Death of a Salesman
Dangerous Selfishness and the collapse of the American dream: Death of a Salesman American Dream
American Dream in Death of a salesman has conveyed a deeper meaning of the American Dream by presenting Willy Lomans American dream to he be his ultimate goal in life in order to be liked and above all. Physiologically speaking Willy is seen as narcissistic because of how he was brought up in his childhood, his defensive self esteem, his need to be well liked by everyone, and most importantly the need to be successful falls into line. Willy has a strong Desire to be the provider of the family he’s carries so much wait on his shoulders that it can be understood why he is the way he is. In many ways he can be seen as narcissistic
One of the key characteristics found in the beginning is the ﬂute playing and its describing the images of the West by saying ‘telling of the grass, trees, and the horizon”.This is the start that hints to us The American Dream, which is Freedom, potential, and success, all of which correlate to the ideal landscape that the nineteenth century gave pride to. Willy dreamily imagines how beautiful it is in the West which indicate his desire to be the provider and to attain the freedom and success that he perceives the American Dream will give him. The American Dream is the ultimate Desire every man wants and uses it as a motivation and drive for the people of society. When interpreting the American Dream I interpret it as being a privilege to be able to come into this country and having the power to do whatever you want. You can even become whoever you want. This is where Willy falls into his depression because Willy was very capable of achieving his goals although he felt he couldn’t because every time he attempted he would fail. Willy would constantly compare himself to his brother Ben who has become successful. Let’s be honest here of course you can be happy for family but Willy being the younger brother would look up to Ben wanting to be like him. Which is why Willy has many insecurities like when Ben offered Willy a job after Howard doesn’t allow Willy to work with him, “I appreciate that, Willy, but there just is no spot here for you. If I had a spot I’d slam you right in, but I just don’t have a single solitary spot”. Willy didn’t take rejection lightly we can tell from the play how much Willy is begging even goes into his past trying to convince himself this is what he’s meant to do by saying “business is definitely business, but just listen for a minute. You don’t understand this. When I was a boy -eighteen, nineteen – I was already on the road. And there was a question in my mind as to whether selling had a future for me”. This was the true start of Willy depression which eventually leads to his death. From this we can configure how easy of a childhood Ben had in comparison to Willy who is constantly fighting to be better even as children Ben was seen as that favorite child which plays a crucial part in Willy’s personality and thoughts.
Throughout the play, Willy increasingly becomes more consumed with his identity and seeks refuge from this uncertainty through his sons. It started since Happy and Biff we’re children which they continue to be influenced. Biff and Happy have been influenced their whole lives by the outlook of the American Dream and the values and beliefs. Although Linda solemnly states that ‘we’re free,’ it is an ironic statement because even though Willy’s death freed his family physically in the sense that they are no longer bound to a mortgage, Willy was not able to achieve the freedom that he desired. However, throughout the play, Arthur Miller magnifies the need to acknowledge that the American Dream is identiﬁed by hard work, not the superﬁcial ideas of being well liked and that in order for an individual to attain virtue and happiness. Happy who is apparently successful is uncertain about himself stating to Biff that ‘Sometimes I sit in my apartment – all alone. And I think of the rent I’m paying. And it’s crazy. But then, it’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I’m lonely, “as much as he is successful he doesn’t feel fully accomplished. This is because Happy still views the value of life similar to that of his father a life that focuses on the ideas of the American Dream such as being liked and being attractive. Happy and Willy both live under the false pretense of these ideas which ultimately leads them to an unhappy life and they both ﬁnd refuge from their discontentment in women who appraise them for being successful businessman. As for Happy’s name its known in this play to be ironic because his name literally means content and displaying positivity when in reality he is not happy at all. Happy is the embodiment of the superﬁcial ideas of the American Dream. On the other hand, Biff is compelled to seek the truth in himself and evolves away from the perceived ideals of his father. Biff is aware of the falseness of his father’s dreams and by the end of the play. Biff was able to reconcile the conﬂict between the falseness of his father’s dreams as well by understanding that the American Dream is one that identiﬁes hard work as success. Willy’s father and brother were lucky enough to find success in Alaska and Africa, which affects willy emotionally and metally by trapping himself in an unpleasant outlook on his life.Although willy believes, “He explicitly views himself in an idealmanner as a successful father and salesman, but his suicide attempts, which occur when he is in a semicon- scious dream-state, suggest the presence of deep-seated feelings of self-doubt,” which ultimetly leads himself down a deeper whole because he feels all theses emotions, even if it is his father and brother who bring theses emotions out on him.
When it comes down to Willy’s personality he continues to deceive himself as he boasts himself saying he’s “‘known up and down in New England,’ when in reality he has never met the mayor and is not known by everyone which are the qualiﬁes that he aimlessly attempts to achieve. The wire recorder that Howard plays is such an important symbol because of Willy’s perception of himself because is what draws Howard, Willy is unable to do the same. This further amplifies the imbalance in his mind which causes him to perceive himself falsely. From the scholarly article one point that is brought up that Willy never admitted but we can tell from reading is his shame by discussing “implicit negative self representation , Willy self aggrandised, and self promotes, striving desperation to attain success that promotes feeling of hubris” this amplifies his shame and rings out his true narcissistic side of himself.
Overall a big part of the American Dream has to do with modern times because it’s still such a major desire that everybody wants dating back from the nineteenth century till now till modern times. Willy was on the verge of trying to find his goals and achieve them as for his sons Biff finally realized his beliefs are far better of without the mindset of his father overcrowding his thoughts of needing popularity and needing to be the most successful. Happy was the fine example of this because he was successful and pulled girls and even than it wasn’t enough. As for Willy he never quite got what he wanted. Everyone interprets their American dream differently. Overall one should just be happy and be surrounded by family. In this case, Willy Loman is the ultimate definition of a man who will stop at nothing to be seen as a hero even if it means ending his life to be able to provide for his family through the insurance. Willy thinks he’s being a hero in his eyes but seen as a narcissistic person in others.
