Pursuit Of The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller

Pursuit Of The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller

Length: 1891 words (5.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
There is something magical and sometimes overpowering to the majority of mankind: It is the thing that allows people to live in mansion's with helipad's as well as underground society forced to live in the many tunnels and passageways under New York City and to beg for their meals. Although this is definitely the extreme that I have described. It is sometimes indescribably cruel and other times very gracious. This thing that I write about is the American system. In Arthur Miller's moving and powerful play, "Death of a Salesman", Miller uses many character to contrast the difference between success and failure within the system. Willy is the dreamy salesman whose imagination is much larger than his sales ability, while Linda is Willy's wife who stands by her husband even in his absence of realism. Biff and Happy are the two blind mice who follows in there father's fallacy of life, while Ben is the only member of the Loman family with that special something needed to achieve. Charlie and his son Benard, on the other hand, enjoy better success in life compared to the Lomans.

The play romanticizes the rural-agrarian dream but does not make it genuinely available to Willy. Miller seems to use this dream merely to give himself an opportunity for sentimentality. The play is ambiguous in its attitude toward the business-success dream, but does not certainly condemn it. It is legitimate to ask where Miller is going. And the answer is that he has written a confused play because he has been unwilling or unable to commit himself to a firm position with respect to American culture. Miller prepares us for stock response-relief in escape to the West and the farm; firm satisfaction in the condemnation of the tawdry business ethic.1and then denies us the fulfillment of our expectations. The play makes, finally, no judgment on America, although Miller seems always on the verge of one, of telling us that America is a nightmare, a cause of and a home for tragedy. But Willy is not a tragic hero; he is a foolish and ineffectual man for whom we feel pity. We cannot equate his failure with America's (Eisinger .0 p. 174. Indeed, there is a lot of room for failure as well as great success in America. The system is not the one to blame. Willy can only blame himself for not becoming what he wanted to be.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Pursuit Of The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller." 123HelpMe.com. 18 Nov 2018

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Achieving the American Dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Essay example

- 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]

Research Papers
1202 words (3.4 pages)

A Shattered Dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Essay

- A Shattered Dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman tells the story of a man confronting failure in the success-driven society of America and shows the tragic path, which eventually leads to Willy Loman's suicide. Death of a Salesman?is?a search for identity, [Willy?s] attempt to be a man according to the frontier tradition in which he was raised, and a failure to achieve that identity because in [1942] and in [Brooklyn] that identity cannot be achieved. (Gross 321) Willy is a symbolic icon of the failing American; he represents those that have striven for success in society, but, in struggling to do so, have instead achieved failure in the most bitter form....   [tags: Miller Death Salesman Essays]

Research Papers
2653 words (7.6 pages)

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

- The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Material happiness provides the ambition behind seeking the "Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman ." In Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Willy Loman's determination to live up to his "American Dream" and to seek material happiness only takes his life. What is the "American Dream". The "American Dream" cannot be defined. I know that my "American Dream" consists of a Porsche, a large house, and a happy family. Willy Loman's definition does not differ greatly from mine although while trying to pursue this dream, Willy's mind slowly drifted further and further away from reality....   [tags: Death of a Salesman]

Free Essays
456 words (1.3 pages)

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

- Failure of the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman   In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller "forces the reader to deal with the failure of the American Dream"(Field 2367) and the effect it had on the Loman family, how it ruins the life of Willy, and destroys Biff’s life as well.  By focusing on serious problems that the reader can relate to, Arthur Miller connects us with the characters facing these life-altering crisis.              To Willy Loman success is defined as being a well-liked businessman.  As Willy grew up, his American Dream was to be able to “pick up his phone and call the buyers, and without ever leaving his room, at the age of eighty-four, make his livi...   [tags: Death of a Salesman]

Research Papers
891 words (2.5 pages)

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

- The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Within the tragic play, Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman destroys himself trying to achieve a dream. Yet, the dream that destroys Willy is not one that he has chosen. Willy Loman does not choose this destructive dream because he does not know himself, Willy Loman does not choose a dream at all, one is forced upon him by society. Willy Loman spends the expanse of the play trying to achieve wealth, fame, and the like of others. These ideas epitomize the American Dream, to become a successful, well-liked businessman....   [tags: Death of a Salesman]

Free Essays
478 words (1.4 pages)

Essay about The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

- The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman The American Dream ~ for many, it is the unlocked door that leads to happiness.  It is the hope for a future filled with success and fortune.  Although most people have a similar idea of what the American Dream is, they may have different ideas on how to achieve it.  For Willy Loman, a struggling salesman, achieving this dream would be a major accomplishment.  Unfortunately, his unusual ideas of how this dream can be achieved prevent him from reaching his goal.              Out of all of Willy’s unusual ideas, one major pattern we can notice is how Willy truly believes that popularity and physical appearance are what make people...   [tags: Death of a Salesman]

