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Willy Loman´s American dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Satisfactory Essays
Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” ends with the tragic suicide of Willy Loman, the lead character. It is the end of a life spent futilely chasing “the American dream”. Willy has been unsuccessful in achieving the success he so desperately craves because his perception of the formula for success is fatally flawed. Willy believes that the American dream is only attainable for the popular and attractive few, and he does not believe he belongs to this elite group. Yet, Willy still works his entire life pursuing his dream.

The first component of the American dream, in Willy’s eyes is a successful career. Always the dreamer, he attempts to make his mark as a salesman because “selling [is] the greatest career a man [can] want” (1492; Act 2). But when he falls short of his goals, he blames the superficiality of the business world, as evidenced in his thoughts about Bernard:

Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the

business world, y’understand, you’re going to be five times ahead of him. That’s

why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like adonises. Because a man who

makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest,

is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. (1469; Act1)

Willy has ingrained his distorted views in his sons, Biff and Happy, condemning them to failure as well. Happy complains, " I mean I can outbox, outrun, and outlift anybody in that store, and I have to take orders from those common, pretty sons-of-bitches till I can't stand it anymore" (1464; Act 1). Happy thinks that just because he is stronger than those who give him orders, he should be the one to give the orders. His father taught him that that was the way to success, and it is obviously failing for Happy.

A second aspect of Willy’s American dream is material possessions. The Loman's do not have nice things, and Willy believes that what he possesses says he is not a success. He is very aware that he has not achieved this part of his dream, and he is envious of those who have. He tells Linda, "Charley bought a General Electric [refrigerator] and it's twenty years old and it's still good, that son-of-a-bitch" (1488; Act 2). Willy Loman also believes his children would love him more if could give them more.
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