Success in Death Of A Salesman

Powerful Essays
Death of a Salesman


What is the "American Dream?" How does one define success? Many people hold different views on how to obtain true happiness. One common view is the accomplishment of something yearned. A majority of individuals desire love, compassion, and a family. On the other hand, there are those concerned with self-image, material items, and the fact that money can indeed buy true happiness. In Arthur Miller's play DEATH OF A SALESMAN [published by Ted Buchholz (1993)]--the story of a sixty-three year old man named Willy Loman striving to achieve the "American Dream" and his family who suffer as a cause--contains many examples of trying to achieve material success. Willy's ultimate dream concerns following in his brother Ben's footsteps and rising to be a successful salesman. Willy Loman wanted success so badly that he lost a realistic sense of himself. He wished the same for his sons, Happy and Biff. Yet his struggle for popularity, authority, and money for success caused his downfall. Unfortunately for Willy, most of his dreams were illusions. He was unable to come face to face with this fact. Willy Loman's definition of success warped his view of himself and that of his sons.

Willy Loman's definition of success pertained to being popular and holding high authority within the business and corporate world. Often lost within his memories the reader gets a glimpse of Willy's meaning of the "American Dream." The audience first witnesses this as he speaks with Biff and Happy about their friend Bernard:

Bernard can get the best marks in school...but you are going to be five times ahead of him...Because the man who makes an appearance in the business w...

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...h he stays in town. Until the play's final chapter Willy remains corrupted by his own thoughts, still believing in the same definition of success for his son: "Can you imagine that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket?" (1314) Willy believes, even after his death, that his son will still be successful through inheritance money and material desires.

In short, Willy Loman's unrealistic dreams caused his downfall. By trying to be successful with material desires and being "well-liked" he failed. By the play's end he had to lose his own life just to provide funding for that of his family. He put his family through endless torture because of his search for a successful life. He should have settled with what he had, for his true happiness included a loving family. Willy's example shows that one must follow their own dreams to be truly accomplished.
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