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An American Myth Exploded in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman Essay

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An American Myth Exploded in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman


Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a demonstration of the affliction with which America has been stricken. It is an affliction of false idealism, but also a birthing of the consumer. It is this consumer society which is the affliction, and the characters of this drama are unable to cure themselves of it. Willy Loman is the manifestation of the consumerism which is destroying society. He is the corporeal manifestation of this myth, and the American dream is the myth itself. This myth can be broken down into several parts itself. First is the belief that situations, commodities, etc. improve with time, which is a technological misconception. Second is the understanding that hard work is necessary to bring about this sort of improvement. And third, the coming together of these amounts to the belief that commodities brought about by hard work will help in the betterment of our lives, and that this never ending accumulation of wealth will generate a truly happy life.

From the beginning it is made clear that Willy lives in anything but the present. He is either flashing back to the past and how good things once were, or he is looking towards the future and deluding himself in how good things will someday be. This is an example of how Willy embodies the first part of the American myth, being the belief that things will always continue to get better. Linda says repeatedly of Willy “how sweet he was as soon as you talked hopefully,” to Biff (48). Her noticing of how hope is a recurring theme, like a narcotic for Willy, which always raises his spirits, is demonstrative of how Willy fits into the American myth. When Biff and Happy proclaim that they wil...


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...the increasing improvement of technologies and our continuing efforts to work towards accumulating those commodities will be rewarded in a completely affluent, and therefore happy, state of being. The misunderstanding of our situation as being always increasingly good on account of making our material lives bigger, better, and in greater availability is the very undoing of the fabric of our lives. Arthur Miller is effectively able to illustrate how this American myth is a depraving force in the lives of Americans in his drama Death of a Salesman. His illustration of these destructive beliefs is made real in the actions and thoughts of Willy Loman and his family, and it is a message which should make us question our own existence in that it is not so far removed from this portrayal.

Works Cited

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1998.


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