A Portrayal Of American Dream in Death of a Salesman
The American dream is something that is constantly alluded to in popular media and literature from all around the world. This American dream is thought to be the ability to reach one’s goals of success and riches in the capitalist economy and free society that characterizes the United States of America (Roth 201). Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” is a play which many people believe centers around the American Dream. Willy, the protagonist, is extremely concerned with making himself a fortune and teaching his children how to do the same in their future, however his family life suffers and he never is able to reach his dream. Miller’s play is an anatomy of the American Dream in its portrayal of the leading characters and how their lives turn out.
Miller carefully constructs his characters in order to successfully relate to his audience. Willy is a salesperson, but the product that he sells is never identified. The product is kept hidden in order for the audience themselves to picture what he is selling. This makes Willy more relatable to the audience and he can easily be compared with the millions of salespeople in the United States across various industries. In portraying Willy as a broken man throughout the play, Miller shows how his job and quest for fortune has hurt him as a person. Although many people believe Miller was criticizing the American dream and showing the harm it causes, it can also be said that the writer was merely trying to reimagine the American dream through the perspective of different characters (Demastes and Fischer 370).
Willy’s brother Ben exemplifies the stereotypical American dream. That is, to go from rags to riches in a short amount of time. Ben makes his fortune by the time he is 21 by being bold and daring. Ben is characterized as a ruthless man who will stop at virtually nothing to gain what he wants. This is shown during the play when Ben visits Willy and Ben and Willy’s son, Biff start to wrestle around. It appears Biff is winning until Ben trips Biff and points his umbrella in the face of Biff, declaring himself the winner.
Biff experiences an internal conflict in regards to the American dream. Although he feels somewhat drawn to the fast-paced business world that his father pursued, it is obvious his true calling involves working with his hands. He expresses contentment after working as a farmhand for a while. This contentment, however, is riddled with feelings of guilt that he ought to be making a real living for himself and following in his father’s career path.
Miller shows how the American dream is only reached by those who are determined to do whatever it takes to reach their goals. Willy believes that superficial characteristics such as likeability and attractiveness take priority over hard work, and his viewpoint ends up being his downfall. At the end of his life, the disparity between his own life and what he views as success cause him to mentally breakdown (Demastes and Fischer 372). Miller may also be suggesting, however, that the American dream can mean different things to different people. Biff ultimately resolves that he should abandon his father’s dream and pursue what will make him happy. He is assumed to go back to the ranch at the end of the play after his father’s funeral. The characters in “Death of a Salesman” show the American dream from different perspectives. Arthur Miller’s characterization shows how the American dream can be reimagined, as well as why it can result in ultimate destruction or unmatched success.
Similarities Of American Beauty And Death of a Salesman Novels
Critical Essay for English Individual Study
“The characters in the texts deal with a shallow concept of success”
Discuss in relation to Sam Mendes’ American Beauty and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” (Oscar Wilde)
While the American Dream is much more attainable for the average person in America today, it still fails to fulfill and satisfy the deeper needs of a people trapped in a material culture. The study of Sam Mendes’ American Beauty alongside Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman exposes various similarities inherent in the values possessed by the central protagonists of the texts. Both Mendes and Miller explore the notion of the American Dream: While Mendes presents it as a shallow and un-fulfilling goal, Miller shows how such a dream in unattainable for the American Everyman in the late 1940s. One can follow the progression of this Everyman from the post-depression era to America in the present and come to the realisation that, following Freud’s teachings, what has been repressed of the individual, has not been fulfilled. Both Mendes and Miller explore a similar sense of success but in the comparison of the texts, it is evident that the American Dream has left people empty and in denial of reality reflected in the characters Lester Burnham and Willy Loman.
The American Dream is shallow success. It is a cycle of tragedy that has revolved in families and society for over fifty years. Mendes examines success when there is a ‘happy family’, a large house and a ‘normal’ job. American Beauty is an ambiguous title for a film that delves deeply into the ugliness of American suburbia. Mendes presents beauty, American beauty, as success. Angela is successful because she is beautiful, Lester is successful because he is ordinary. His wife Carol is successful because she has a mowed green lawn and beautifully pruned roses. Lester Burnham is a man who has been failed by monetary goods. The film documents his ‘mid-life crisis’ when his desires are focused on the sexuality of his own daughter’s best friend. America has become a country where money can buy everything, even, Lester believes, happiness. Lester uses Angela as a tool to recover his youth, using her like a prostitute.
There’s beauty in ordinary things, in everyday life. Ricky sees beauty in a plastic bag, “dancing with him,” in a homeless woman and a dead bird. Mendes contrasts Ricky to Lester who sees beauty in Angela who reflects a typical image of an American Beauty. Ricky says to Angela, “you’re boring. And you’re totally ordinary. And you know it.”
The American Dream promotes ordinariness that is comforting. Lester tires, however, of being driven by society’s ideals and in trying to create an individualism, he turns to find American conformity in another form.
Carol thinks that beauty is the roses in her garden. Lester thinks that Angela is beautiful. Mendes shows that beauty is neither, beauty is truth and real love, all of the things that are discarded when trying to obtain monetary success.
In Freudian fashion, American Beauty is about sexuality and the desire people have to be associated with youth. Angela is used by Mendes as a symbol of how love and happiness is mistaken for sex and sexuality. Lester is attracted to this false happiness and is disillusioned to discover that Angela is a virgin. He assumed that
While the film has a satirical nature, its comedy is dark. It is a reflection, a truth of everyday tragedy that is not death in the literal understanding but the death of something much deeper.
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman attacks the American Dream at a time when such an ambition was unrealistic. Miller’s play differs from American Beauty in that it explores a Marxist approach to American success. The death of the Salesman refers to the death of the sales that Capitalism promotes. Miller explores the death of the American Dream for society, the state of death it causes for an individual like Willy Loman.
Miller, influenced by Marxism, promoting the self-emancipation of the working class, shows that for every worker life is hard, and that everything in life that is worthwhile has to be worked and struggled for. Willy expects that if he is well liked he will not have to try. He relies upon the promise of the American Dream and aspires to his brother Ben, “That man was success incarnateWalked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich.”
