Comparing the American Dream in Miller's Death of a Salesman and Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun

Comparing the American Dream in Miller's Death of a Salesman and Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun

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Comparing the Destructive American Dream in Miller's Death of a Salesman and Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun


America is a land of dreamers. From the time of the Spanish conquistadors
coming in search of gold and everlasting youth, there has been a mystique about the land to which Amerigo Vespucci gave his name. To the Puritans who settled its northeast, it was to be the site of their “city upon a hill” (Winthrop 2). They gave their home the name New England, to signify their hope for a new beginning. Generations of immigrants followed, each a dreamer bringing his own hopes and aspirations to the green shores. The quest was given a name – the American Dream; and through the ages, it has been as much a symbol of America as the lady in the harbor, a promise of America’s riches for all who dare to dream and strive to fulfill their ambitions. Dreamers apotheosized fellow dreamers like Rockefeller and Carnegie, holding them to be the paradigm from which all could follow. But behind the meretricious dream lies the cold reality. A country built upon survival of the fittest has no sympathy for those who serve as the steppingstones for others’ success. For every person who reaches the zenith, there are countless others trapped in the valleys of despair by their heedless dash to reach the top. Playwrights Arthur Miller and Lorraine Hansberry memorialize the failures in their works Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun. Their central dreamers, Miller’s Willy Loman and Hansberry’s Walter Lee Younger, like children at a candy shop window, are seduced by that success which can be seen so clearly, yet is so unreachable. Ardent followers of the hype of America, they reveal that, far from being a positive motivator, the Ame...


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...n. Ed. Harold Bloom. Modern Critical Interpretations. New York: Chelsea, 1988. 47-58.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1977.

Nemiroff, Robert. Introduction. A Raisin in the Sun. By Lorraine Hansberry. New York: Vintage, 1988. 5-14.

Turner, Darwin T. "Visions of Love and Manliness in a Blackening World: Dramas of Black Life Since 1953." Black Scholar 25.2 (1995): 2-13. EBSCO. Wake Co. Public Lib. 5 Jan. 2001 <http://www.ebscohost.com>.

Wilson, Robert N. “The Salesman and Society.” The Writer as Social Seer. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1979. 57-71. Rpt. in Willy Loman. Ed. Harold Bloom. Major Literary Characters. New York: Chelsea, 1991. 79-89.

Winthrop, John. “A Model of Christian Charity.” American History Online. 28 Mar. 2001. <http://longman.awl.com/history/primarysource_2_4.htm>.

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