Death of a Salesman, the “first great American Tragedy,” is a 1949 play written by American playwright Arthur Miller. Miller is known for being a true activist, supporting and participating in many liberal issues, including the civil rights struggle and the protest against the Vietnam War. The basis for Death of a Salesman lies in Arthur Miller’s relationship with his uncle Manny Newman, a salesman. Miller expresses Manny’s emotions through Willy Loman, the main protagonist. In successfully doing so, Miller has been deemed an American who understands the true nature and values of the United States (Bloom). The play primarily addresses the painful conflicts within one’s own family as well as larger issues regarding American national values, focusing primarily on blind faith in the American Dream (Porter). Miller wrote Death of a Salesman after World War II, thus explaining the feelings of darkness and struggle embedded in the play. Harold Bloom asserts that, “this darker side of American life received less publicity than the success myth but was the inevitable consequence of postwar capitalist competition in an expanding economy” (Bloom). Happy and Biff, a sales clerk and farm worker, represent this portion of the postwar workforce, as each is shown struggling to retain his identity and dignity. Their father’s obsession with his financial status and position in society are a further reflection of this “Cold War attitude,” as he desires to conform to the accepted norms of the majority. Throughout the play, Willy Loman measures his success with how “well- liked” he is, constantly looking to others to determine his self-image. (Bloom)
Throughout the course of Death of a Salesman, it becomes increa...
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This criticism is convincing because the whole of the text centers around such versions of the “great American Dream.” Willy Loman’s American Dream alludes to the acquisition of material wealth. Biff and Ben’s, however, is a dream with the values of adventure and self-identity. Willy Loman, on the other hand, has accepted an ideal forced upon him by his culture. Miller is not an individual who has determined on an objective and strives to achieve it, but is an insignificant “salesman” who is failing to deal with and accept his surroundings. I believe Miller uses Willy Loman to show that although the American Dream is still very much alive, the success isn’t available to or possible for everyone. In fact, in some instances, the American Dream, or rather the pursuit of the American Dream, can lead to depression, unhappiness, and a loss of self-identity.
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