We become aware that Willy is self-conscious and insecure. It concerns and upset him that he can’t achieve the success that he imagines. He is an ordinary man but he lives an illusion that he is well liked and ‘successful’ in the American sense of the word. Willy masks his ordinariness as Angela masks hers, failing to believe that he is what his son Biff tells him he is, “A dime a dozen.” Happy, Willy’s son, reflects the cyclical nature of the American Dream in American society passed from generation to generation. Defending his father he argues, “He had a good dream. Its the only dream you can have.” Biff, Miller’s symbol of truth and reality, realises that his father died in vain, “He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong.” Willy, like Lester, fought and died repressed by social conformity.
The American Dream is a repression of one’s self for the sake of conformity, a repression that is not compensated by money. The allure of such ‘success’ satisfies only the shallow exterior. Ricky says, “There is this life behind things.” Mendes and Miller show how there is life behind people that are suppressed by a pursuit of money, of success. Mendes tells us, through Ricky, that Angela is not beautiful and Lester not successful. He tells us to open our eyes to the realm natural beauty in the world, to see what Lester does not see, that the further he tries to access ‘success,’ the further he strays from it. It is in comparing American Beauty to Death of a Salesman that one sees the similarities in the characters of Lester and Willy. Both of these men have families and the potential to be happy, but in attempting to find money, they push their families aside and lose the more stable chance of being fulfilled.
Willy tried to fulfil himself through promoting his masculinity while Lester tried to fulfil himself through trying to re-establish a sense of youth. Both of these men failed because they relied on the American Dream of which Death of a Salesman is a Marxist critique and American Beauty a Freudian one.
In the similarities of the texts, there existed an underling and universal longing for success as characterised by the American Dream: A longing that linked inextricably to the tragedy that befell both Lester and Willy. Ultimately both Lester and Willy’s desire for success ends in tragedy likened somewhat to the ambition of Macbeth or the downfall of King Oedipus. Only in being able to see who we are and acknowledging the flaws in our characters are we able to seek and find true beauty and success. In comparing and Contrasting American Beauty to Death of a Salesman, it is apparent that American society is trapped in a cycle of false hopes and unattainable happiness.
Realizm Of The American Dream
The American Dream is my topic for the story.What is the definition for this simple word?It can be defined as being well off. Although it can be stated that it is having the capacity to acquire and bolster a family. On occasion, individuals battle to accomplish this dream.In Death of a Salesman ,Arthur Miller depicts the term through images,thee family,and setting of the story.The utilization of the dream is to mirror the way based on the definition.Although in spite of the fact that it is an optimistic idea yet it may not really be accomplished by most people. Although others may contend that it is a fantasy conceived of a framework, which means to misuse the dedicated individuals of America. In his scrutinize of the play, it shows that he is trying to sell people a false dream.There are obviously cases inside the play where the author proposes it is incomprehensible for Willy to accomplish the fantasy. The theme for example is shown in bring about balance among a country of migrants, it might be seen as being oppressive. This is on account of it is disclosing to Americans how to experience their lives and albeit one goal of the theme might be to accomplish flexibility, it might in established truth be mistreating those in quest for it.
The dream is investigated all through this piece of work. The father swindles himself into feeling that the so called dream is anything but difficult to acquire and will bring about progress for him.Although he trusts that it will all come to him effectively and that he is meriting it. Be that as it may, practically, he sticks his expectations on this life so much that it is the outcome for his divesting tragedy and relationship with his family. Although his confidence in the term stays solid despite the fact that his own child goes up against him with reality by saying.According to Death of a Salesman,Willy puts his trust in this dream without hesitation to his son as stated,Will you take that dream and burn it before something happens?(Miller 102).This suggests that the good life is to bait Americans into an incorrect or false conviction that all is well with the world trusting that they can accomplish the good life and any money related achievement. Furthermore,it can be found in the play as Willy completely puts faith in the idea of it.However he doesn’t have any expectation of accomplishing it.The story centers around the term and accentuates what is seen as progress. Although Biff portrays his longing to work in the nation and be free .According to the play,it states that “We don’t belong in this nuthouse of a city! We should be mixing cement on some open plain…”(Miller 43).Although while Willy’s impression of achievement persuades that he will naturally get popularity and fortune through business achievement. Conversely ,Biff wants to carry on with a basic lifestyle.
The fantasy has achievement and wealth inconceivable, which is the reason ,it is so important to reach. For a few people, it could imply that diligent work and perseverance brings about budgetary security, acknowledgment and quality. The possibility of progress is exceptionally uncertain as it could have distinctive implications to the people who need to accomplish it as their lives are individual to them. The father is in consistent quest for the fantasy. Although he accepts that as long as he seems sure he will be enjoyed by other individuals and that they will become tied up with him rather than his items .He constructs his hard working attitude in light of an effective salesperson who had numerous individuals go to his burial service as he was exceptionally well known. Be that as it may, at Willy’s burial service, he ends up being for the most part forlorn. He has betrayed himself into suspecting that he is so prominent and all around preferred yet it is proposed that self enthusiasm for society averts passionate connections.
Willy and Ben are brothers.Willy lives behind the achievement of his brother’s achievements and progression in his life. He had the opportunity to leave America yet he passed up the offer. to go to Alaska with Ben yet declined to remain in America. Ben was a piece of a group that found precious stones in the wilderness and thusly earned a fortune from this. Biff needs to search in his inner self and discover his place in the world, however he doesnt yet. In spite of the fact that, as a kid, Biff gives off an impression of being well known and effective he finds that he can’t adjust to society is as yet attempting to discover some place he fits in. Biff challenges his dad’s goals for him. He wants him for some reason to become something that he isn’t.The author is maybe recommending that monetary shakiness brings about the suppression of being who you want to e.