Research Papers
808 words (2.3 pages)

Search for the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Essay

- Search for the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman What is the American Dream. Some believe in the nineteen fifties ideal created through television. Successful children, perfect families, and a happy stay-at-home mother are all associated with this version. Yet, everyone knows that the children are not always successful, there are family fights, and not every mother can be at home and happy. Many families have lifelong searches for the ideal American Dreams and never find one....   [tags: Death of a Salesman]

Free Essays
785 words (2.2 pages)

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

- The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Death of a Salesman is centered around one man trying to reach the American dream and taking his family along for the ride. The Loman's lives from beginning to end is a troubling story based on trying to become successful, or at least happy. Throughout their lives they encounter many problems and the end result is a tragic death caused by stupidity and the need to succeed. During his life Willy Loman caused his wife great pain by living a life not realizing what he could and couldn't do....   [tags: Death of a Salesman]

Free Essays
1020 words (2.9 pages)

A Foolish American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Essay

- A Foolish American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman       Willy Loman is responsible for his own downfall.  Willy finds his own hero and tries to become the hero in his own existence.  Willy tries to become a very successful businessman, at the start of his career he thinks that no one can tell him what to.  Willy is not good with people, he is good with his hands, he is not a good salesman and he chooses the wrong career.  Willy often makes up stories or changes the stories he knows because he cannot face the truth of his life that he has not accomplished as much as he has planned.  Willy's downfall is his own doing which is brought about by his unrealist...   [tags: Death of a Salesman]

Free Essays
772 words (2.2 pages)

The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Essay

- The American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Throughout Death of a Salesman the males of the Loman family cannot distinguish between the reality of the American Dream and the illusion of it. Willy cannot see who Happy and Biff actually are as individuals or himself for that matter. Therefore, Willy and his sons believe that they all know and have what it takes to be a success in life and in business. In actuality the success of both falls very far from the ideal American Dream of their time....   [tags: Death of a Salesman Essays]

Free Essays
418 words (1.2 pages)

The next character, Willy Loman's wife Linda, is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this dysfunctional family and their inability to see things for what they really are. Louis Gordon is in agreement stating, "Linda, as the eternal wife and mother, the fixed point of affection both given and received, the woman who suffers and endures, is in many ways, the earth mother who embodies the play's ultimate moral value, love. But in the beautiful, ironic complexity of her creation, she is also Willy's and their sons' destroyer. In her love Linda has accepted Willy's Greatness and his dream, but while in her admiration for Willy her love is powerful and moving, in her admiration for his dreams, it is lethal. She encourages Willy's dream, yet she will not let him leave her for the New Continent, the only realm where the dream can be fulfilled. She want to reconcile father and son, but she attempts this in the context of Willy's false values. She cannot allow her sons to achieve that selfhood that involves denial of these values" (Gordon p. 316). Linda is also caught up in Willy's lies and therefore does nothing but help fuel the fire in the inferno of their dreams and ambitions. She lets this whole masquerade continue right in front of her instead of doing something to stop their out of control lies.
Also, Biff the oldest son, continues to search for his purpose in life. Due mainly to all the "hot air" Willy always feeds him, Biff continues to stumble in his fight for life. Biff has never had the ability to hold down a job very long due to his inability to take orders and do his time in the trenches before becoming a success at a particular job.
Richard J. Foster states, "Biff, who in the play as an amplification or reflection of Willy's problems, has been nurtured on Willy's dreams, too. But he has been forced to see the truth. And it is the truth—his father's cheap philandering—in its impact on a nature already weakened by a diet of illusion that in turn paralyzes him. Biff and Willy are two versons of the idealist, or "drealmer" may be a better work, paralyzed by reality: Biff by the effects of disillusionment, Willy by the effects of the illusions themselves. This is how they sum themsleves up at the end of the play, just before Willy's suicide: "Pop ! Biff cries, "I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you!" "I am not a dime a dozen!" Willy answers in rage. "I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!" And the tragedy—if it is tragedy—is that they are both right (Foster p. 316).
In addition, Happy, the youngest son, never realizes his father's fallacy of "be well liked and you shall never want". Happy tried to make it in the city with a similar sales career like his father. He also lives a lie in the fact he claims to have a certain position with his company when in reality he is in the lower bracket of the company. Happy is not able to see himself for what he is, unlike his brother, who finally has an epiphany of who he is and what he stands for.

