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The Collapse of the American Dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller,

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Prosperity, job security, hard work and family union are some of the concepts that involves the American Dream, generally speaking. Some people think this dream is something automatically granted; or in contrast, as in the story “Death of a Salesman” written by Arthur Miller, as something that has to be achieved in order to be successful in life. The play takes issues with those in America who place to much stress on material gain, instead of more admirable values. American society is exemplified with Miller’s work and demonstrates how a dream could turn into a nightmare. Arthur Miller’s, “Death of a Salesman”, is a play that portrays the author’s life and the psychological problems that brings the collapse of the American Dream for this in a lower-middle family in an economical depression.

The reader can see how Arthur Miller was inspired to write this play because of his family background using a biographical approach. Miller’s father “was a prosperous businessman until the Crash of 1929, after the family suffered through the Depression” (Rollyson) which had a significant influence on his life and works. As we see in the play, Willy Loman in a sense has two different realities. There is a Willy Loman -- “the financially burdened and emotionally exhausted main character (Thompson) -- is broken, an exhausted man in his sixties, near the end of his life. And there is the more confident, vigorous Willy Loman of some fifteen years before, who appears in flashbacks in the story. If we make a parallel between the story and the author’s life, these two realities are the before and after of the great depression that Miller’s father suffered through when Miller was a child. His life served as the inspiration to create the characters of the story: “Miller drove trucks, unloaded cargoes, waited on tables, and worked as a clerk in a warehouse.” (Rollyson)

Moreover, the psychological view of Willy Loman is shown as a person who works as a traveling salesman and decides to commit suicide because the “American Dream” overwhelms him. As Charley says in the story: “the only thing you got in this world is what you can sell”. He is a normal person “who embodies traditional American values of success.”(Hansberry) In fact, Willy Loman wants to a great extent believe that he is one of the finest salesmen, a winner in life and a great father. For Mr. Loman, the accomplish...


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...y he is so obsessed with trying to attain it. He is the product of his own illusions and of a society that believe that with hard work everything is possible. The reader can understand that Willy’s skewed perspective of the “American Dream” is due to his distortion of his life and the dream that he thinks he lives in everyday.

In conclusion, the play represents the collapse of the “American Dream” for a typical lower-middle class family in Brooklyn during an economic depression. The story represents “the brutality of the system toward man” (Kroll). Willy, with his illusions of living the present with the mementos of the past represents the unwanted desire to accept reality. Therefore, he decides to commit suicide in a coward way and leave the insurance money to the family. Moreover, his wife sees the whole process of Willy’s death without interference in order to not hurt his pride. His sons, Biff and Happy, always had a constant pressure to achieve luxuries and comforts of the American Dream and due to that pressure they were unable to attain it. Willy dies believing in a dream that his family did not believe because they were seeing reality a little bite closer than him.



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