Willy sticks every one of his expectations on Biff. Eventually , all of a sudden perceives how profoundly his own child could administer to him. This revelation pushes him to the last outrageous of his deception. He detects the potential in Biff and afterward starts to experience his fizzled dreams through Biff. He puts a great deal of weight on Biff to succeed in life. This harms them and may likewise have brought about Biff’s defiance into play. Biff at first gives off an impression of being the kid who is fit for accomplishing the dream yet the play indicates how the most encouraging of individuals can eventually end up being nothing throughout everyday life. Willy revered Biff when he was a kid as he apparently had everything and the potential in life to succeed. Willy attempts to improve himself by making Biff live good life. Intuitively, Willy has understood that he has flopped throughout everyday life and won’t accomplish the American Dream, yet he neglects to publicly concede this; both to himself and his family. Biff knows that neither he nor Willy can accomplish the dream and endeavors to let Willy know this by implication.Although,Biff acknowledges Willy had the wrong dreams. In tolerating reality about his dad, Biff can settle on a choice about his future in light of a sensible perspective of his capacities. He revolts from his dad’s goals of accomplishment and lifestyles and this could conceivably be a manner by which he is endeavoring to tell his dad that they can’t accomplish the dream that he wanted.
The unequivocal love amongst father and child is shown in the story. Willy is experiencing his fantasies through Biff, his affection for Biff is awesome. He will take the necessary steps to inspire Biff to achieve something throughout everyday life. At the point when Biff is failing in a subject, Willy urges him to cheat, and this speaks to the lengths that Willy would go to, to help Biff.Willy nearly empowers Biff’s terrible conduct and reasons it on account of his notoriety. Willy’s dad abandoned him when he was a kid. In addition, he cleared out no cash or inheritance to be passed onto Willy and Ben. This may have been the point in Willy’s life in which he started to endure a social foul play as he felt resolved to make a big deal about himself to pass onto advance ages to free them from the hardship that he endured. As Willy does not accomplish this Biff is his last any expectation of having achievement related with him. Since his dad left him as a tyke with nothing, he is resolved to inspire Biff to accomplish something so the name is held with high respect. The family name is to some degree amusing as its individual parts seem to be ‘low-man’. This is huge in this piece of work as it speaks to the basic man and somebody of low status who might be stereotyped as being unsuccessful throughout everyday life and will add up to nothing.
The absence of progress and accomplishments throughout Willy’s life have brought about movements between the over a wide span of time in his psyche. The movements amongst over a wide span of time speak to a period when Willy’s life was promising and the fantasy was feasible. They likewise symbolize the unreasonable province of Willy’s brain. He is stuck in the past as it solaces him in a bad position. He thinks back finished, what appeared to be, his prime as both a sales representative and a dad. At the point when the play is performed, it seems, by all accounts, to be exceptionally judicious and sensible when Willy strolls through a divider for instance, and this means how genuine these movements are in Willy’s brain. They demonstrate the nonsensical mental province of Willy. Willy is befuddled about where he is going throughout everyday life and his psyche is in a mess.
The movements amongst over a significant time span may demonstrate his failure to adapt to his life in the present and additionally might be a route for him to get away from his inconveniences in the present day. Willy is the fantastic sales representative whose creative energy is significantly bigger than his business capacity. Furthermore, this identifies with the movements amongst over a significant time span. His creative energy may lead him to a world in which he has no feelings of trepidation and feels that his life is satisfying. As opposed to this, the dialect he utilizes is extremely short sighted. The past and present likewise uncover reality, which isn’t misshaped by Willy’s view of occasions. This is a key angle in the play as whatever is left of the play is affected by the brothers’ interpretation of a series of events.These shifts in time is the author investigating the mental health of Willy.
Their are various symbolism that speak to the theme are utilized to speak to American realism.One of which are the leggings. At the point when Willy has a revelation from the past which is a woman purchasing the item. Notwithstanding, in the present Linda is repairing her tights. This exemplifies his failure to accommodate his family. Futhermore,he is showing a similar motif which is the refrigerator. The utilization of both of these focuses demonstrates that Willy has been stripped of his manliness. The flute is utilized to a great degree adequately as an a way to show expression in the story. It communicates the state of mind of the play at a specific minute.It gives a sentiment of spring and idealism, for the most part an upbeat tone. There is a sharp complexity between the honesty of the underlying song and the depiction of Willy’s home which is dominated The flute is huge in the play as it centers around stages throughout Willy’s life and advises the gathering of people of the idea of the scene. The group of onlookers is educated that Willy’s missing dad played the flute . This may infer that Willy’s dad was a joyful salesperson and it lays accentuation on the way that Willy isn’t, adding to his numerous weaknesses. The flute is very serious/vile towards the finish of the play. It foreshadows the death in the play.
The last idea to consider is disappointment for the dream. It could be contended that if the individual is sufficiently simple to be taken in by the American Dream, they have nobody to fault however themselves on the off chance that they fall flat. It may speak to the naivety of people. He can just point the finger at himself for not getting to be what he needed to be.These backings the dream exists however it must be accomplished if the individual adjusts the dream to their life and will endeavor to accomplish it. Disavowal has a key influence in Willy’s absence of accomplishment in accomplishing the goal to live the good life. He declines to recognize that he is a disappointment. A case of this in the play is the place Willy says that he’ll purchase another recording device despite the fact that he is completely mindful that he has no cash to pay for it. The family have farfetched thoughts of accomplishment. Willy is a cheerful man who doesn’t need others to see him as a disappointment, as this would constrain him to stand up to the real world, while he likes to experience a daily reality such that he covers his issues and keeps an affectation that all is well. Biff, as Willy, disregards parts of reality that don’t fit in with his goals . Some may contend that the framework is at fault in any case he makes his own particular predetermination. Confidence in the framework persuaded him for the duration of his life however towards the end it eventually left him .
A Key to a Successful Life in Death of a Salesman American Dream
Is popularity truly the key to a successful life? Throughout Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the desire to be well liked becomes an obsession for the main character, Willy Loman. Willy is a sixty-three year old salesman who constantly strives for success in order to provide for his wife, Linda, and his two sons, Biff and Happy. However, his idea of success comes from a flawed vision of the American Dream that focuses on being popular and attractive. The confused father is so determined to create the perfect family of the American Dream that he becomes incapable of accepting the difference between the Dream and his own life. Consequently, Willy Loman’s need to be well liked leads him to develop a misunderstanding of reality regarding his career, the care of his sons, and the love that his family offers him.
