The American dream of success through hard work and of unlimited opportunity in a vast country actually started before America was officially America, before the colonists broke away from England and established an independent country. That dream has endured and flourished for hundreds of years; as a result, American writers naturally turn to it for subject matter, theme, and structure. In examining its lure and promise, they often find, not surprisingly, that for those who fall short, failure can be devastating because material success is a part of our cultural expectations.
Americans are judged and judge themselves on individual success or failure as indicators of their personal worth. Indeed, two works of fiction, Death of a Salesman and The Grapes of Wrath, are good examples of these ideas, for they illustrate the repercussions of the belief in the American Dream and what happens when the dream proves elusive.
In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman’s illusions are based on his belief in individual success, but his ideas about how to attain that success are impractical and unrealistic. Willy’s comment in Act I that “some people accomplish something” (15) is ironic because he yearns for this to be true for himself and Biff, but it is not true for either of them. Willy thinks he’s “vital in New England” (14) and would be “in charge of New York now” (14) if his original boss was still alive. However, although Willy is entranced by these illusions, the reality is that he is not a successful salesman and is fired. He also thinks Biff should be making good money and blames his son’s failure on his laziness. But it is Willy who has se...
... middle of paper ...
...d a the country” (129), and that is the capitalist system, which is supposed to make life better for everyone. Steinbeck creates a connection between the rotten grapes and the moral decay among the businessmen because of their greed, a vice that is poisoning the American promise by bringing great hardship with little hope for a better future.
In conclusion, both of these works use the deep personal loss of their characters to represent the greater dilemma posed by an American Dream that is elusive and, at least for them, never fulfilled. Hopelessness, despair and disillusionment are the result of what both authors portray as a ruthless, often dehumanizing capitalist system that seeks profit at any cost.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books, 1976.
Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
The Pursuit of a Better Life Through the Stability of Work as Depicted in Miller's Death of a Salesman and Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath
- The idea of a prosperous, richer, and jubilant life has been a driving force for centuries of Americans. America has been viewed as a land of opportunity, in which one’s prospects in life are defined by talent and energy rather than family wealth or background. Only through hard work and determination would this state of happiness and peace of mind be obtained. Work has largely defined human rights, human interaction and the American value of family. Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath follow two families, the Loam and Joad, as they pursue this American Dream.... [tags: Literary Comparison, Analysis, Analytical]
1347 words (3.8 pages)
- Everyone has a dream. Some choose not to pursue them and some do. Those who do not, tend to be regretful. Those who do seem to always be hardworking and well rounded. In Walt Whitman’s poem, “I can hear America singing”, he wrote how he heard joyful working Americans and noticed the similarities of their personalities and their jobs. In “Of Mice and Men”, John Steinbeck’s writing portrayed his idea of how the workers, George and Lennie’s American dream did not work out for them. His characters are examples of American workers who are not happy with their jobs and unfortunately could not pursue their dreams.... [tags: Of Mice and Men, Great Depression, John Steinbeck]
1055 words (3 pages)
- Explore the diffferent veiws in which miller and stainbecks use dreams Of Mice and Men and the Death of a Salesman have different types of dreams which are incorporated in a variety of different ways. In Death of a Salesman, the dreams held by Willy, Happy and Biff have the same traditional American dream where you can become a wealthy, powerful and respected American. Willy is committed to his dream, as Happy Loman states “it’s the only dream you can have” and to be the “number one man”. In contrast, the characters’ dreams in Of Mice and Men, are extremely humble as George and Lennie only desire to have a 2 acre plot of land and a small home and “live off the fatta the land”.... [tags: Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, Great Depression]
1573 words (4.5 pages)
- The “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller is a play deeply composed of many fundamental Marxist ideologies and beliefs. Marxists mainly believed Capitalism would lead to greed and uncontrollable consumerism which is applicable to the play as it follows the protagonist Willy Loman, a door to door salesman in mid to late 1940’s America, who in the later stages of his life is struggling to live up to his expectations of the ‘American Dream.’ The major theme in the play is the pursuit of this dream and the title represents the falsehood of it.... [tags: Marxism, Capitalism, Karl Marx, Socialism]
1562 words (4.5 pages)
A Theme in the Work of Two Authors, Arthur Miller and John Steinbeck: Work and its Relationship to Human Dignity and American Values
- Arthur Miller and John Steinbeck were both great writers of their times and are renowned today as ingenious authors. Both of their works that have been considered masterpieces by both critics and readers nationwide, were written on the simple issues of work, its relationship to both human rights and dignity, and common American values. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman concerns one man’s warped view of the American dream and how he causes his family to suffer by forcing them to give into his delusions.... [tags: Literary Comparison, Literary Analysis]
1946 words (5.6 pages)
- Throughout history, blue collar and working men have been revered, loved, and idolised by some and belittled, scorned, and depreciated by others. The popularity of these viewpoints rise and fall with the passage of time. To get a glimpse of the views of people groups throughout history, we must turn to literature from the time. The works The Chrysanthemums by John Steinbeck, Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway and “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller all portray a working man as a central character and each convey a related, yet separate view of this socially constructed group.... [tags: Great Depression, John Steinbeck, Socialism]
1265 words (3.6 pages)
- Many works of literature have the theme of a failed American Dream, which is the basic idea that no matter what social class an individual may be, they still have an equal ability to achieve prosperity and a good life for their family; however, there has been much debate over whether or not the American dream is still obtainable in modern society. One piece of American literature that substantiates the fact that the American Dream can not be gotten is Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman which describes the tragedy of the average person in America.... [tags: Literary Analysis ]
2099 words (6 pages)
- In Death of a Salesman Miller offers a critique of American society. What is this critique and how is it conveyed to the audience. In Death of a Salesman Miller explores and exposes modern American society in a brutal and scathing manner. His analysis and critique is conveyed clearly to the audience concluding that society is based on a corrupt and immoral capitalist dream. Miller implies this through the Loman family and their struggle to survive and compete. Techniques Miller employs to illustrate this are symbolism, characters and structure.... [tags: Death of a Salesman, Aurthur Miller, USA,]
1876 words (5.4 pages)
- 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... [tags: Death Salesman Essays Arthur Miller]
933 words (2.7 pages)
- Achieving the American Dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Willy Loman is a man on a mission. His purpose in life is to achieve a false sense of the "American Dream," but is this what Willy Loman really wants. In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller analyzes the American Dream by portraying to us a few days in the life of a washed up salesman named Willy Loman. The American Dream is a definite goal of many people, meaning something different to everyone. Willy's version is different from most people though; his is based more on being well-liked and achieving monetary successes rather than achieving something that will make him happy.... [tags: Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller Essays]
1202 words (3.4 pages)
- Societal Views of Women in the Victorian Era in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House
- The Ugliness of War in Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum est
- Comparing Fire and Ice, Soldier's Home, The Jilting of Granny Weatherall, and Sunday Morning
- The Contempt and Bitterness of Virginia Woolf Exposed in A Room of One's Own
- Common People in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men
- Nick Carraway's Epiphany in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby