing Cory from the house.

The American Dream is about reaching self-actualization; being everything you can or want to be. In order to achieve this, every human needs to feel safety, love (unconditional), esteem, both self-esteem and attention and recognition from others. Only when all these things are satisfied, can a person become more and everything that they are capable of becoming. In both these pieces, the fathers did not know how to provide anything but the physiological needs, the basic food, water, shelter, etc. They were working with what they had to work with, the tools their parents had provided them, which is where cycles begin. We all want better for our children than we had, however we need to make sure that we are providing all the necessities, not just the things that provide physical health, but the emotional health as well.


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