By believing that popularity leads to success, Willy becomes delusional as to how the business world actually works. Instead of working hard and earning success, the aging salesman relies on his likability. When their bills begin to pile up, Willy states to his wife, “I’ll knock ‘em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford” (23). This attitude causes Mr. Loman to lose sight of the need for hard work in business. Also, when trying to figure out why he is not making many sales and earning more money, Willy blames it on his weight and that he may not be “dressing to advantage” (24). He avoids the fact that he does mediocre work and even feels worthy enough to ask his boss, Howard, for an easier, non-traveling job. While asking for the job, Willy mentions his friendship with Howard’s father in the hopes that their close relationship gives him an advantage. Even after Howard responds, “It’s a business, kid, and everybody’s gotta pull his own weight,” (60), Willy fights for the job. He believes that he deserves it but his lack of hard work leads his boss to fire him. Confused, the newly unemployed man questions the decision and explains, “I always felt that if a man was impressive, and well liked that nothing—” (75). The salesman constantly depends on his popularity and physical appearance to get ahead at work but, in the end, his warped idea of the business world leads him to lose his job.
In addition to his troubles with work, Willy’s flawed way of life makes him become a misguided father. Despite what is actually right, he teaches his sons, Biff and Happy, that popularity is essential for success and grades do not matter. When Biff’s intelligent classmate, Bernard, pushes Biff to study, Willy assures his sons that they will do much better in the business world than Bernard because “the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want” (21). The disoriented father even says that Biff’s football coach would not be mad about Biff stealing a ball “because he likes you” (18). Willy never yells at Biff for stealing or earning poor grades because he wants his sons to like him and have faith in the lessons they are taught. At times, Biff and Happy’s father even encourages their thefts by declaring, “I got a couple of fearless characters there” (35). Also, he often tells them the story of how his brother, Ben, gains his riches “on the basis of being well liked” (65-6). Willy teaches Biff and Happy these lessons in order for them to be successful but, ironically, his teachings lead them to fail just like him. He remains so warped by his beliefs that they shield him from thinking logically as a good father.
Above all, Willy Loman’s desire to be well liked becomes so crucial that he is unable to accept love from his family. Despite the fact that Willy yells at his wife, Linda, and orders her around frequently, she shows a deep love for him. Linda regularly encourages her husband by proclaiming, “Well, next week you’ll do better,” (23) and, “Darling, you’re the handsomest man in the world” (24). She understands the difference between Willy as a provider and Willy as her husband, something that he is never able to recognize in his warped reality. He lives in a world where he needs to be well liked, not well loved. Therefore, he disregards Linda’s love and looks at his reality with her as him simply being “the salesman” with a wife and two sons. For this reason, Willy cheats on Linda with the woman, who is nothing more than a tool for him to feel well liked. Finally, at a very momentous part of the play, the father discovers, “Biff—he likes me” (106) but is soon corrected by Linda who claims, “He loves you, Willy” (106). This inability to understand Biff’s love truly shows how delusional Willy has become. Therefore, the salesman’s obsession with being liked makes him have a difficult time understanding love.
Due to his flawed idea of the key to success, Willy Loman develops a warped reality of his work, fatherhood and love in general. He becomes a failure in the business world because he puts no effort into his job. The salesman also disappoints as a father by raising his sons with the same foolish morals that he lives by. Eventually, Willy is even unable to accept the love from his own family. He has taught himself to live in a world where he must be liked by everyone to triumph, but, in reality, this leads him to fail as a businessman, a father, and a husband. By believing that popularity is essential in accomplishing the American Dream, Willy and many others lose sight of the true key to success. The need to be well liked gets in the way of hard work for the salesman and keeps him from becoming someone better. In this way, Death of a Salesman teaches a valuable lesson that popularity can only get a person so far in life. He or she must earn the rest through their dedication, commitment and overall hard work.
Interpersonal Conflict in a Streetcar Named Desire And Death Of a Salesman
Dramatic conflicts arise when dominant individuals or groups regard themselves as the norm against which others are to be measured. With reference to specific scenes from at least two plays you have studied, discuss the significance of such conflicts and how they are explored.
Both Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, illustrate a shift in social norms to the current post-war, industrialized, patriarchy-dominated 1950s America; while in Streetcar, the norm transforms from the Old, Southern aristocracy to the working-class achieving the American Dream, in Salesman, Miller illustrates a shift in what the American Dream represents and how it can be achieved, from Willy’s ‘well-liked’ philosophy to a capitalist-driven mindset. Because of both protagonists’ inability to adapt to this norm, dramatic conflicts between other characters arise; in Streetcar, Blanche’s incongruity to the new world drives her clash with Stanley, the main antagonist, while in Salesman, Willy’s stubborn belief in the merits of being ‘well-liked’ instead of working hard creates conflict with Howard. The discordance between past and current cultures, evident in the antagonistic relationships, is central to the dramatic conflicts in both plays; the protagonists’ inability to adapt to the dominant paradigm shift is their ultimate downfall.
In Streetcar, Williams immediately establishes Blanche’s incongruity with her surroundings (and thus New America) in the opening, foreshadowing possible conflicts that would arise from this. Both Blanche’s origin – ‘Belle Reve’, which translates to a beautiful dream in French, and destination – ‘Elysian Fields’, a place for the dead in Greek mythology, suggest that the Aristocratic South she represents is no longer the norm. It is evident in the stage directions that ‘her appearance is incongruous to the surroundings’ – she wears showy, white clothes, which is contrasted against the ‘atmosphere of decay’ of New Orleans. Though Williams’ use of “white” connotes purity, the showy nature of the clothes suggests this may merely be a veneer. Because showy items are also fragile and white is prone to dirt, Williams implies this façade of innocence will be broken at some point of the play, hinting at possible dramatic conflict. Blanche is introduced to be in ‘shocked disbelief’ (through the stage directions) at the conditions Stella lives in, suggesting a culture shock. Her hysterical attitude towards these, emphasized by the stage direction ‘sat stiffly’, accentuate her discomfort and her incongruity with these conditions. It is only after she furtively ‘tosses down’ a glass of whisky that she starts to relax in this new environment, as alcohol is used to forget. The use of tossing back, a fast-paced action, suggests she is addicted, while her furtive manner implies that she wishes to keep this addiction hidden. Yet her choice to escape from the harsh reality by furtively drinking rather than adjusting to the conditions foreshadows future conflict – she cannot escape this reality forever. It is evident that Blanche’s disparity with and inability to adapt to her surroundings, which represent post-war America, will contribute to dramatic conflict through interactions with Stanley, the embodiment of the new social norm.
