American Dream In Death Of A Salesman By Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller, who is a devoted writer, shows his concern in the well-being of the American society in his piece Death of a Salesman. This piece is a perfect example of how the pressure to achieve the American Dream can control your mind and lead to a tragedy.
Willy Loman, protagonist of the text, is the average white American family salesman whose life starts to spirals out of control with his pressure to get to the top. During the story there is a continuous struggle for financial stability and being able to fit into the right place in society. Death of a Salesman is a perfect example of the Marxist perspective because the only happiness that they believe can be found is measured by the success achieve in the working world. It is by analyzing the life actions and background of the book’s two main characters Willy and Biff that this conclusion can be made. Based on the theory of Karl Marx, Marxism has grown into a social theory. This social view contains two different classes, the proletariat and bourgeoisie. Overall Marxists believed that capitalism would lead to uncontrollable consumerism and greed. These ideas can be connected to Willy who has been consumed and almost blinded by the capitalist ideals and everything that comes with it, where money, power, and social standing are perceived as the most important thing. Unavoidably, Willy is shown to be apart of that proletariat class; so, he lies to convince himself that he is of higher status than he actually is. The Marxist perspective can also be applied to Biff’s character heavily. Biff is seen as more of a “hands on” individual that honestly would rather work outside on a farm or land. Willy couldn’t possibly understand why Biff wouldn’t want a high paying, respectful job like his father. Both Willy and Biff start the play in a state of false awareness, leading them both to being estranged. Unlike Biff, Willy essentially does not come out of this state and will bring his beliefs to his grave overall.
Death of a Salesman takes the typical idea of the American Dream and reveals negative aspects that can essentially come with it. Willy’s state of false consciousness primarily comes from his belief in a version of the American dream that is almost nonexistent to modern day America. Willy strongly desires the possibilities of success that essentially define the American Dream; he focuses on the firm belief that such accomplishment could be achieved through charm, style and popularity. In fact, he says that “the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, in the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want”. Time proves Willys idea completely wrong when it is shown that Bernard accomplished to land himself a successful career because of his good grades and attitude while charm and popularity gets Biff and Happy nowhere. Indirectly because of Willy’s obsession with popularity, he is alienated from Biff. Biff had been extremely close to him when he was younger, his relationship with his son slowly started to fall apart after Biff found out about his father’s affair. Willy’s strong stance on popularity convinced him to ask Biff to prolong their conversation when it was important overall for the teen to get a good grades in school so he wouldn’t fail and flunk out. Willy also states in the play: “How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years ago now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!”. This shows how Willy believes that when a good amount of money is made it can show a successful man or not.
The idea of the American dream is also present through Willy’s different ideas on how to achieve success in the workplace. Willy is convinced that if he is well-liked that success and money will shower down on him. The irony essentially in this is that Willy is old man who is not very attractive, and doesn’t really have many friends. This is a reason of Willy’s mental decline as well as physical downturn. All because Willy is not popular and wealthy, he becomes crazy. Willy carries out his last days in a dream-like, fantasy state because he is not capable of accepting his reality and living with it peacefully. His suicide was mainly because he wanted his family to have money; because that is the only way he truly thinks they will be happy. Willy disregards the fact that he is leaving his loved ones behind and all because he wants them to be able to live the American dream that he believes he never could.
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