The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


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The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


Within the tragic play, Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman destroys himself trying to achieve a dream. Yet, the dream that destroys Willy is not one that he has chosen. Willy Loman does not choose this destructive dream because he does not know himself, Willy Loman does not choose a dream at all, one is forced upon him by society.

Willy Loman spends the expanse of the play trying to achieve wealth, fame, and the like of others. These ideas epitomize the American Dream, to become a successful, well-liked businessman. Willy's true dream, however, was very different from this. Throughout the play you can see evidence that Willy feels trapped by this dream that he feels obligated to fulfill. Society has dictated to Willy that the American Dream is "the" dream, and no other dream is acceptable. Because of this dictation, Willy abandons his true dream of living on his own, in the country, where he can support himself by farming, and living from the land. The proof of Willy's true dream appears in short scattered bits. "God, timberland! Me and my boys in those great outdoors! Yes, Yes! Linda, Linda!" he cries exuberantly at the idea of moving away from the city. By the idea is quickly killed by the society surrounding him. "You wait, kid, before it's all over we're gonna get a little place out in the country, and I'll raise some vegetables, a couple of chickens..." once again, society surrounding Willy crushes this dream, his true dream, forcing it back into the subconscious of Willy's mind, where it remains for the duration of the play, only surfacing at a few times, when the dream that Willy is trying to fulfill becomes so horrible that he remembers that he had another dream, or when the false dream is looking as if it might be coming to a close, and he will be able to move on to take on his real dream.

In the climax of the play, when Willy realizes that he is loved by his sons, a slight awakening occurs in Willy's mind. He begin to understand that his true dream, of living in the country, is identical to that of his beloved son, Biff. Biff has never been able to follow his dream because of his father pushing him into the false dream of being a businessman.

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Willy comprehends that he has been denying his son of the dream that he wishes to achieve, and out of pure love kills himself, giving his life insurance to his family, and completes the dream of being wealthy, hoping that by completing the false dream will free his sons of the burden to finish it for him, allowing them to create their own dreams, and then follow them with the money that Willy leaves behind.


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