One of the discussions that is held is what the true definition of the “American Dream” is. There are beliefs that think money and power are the ideal things to strive for. Still others believe that personal success is truly hard to measure and that there is no bench mark. In the play, “Death of a Salesman”, the main character Willy Lohman thinks that success is measured by how many people know you and how well liked you are. This success coupled with all the material possessions he has acquired, makes him feel complete in his quest for the dream.
Dana Gioia and X.J. Kennedy.10th Ed. New York: Pearson, 2007. Murray, Edward. “The Thematic Structure in Death of a Salesman.” Readings on Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman.
"Willy Lomans life is just a meeting point, containing as it does, the contradictions of a culture whose dream of possibility has foundered on the banality of tus actualization, a culture that has lost its vision of transcendence, earthing it's aspirations so severely in the material world." (Bigsby pg. 1) Arthur millers story Death of a Salesman gives us a profile of a once well known man to a troubled father and husband to his family. Willy has a firm belief in what he thinks the perfect American Dream would be like and exactly how his sons biff and happy would achieve this dream. Willy believed good looks, material goods, and likeability would guarantee his sons this dream.
As Pamela Loos says, “Willy Loman fails to understand himself and esteems a career path that goes against who he truly is,” this keeps him from ever being happy with himself. It is easy to see that these problems hurt his personal relationships with Biff and Happy, and they keep them from having a stable family. As the story unfolds, the flaws that each character possesses begin to all come back to Willy, and the way that he conducted his life. Early on in the story, it is clear that the brothers are very different, but each of them shares something with Willy. Biff is the all-american boy, and seems to have everything going for him.
Misguided American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Death of a Salesman deals with hopes and dreams gone wrong. This does not necessarily have to be the "American" dream as such, because all people share the same hopes and dreams, regardless of nationality. The underlying factor, and the inevitable truth is that we all have to dream, dreams are important for human existence. It is evident to the reader that for Willy, his ultimate dream was to follow in the footsteps of Uncle Ben and become a successful salesman. Unfortunately for Willy, most of his dreams are illusions, yet he is unable to come face to face with this fact.
Hence, this strive for success as defined by the American dream has only room for a few men. An impossible dream for the average man that Happy will never attain, a dream rejected by Biff that finally searches within himself for happiness rather than in the eyes of the one that beholds this fallacious dream, his father.
Unfortunately, he is mistaken. In reality, Willy and sons are not, and cannot, be successful. Willy was not successful at anything he did in life. He was a failure as a father, husband and businessman. Willy was not a good father because he focused too much on his career and his false dreams and ignored his family.
We cannot equate Willy?s failure to realize his dream with the failure of the American dream. Indeed, there is a lot of room for failure as well as great success in America. The system is not the one to blame. Willy can only blame himself for not becoming what he wanted to be. The next character, Willy Loman's wife Linda, is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this dysfunctional family and their inability to see things for what they really are.