Similarly, the opening of Miller’s Salesman also illustrates Willy’s incompatibility with the capitalist environment, hinting at conflicts later on in the play. The house is initially described to be ‘surrounded at all sides’ by ‘towering, angular shapes.’ Miller illustrates an ominous image of tall buildings, which represent the capitalist world, looming over the small house, suffocating the Lomans. The use of “angular” accentuates this ominous image – it is unfriendly. This implies that the house and its residents are incongruous to the setting, and may be replaced soon by another building – the Lomans don’t coexist with the New America. This is further developed by Willy’s claim that they were boxed in by ‘bricks and windows, windows and bricks,’ which also generates a trapped feeling, further emphasized by the repetition and use of “bricks”, which has connotations of (). Through the inferiority and suffocating atmosphere surrounding the Lomans’ home, Miller hints that this discordance with the capitalist world may cause conflict throughout the play and become Willy’s ultimate downfall. Moreover, the stage directions also state that ‘an air of dream clings to the place.’ Miller generates a fantasy-like atmosphere to the Lomans’ home, implying that it may not be long-lasting, foreshadowing Willy’s end. Lastly, the opening scene also establishes Willy’s mental state. When he arrives home, through Miller’s use of stage directions and dialogue, it is immediately evident that Linda is overly concerned for Willy – she ‘treads carefully, delicately’ and talks with ‘some trepidation.’ This is juxtaposed against Willy’s repeated, vehement denial of any occurrences, exasperatedly claiming ‘nothing happened.’ This exchange – Linda’s gentleness and worry contrasted with Willy’s denials — generates unease within the audience and creates conflict between the couple as Miller hints at Willy’s mental state. Lastly, Miller reveals the root of Linda’s worries as she asks ‘you didn’t smash the car did you?’ By referencing the car, aside from accentuating Willy’s instability, Miller employs Chekov’s gun and foreshadows Willy’s eventual suicide. Through Willy’s disparity with his surroundings, which represent capitalist America, and the opening lines, which provide a glimpse at his mental state, Miller implies that these will contribute to dramatic conflict.
Furthermore, Blanche’s conflicts with Stanley in Streetcar, which exemplify Stanley’s aggression, highlight the current social norm’s dominance over the old culture, thus leading to Blanche’s downfall. The discordance between cultures is evident in Stanley’s poker night. When Blanche enters and tells the men ‘please don’t get up’, Stanley counters with ‘nobody’s going to get up.’ Stanley’s rude, brusque reply illustrates his annoyance at Blanche’s expectations highlighting the contrast in ideals between Blanche and Stanley and generating dramatic tension and conflict. Moreover, Williams’ depiction of Stanley’s vehement disapproval of Blanche using the radio during their poker night despite the other men enjoying it creates conflict. After Blanche turns the radio on the second time, rather than switching it off again, Stanley shouts then ‘tosses the radio out of the window.’ Through his forceful, brute, rash behavior, implied by ‘tosses out the window’ Stanley exhibits his superiority, excessively reacting when Blanche challenges his authority: by destroying the radio, Stanley ensures it cannot be played again. Aside from creating dramatic conflict and tension, this action allows Stanley to assert his dominance over Blanche. Moreover, through Miller’s choice of romantic music playing on the radio, throwing it away may also represent Stanley’s hatred for the Aristocratic South and the old society’s death, despite Blanche attempting to revive it. Lastly, these conflicts culminate in the rape scene where Stanley ultimately dominates. ‘We’ve had this date from the beginning’ illustrates the inevitability of Stanley dominating Blanche, and thus the New America overpowering the Old. This is further emphasized by Blanche’s helplessness when Stanley ‘grabs her wrist’ as she hits him with the broken bottle. ‘Grabbing’ is a violent action that renders her attempt to defend herself useless. Also, Blanche’s reliance on a broken bottle contrasted with Stanley’s grabbing highlights the disparity in strength between Blanche and Stanley. Moreover, the reference to Stanley as ‘tiger, tiger’ further accentuates his physical, brute strength – tigers are powerful animals. Blanche’s naïve belief that she can shape the harsh reality to meet her fantasies and relive the Aristocratic society is dissolved. The result of the conflicts is represented by the tearing down of Blanche’s paper lantern, used to dim the light (a symbol of truth), in the last scene, signifying the prevalence of the new social norm against the old South she represents; her inability to adjust to the new society is her downfall.
Moreover, Willy’s interaction Howard, which highlights his discordance with the social norm, contributes to dramatic conflict. When Willy initially enters his office, rather than starting with Willy’s reasons for entering, Howard shows off his ‘wire recorder’ and his children’s recordings. The contrast between the advanced ‘wire recorder’ and Willy’s suitcase highlight the change in social norms; it is evident that Willy has been left behind. Willy’s obsequiousness is clearly illustrated as he urges Howard on and excessively fawns over it: ‘that is lifelike, isn’t it?’, ‘you’re very good!’. Miller suggests that Willy is using his sycophantic nature and ‘well-liked’ philosophy to soften Howard before asking to be relocated to New York. His failure to do so (even losing his job) represents the lack of success of this ‘well-liked’ belief Willy so stubbornly clings onto. This is also evident with the juxtaposition between Willy repeating “your father” 6 times throughout his interaction with Howard, reminding him of the length of his service, and Howard referring to Willy as “kid” 6 times, despite Willy’s obvious seniority (in terms of age). Howard’s patronizing, which creates conflict, highlights the rise of the capitalist society and Willy’s inability to adapt to it, leading to his firing; loyalties and being “well-liked”, which Willy clings upon, no longer matter with Howard as the new boss. Howard’s condescension is further evident in stage directions and dialogue: Miller illustrates him to be ‘barely interested’, he repeats ‘I got to see some people’ as if Willy wasn’t worth his time, claims that ‘business is business’, and leaves his office as Willy tries to beg for his job. Howard’s uncaring attitude, coupled with his matter-of-fact tone, depicts Willy’s failures as a salesman and his inability to command respect in this new social norm, leading to his downfall and generating conflict between the two. Throughout the argument, the audience pities Willy and resents Howard, but Willy’s failure – losing his job – is inevitable due to his failure to adjust to the capitalist norm.
