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The Tragedy of the Common Man in Death of a Salesman

Powerful Essays
Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller in 1949, won a Pulitzer Prize and established Miller’s international status. The play conveys issues of social realism and family complications as it explores the life of a man who lives in a fragmented state of reality with unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Arthur Miller’s play raises the question of the significance and value of the American dream by contrasting the two different views of becoming successful; one view believes that hard-work and support will lead to success, while the other relies on popularity, attractiveness, and likability to be successful.

Willy, the protagonist of Death of a Salesman, and his family have lived their lives believing an amoral and deluded version of the American dream compared to others. Willy is a very insecure, delusional, and misguided individual who whole-heartily believes the various lies and stunted interpretation he has based his life on; he believes that in order to be successful, one must be popular and attractive. Willy and his family are put at a disadvantage because throughout their lives “they continue to believe that the greater world will embrace them, will proclaim them, simply because they are superficially charming, are occasionally witty, and can bluster and brag with the best of them” (Thompson). Willy continues to look up to individuals that are very successful. Dave Singleman, and Willy’s brother are two characters in the play that Willy looks up to because of their hard-earned success. However, Willy helps the audience have an insight to the corrupted view of the American dream that is based on materialism, popularity, likability, and attractiveness.

The American dream that Willy is challenging was originall...

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...on what our founding fathers based it on: hard-work, support, success, and freedom of choice.

Works Cited

Cardullo, Robert James. “Selling in American Drama, 1946-49: Miller’s Death of a Salesman, O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, and Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire.” The Explicator 66.1 (2007). Academic OneFile. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.

Centola, Steven R. “Family Values in Death of a Salesman.” CLA Journal 37.1 (1993). Literature Resource Center. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.

Jacobson, Irving. “Dreams in Death of a Salesman.” American Literature 47.2 (1975): 246-258. JSTOR. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer 10th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013. 1386-95. Print.

Thompson, Terry W. “Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The Explicator 63.4 (2005). Academic OneFile. Web. 17 Apr. 2014.
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