Essay on Failure of the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Essay on Failure of the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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Failure of the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is a story about the dark side of the "American Dream".  Willy Loman's obsession with the dream directly causes his failure in life, which, in turn, leads to his eventual suicide.  The pursuit of the dream also destroys the lives of Willy's family, as well.  Through the Lomans, Arthur Miller attempts to create a typical American family of the time, and, in doing so, the reader can relate to the crises that the family is faced with and realize that everyone has problems.   

Willy Loman equates success as a human being with success in the business world.  When Willy was a young man, he heard of a salesman who could "pick up his phone and call the buyers, and without ever leaving his room, at the age of eighty-four, make his living." (81) This salesman is Willy's inspiration; someday to be so respected and so well known that he can still provide for his family, even at an old age.  Of course, Willy is no good at being a salesman because his heart isn't in it.  The only time Willy puts his heart into anything is when he works with his hands, and his son, Biff, comes to realize this.  "There's more of him in that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made." (138) Willy never comes to the realization that it is not being a salesman that he cares about, but rather being well known and, perhaps more importan...


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...or, Dave Singleman, who died the death of a salesman and had the respect of hundreds, Willy Loman died the death of a dime a dozen, bottom of the bucket salesmen.

Miller uses the misapplication and failure of the "American Dream" to captivate the audience and make them feel sorrow for both Willy and Biff Loman.  It is heart breaking to see this sixty-year-old man finally come to the realization that he is really not who he thought he was.  In addition to that, the fact is pointed out by his own son, who turns out to be wiser than him.  Unlike Willy, Biff finds out who he is, and that the American Dream is not for everyone.

Work Cited:

Miller, Arthur.  Death of a Salesman.  New York: Viking, 1965.

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