In conclusion, the protagonists’ stubbornness to cling onto the past social norm – while in Streetcar it is the Aristocratic South, in Salesman it is the ‘well-liked’ philosophy – and their inability to adapt to the present social norm fuels the dramatic conflict of the play as they struggle with the dominant groups, ultimately leading to their downfall.
Self-Destruction in Death of a Salesman and The Stone Angel
Though often unintentional, individuals can be responsible for their own devastating turn of events. This is best exemplified in Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller and The Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence. Death of a Salesman follows the life of Willy Loman, a failing salesman who is obsessed with living the “American dream”. Similarly, The Stone Angel follows Hagar Shipley, a pessimistic 90-year-old woman who constantly reflects on her difficult past. Both Hagar Shipley and Willy Loman possess undesirable qualities that ultimately lead to their self-destruction in life. Both characters have a toxic sense of pride, live in the past, and make poor decisions.
First, both characters have excessive pride. Willy Loman’s pride distorts his self-image – he convinces himself that he is a well-liked and successful salesman. For instance, Willy says, “I’m the New England man. I’m vital in New England’ (Miller 4). Willy, obviously delusional, makes himself believe that he is powerful in the sales world, while others know this is not true. For example, his wife Linda says, “Willie Loman never made a lot of money (…) He’s not the finest character that ever lived” (Miller 40). Willy’s false perception of himself ultimately destroys his reputation – the people around him are unable to take him seriously, because they know he is not as successful as he proclaims to be. Similarly, Willy’s pride is displayed when his neighbour, Charley, offers him a job. Too arrogant to acknowledge he is a failing salesman, Willy decides to keep his unpaying job, and continues to borrow money from Charley to pay for his insurance. This also contributes to Willy’s self-destruction; incapable of accepting help from the people around him, he ends up in debt from borrowing money. Similarly, Hagar in The Stone Angel believes that showing her emotions will make herself look weak. Her pride makes her bottle her true feelings, regardless of how painful the circumstances are. This is demonstrated when Hagar says, ‘The night my son died I was transformed to stone and never wept at all’ (Laurence 243). Like the stone angel, Hagar is unmoved after her son’s death, so she never gets closure. Consequently, she still thinks about him in her old age, which contributes to her destruction because she inflicts sadness upon herself. Hagar’s pride also makes her extremely stubborn. Since her father believes Bram Shipley is as, “Common as dirt” (Laurence 51), she decides to marry him out of spite which makes her miserable. Later realizing that Bram is an embarrassing drunk, Hagar is driven to leave him, forcing her to support herself and her son, John, independently. Evidently, Willy and Hagar are responsible for negatively impacting their own lives. They fail to realize when they are being too stubborn, which ultimately leads to their sorrow.
Second, both characters choose to live in the past. For example, Willy constantly daydreams about his past, and this contributes to his self-destruction. He begins to reflect on the times with his son, Biff, when he says, “God.. remember that Ebbets Field game? (…) When that team came out – he was the tallest, remember?” (Miller 54). Willy remembers when he was proud of his athletic son, and consequently, his resentment towards Biff builds up in the present because he fails to live up to his high expectations. Willy daydreams to escape from the realities of his current life, which makes him miserable because he remembers when he was happy. Willy’s flashbacks also deteriorate his mental wellbeing. For example, Biff says, “God Almighty, Mom, how long has he been doing this? (…) What the hell is the matter with him?” (Miller 38). As Willy’s past and present begin to intertwine, others see him talking to himself, clearly proving that Willy lacks emotional stability. Comparatively, Hagar in The Stone Angel destroys her own life because she spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about her distressing, vivid past. For instance, Hagar says, ‘How long have I been standing here with lowered head, twiddling with the silken stuff that covers me? Now I am mortified, apologetic (…)” (Laurence 57). As Hagar is consumed in her daydreams, she loses awareness of her surroundings and she is often disoriented when she reconnects in the present. Furthermore, reminiscing the past distracts her from appreciating and sustaining the only relationships she has. While her son, Marvin, and his wife, Doris, consider moving Hagar to an old-age home, Hagar says, “If it were John, he’d not consign his mother to the poorhouse” (Laurence 81). Constantly thinking about her deceased son makes her unappreciative of those that are only trying to help her. Since Hagar has an uncooperative and bitter attitude, she is entirely responsible for the dysfunctional and stressful relationship she has with her family. Overall, since Willy and Hagar constantly think about the past, they destroy their emotional and mental wellbeing, thus proving they are accountable for their personal destruction.
