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The American Dream Conspiracy in Death of a Salesman Essays

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Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman tells the story of the failure of a salesman, Willy Loman. Although not all Americans are salesmen, most of us share Willy’s dream of success. We are all partners in the American Dream and parties to the conspiracy of silence surrounding the fact that failures must outnumber successes.(Samantaray, 2014)

Miller amalgamates the archetypal tragic hero with the mundane American citizen. The result is the anti-hero, Willy Loman. He is a simple salesman who constantly aspires to become 'great'. Nevertheless, Willy has a waning career as a salesman and is an aging man who considers himself to be a failure but is incapable of consciously admitting it. As a result, the drama of the play lies not so much in its events, but in Willy's deluded perception and recollection of them as the audience gradually witness the tragic demise of a helpless man.

In creating Willy Loman, Miller presents the audience with a tragic figure of human proportions. Miller characterizes the ordinary man (the 'low man') and ennobles his achievements. Willy's son, Biff, calls his father a 'prince', evoking a possible comparison with Shakespeare's Hamlet, prince of Denmark.. Thus, the play appeals greatly to the audience because it elevates an ordinary American to heroic status. Death of a Salesman seems to conform to the 'tragic' tradition that there is an anti-hero whose state of hamartia causes him to suffer. The audience is compelled to genuinely sympathize with Willy's demise largely because he is an ordinary man who is subject to the same temptations as the rest of us.

Miller uses many characters to contrast the difference between success and failure in the American system. Willy Loman is a deluded salesman whose...


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...ccess, and we measure men by occupational attainment rather than by the more difficult process of considering the whole person. We are all partners in the American Dream and parties to the conspiracy of silence surrounding the fact that failures must outnumber successes. Perhaps the great power of Death of a Salesman is due to the fact that it breaks the conspiracy of silence and reveals to us a failure that too closely resembles our worst fears.




Works Consulted

Bloom, Harold. Arthur Miller. New York: Chelsea, 2008.

Griffin, Alice. Understanding Arthur Miller. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996

Miller, Arthur.  Death of a Salesman. U.K.: Penguin, 2013.

Samantaray, Swati. "DYSTOPIA: A CRITIQUE OF ARTHUR MILLER'S DEATH OF A SALESMAN" New Academia, Jan. 2014. Web. 18 May 2015.
http://oaji.net/articles/2014/1439-1416462621.pdf



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