Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman was written after the second World War while the American economy was booming. Society was becoming very materialistic, and the idea that anyone could “make it” in America was popular. These societal beliefs play a large part in Death of a Salesman, a play in which the main character, Willy Loman, spends a lifetime chasing after the American Dream.
Willy was sold on the wrong dream. He was enamored with a myth of American ideals and chose to put aside his real talents in pursuit of a fantasy. In several instances of the play, we see that Willy is a skilled carpenter. He wants to redo the front step just to show off to his brother, and he is constantly fixing things around the house. However, he doesn’t see carpentry as an acceptable occupation. It entails hard work and there isn’t any glory in it. Instead, he chooses to follow the dream of being a successful salesman. The problem is that Willy doesn’t seem to have any of the skills needed to be a salesman. He deludes himself into thinking that he is “vital in New England” but we find out during his meeting with Howard that even during his good years he wasn’t doing as well as he thought he was. He has convinced himself that he averages one hundred and seventy dollars a week in commission, but Howard tells him otherwise. This is a shock to Willy; he’s not used to having reality forced upon him.
Willy sees being a salesman as a worthy profession; he apparently puts a lot of effort into his sales pitches. His ideal fate is the same as Dave Singleman’s; to be so “well-liked” that he can make sales over the phone and to have hundred of people attend his funeral. Willy is blind to the...
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... he tries to tell Happy that Willy didn’t know himself. Unfortunately, Happy is still living in a world of illusions, and he becomes angry with Biff and says “He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have – to come out number one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him.” Ironically, Willy killed himself so that Biff could carry out his dreams of success, but Happy is the one who actually believed in Willy’s dream and vows to “win it for him”. As Linda looks over Willy’s grave, she tells us that the house has finally been paid off; that they are finally out of debt. If only Willy had been willing to take a job from Charley, they could have been living an easy life. But, Willy’s illusions of being a good salesman and his pride in false beliefs would not allow him to. Willy has died chasing the illusion of the American Dream.
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