In agreement, Lois Gordon remarks, "Hap, less favored by nature and his father, perhaps as Willy was in comparison with Ben, has escaped the closeness with his father that destroys Biff in social terms. Thus worshipping his father from afar, Hap has never fully come to realize that phony part of his father and his father's dreams. He does have longings to be outdoors and to get away from the crippling fifty-weeks-of-work-a-year routine, but because he has never seen his father's feet of clay, he has more fully than Biff accepted his father's dreams. He is not a social rebel, and he will carry on with the life of a salesman, and, one suspects, go on to the death of a salesman. He will violate the boss' wife out of some lonely desperation, as Willy sought support and solace in his Boston woman. He will also prove his manliness with fast cars and fancy talk, but again like Willy, he will never really believe in his own manliness in any mature way. Just as Willy is called a kid throughout, and referred to as the diminutive Willy be everyone except Benn….Happy has been trapped by the infantile American Playboy magazine vision of the male" (Gordon p.324).

In contrast, Ben has become extremely successful in life compared to his brother Willy. Ben is the only member of the Loman family to achieve greatness. He is the example of the true entrepreneur in every sense, "Never fight fair with a stranger" was Ben's wisdom and his faith—"When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich!" Although, this information was never enough for a blueprint for Willy to follow, Willy always sought his brother Ben's advice to reach the pot of gold under the rainbow
Likewise, Charlie is also Willy's opposite in many ways in the play. Charlie stands for different beliefs and ends up quite successful. Charlie tries to help Willy as well… However, Willy will not listen to Charlie's advice. For instance, Charlie warned Willy not to let his kids steal from a nearby construction site and that the night watchman would eventually catch them. Willy said, "I got a couple of fearless characters," and Charlie said, "The jails are full of fearless characters." Charlie is always being the voice of reason but Willy is too stubborn to listen to him. R. H. Gardner states, "Willy's refusal, from the standpoint of dramatic significance, seems less a product of his insanity than of his lifelong feeling of competition with Charlie. Acceptance would have been tantamount to admitting that Charlie's philosophy had proved to be the right one, and Willy simply isn't big enough a man to make such an admission" (Gardner p.320). In other words, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Charlie tries to lead Willy to the fountain of knowledge but Willy refuses to take in this precious liquid.
Furthermore, there is the anemic Bernard—at least that is what Willy calls him. Bernard I Charlie's son, and Biff and Happy's schoolmate. R. H. Gardner states, "A physically unattractive, spectacles-wearing lad, Bernard's chief claim to fame rests upon the fact that he is the boy who furnishes Biff, the school hero, with the right answers at exam time. In exchange for this privilege, Biff lets Bernard carry his shoulder pads into the locker room at game time and, in other small ways, bask in the glory—which is all the glory Bernard can aspire to, since, as Biff explains to his tickled father, Bernard is not "well liked." It is, therefore, interesting to note that not well liked though he may be, Bernard, through persistent application of his native intelligence, grows up to be an eminent lawyer who, the day Biff and Willy are finally forced to face the unpleasant fats of their lives, embarks for Washington to plead a case before the Supreme Court. That Mr. Miller chose to contrast Willy's and Biff's failures with an obvious example of how one can succeed in this country makes it difficult to interpret the play as an attack upon the American system, either as constituted or as popularly imagined. Bernard is, in fact, living proof of the system's effectiveness, an affirmation of the proposition that persitent application of one's talents, small though they may be, pays off. And this, after all, is the substance of the American Dream" (Gardner p.320).

In conclusion, there are many forms of failure as well as success that are spawned by our American system. The Lomans are all an example of what life is like if you continually live in a dream world and never train yourself for anything. Ben is the exception in the Loman family. He is the only one of them to turn our successful. However, Charlie and his son Bernard were able to achieve greatness and to make the system work for them. In the end, the decision to make it in this American system is, ironically, up to the individual.*

Works Cited
Eisinger, Chester E. "Focus on Arthur Miller's 'Deathe of a Salesman': The Wrong Dreams," in American Dreams, American Nightmares, (1970 rpt In clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1976 vol. 6:331 Foster, Richard J. (Confusion and Tragedy: The Failure of Miller's 'Salesman' (1959) rpt in clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1983 vol. 26:316 Gardner, R. H. ("Tragedy of the Lowest Man," in his Splintered Stage: (1965) rpt in clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1983 vol. 2l6:320 Gordon, Lois "Death of a Salesman": An Appreciation, in the Forties: 1969) rpt in clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1983 vol. 26:323
Return to 123HelpMe.com