Lastly, both characters make faulty decisions throughout their lives. For instance, as Willy enters a daydream, he remembers a time where his rich brother, Ben, encouraged him to work with him in Alaska to earn a great living. Ben tells him,“There’s a new continent at your doorstep, William. You could walk out rich” (Miller 66). Foolishly, Willy declines his offer to pursue being a salesman, eventually leading to his failed career and debt. Moreover, Willy is still regretful because he had the opportunity to become very successful. Another major decision Willy makes is deciding to kill himself. Even though Willy has some deep-rooted issues, his suicide is mainly driven by the fact that his insurance money can provide Biff with money needed to obtain the “American dream”. When Happy tells Biff to continue being business partners at Willy’s funeral, Biff declines, saying, “I know who I am, kid” (Miller 138). Ultimately, Willy’s suicide is unnecessary, because Biff still avoids pursuing business after Willy sacrifces his life. Similarly, a major decision Hagar makes is leaving her husband, Bram, to escape her horrible marriage. Although this was an act of her independence, she ultimately decides to isolate her son, John, from his father. This leads to Hagar’s self-destruction, because when John decides to take care of Bram when he is ill, she feels betrayed and tries to deter him from leaving. For instance, Hagar says to John, “He never showed much interest in you before. If he wants you back now it’s to get even with me” (Laurence 180). Hagar’s pain is inflicted on herself because it was never her place to assume that John did not want a relationship with Bram as he grew older. Likewise, to avoid staying at an old-age home, Hagar decides to run away from her family to stay at a cottage in Shadow Point. Isolated, she becomes very sick and weak. For example, Hagar says, “I hurt all over, but the worst is that I’m helpless. I grow enraged” (Laurence 207). Since her poor decision making motivates her to run away from her family, she is ultimately responsible for her own pain. Ultimately, instead of living in a nice senior home, Hagar spends her last valuable moments of life alone before she is taken to a hospital. To conclude, Willy and Hagar’s questionable life decisions lead to their regret and misfortune, proving they are responsible for their self-destruction.
Since Willy Loman and Hagar Shipley are flawed in their own ways, they are both responsible for destroying their lives. Undoubtedly, their toxic sense of pride influences the way they view themselves and contributes to their stubborn personality. Similarly, constantly thinking about the past keeps them from appreciating what they have in the present, leading to failed relationships and sadness. Though Willy and Hagar have good intentions, they often fail to recognize their poor decision making, which ultimately leads them to their misery. A person’s flaws do not determine the outcome of their life, though, their inability to accept and fix their imperfections certainly does.
Introducing the Great American Dream in ‘Death of a Salesman American Dream’
The american dream can be defined as “a happy way of living that can be achieved by anyone by working hard and becoming successful”. The vigorous journey of the pursuit of the American Dream can be achieved by any individual who is willing to invest their time, resources and energy in accomplishing their goals. This investment will bring forth both financial and social success and heighten the status of those individuals. However, at any time the dream can be destroyed by greed, and the pursuit of gaining material possessions while neglecting their own emotions and the well being of others. In the novels The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, both authors illustrate and critique the reality of the American Dream. Mainly through the protagonist Jay Gatsby and Willy Loman, they are perceived to be ignorant in believing that in order to be completely happy in life you must be successful, wealthy and popular. Several characters in both literatures are blinded by the pursuit of their futile American Dream, contrary to their class, gender and values, their behaviours and decisions leave them with a false perception of this lifestyle, which ultimately leads to their downfall. It is established throughout both novels that social status and wealth influences and moulds the characters.
Each character believes that in order to achieve the American dream and to be completely happy and successful they must be apart of the upper class. In The Great Gatsby, there are three distinct separation of social class. East Egg reflects a higher class society where the people are inherently wealthy, also considered ‘old money’, the people of West Egg are wealthy as well but have only become rich recently, often referred to ‘new money’, and the Valley of Ashes is inhabited by the lower class. Myrtle Wilson, who represents the low and ignorant class, lives in the Valley of Ashes, she despises her life and is unhappy with the lack of money and status her husband brings her. She idolises the city and upper class where she sees money and glamour as she desperately wants to become a sophisticated, wealthy women. Myrtle, for a short period of time, is able to break the social barriers of society but must put up a facade to do so. “I told that boy about the ice.’ Myrtle raised her eyebrows in despair at the shiftlessness of the lower orders. ‘These people! You have to keep after them all the time’. Myrtle acts like a snob and criticizes the lower class despite the fact that she herself is of lower class. She presumes that if she marries Tom, and buys expensive items for their apartment she will be able to advance her social ranking and truly be content with life. She puts all of her hopes into material items and the idealism that she can be apart of the upper class. Likewise, Willy Loman is a middle-low class businessman, he presumes that any man who is good looking, well-liked and charismatic deserves success and wealth.
Over the course of his lifetime, he is disillusioned by the impossible measures of his dream. He fails to achieve the financial success promised, but still rather buy into the dream meticulously that he ignores the substantial things around him. “Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead”. Willy truly believes that in order to prosper in life you must earn the respect of others and they will help carry you through life. Willy was a failure as he tried desperately to climb out of his social class. As a result, he not only loses grasp on reality but also loses his mind. While pursuing success Willy hopes it will bring his family security. Both Myrtle and Willy’s determination to live up to their American Dream and too seek material possessions and happiness only take their lives. As Myrtle is hit by Gatsby’s car while running onto the street to confront Tom and Willy takes his own life in order to get his family his life insurance money. This establishes that the American Dream, while a powerful vehicle of aspiration, can turn a person into a commodity whose sole value is financial worth.The American Dream drives a force between men and women, as it gives power to men and oppresses women. Daisy Buchanan is a superficial, shallow woman who is accustomed to a certain lifestyle, certain types of people, and has an obsession with the stability of ‘old money’. She was challenged by Gatsby to take a chance on ‘new money’ but quickly. Her life was driven by materialism and was threatened by the decline in social class.
Although her husband Tom has affairs with plenty of women, she is loyal to him only due to the fact that he can provide for her and help her maintain her role in the upper class.’I hope she’ll be a fool, that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool’. Daisy is ignorant and selfish, she herself acts like a beautiful, naive fool to maintain her place in society and wants her daughter to live a similar life. If her daughter is a fool – like all the woman of this time, she will be blind to the infidelity and be imperceptive to whether or not true love exist . However, unlike Daisy, Linda Loman is a sympathetic woman who spends her days caring for her family. Similarly to the era of the 1920’s, in the 1940’s women were also seen as below men. The lady of the house has no say and and is meant to tend for the children and her husband, while the man was meant to go to work and provide for the family. Linda supports Willy and his dream no matter how unrealistic they are. ‘Biff, dear, if you don’t have any feeling for him, then you don’t have any feeling for me.’ Although Willy treats her poorly and is always undermining her authority, Linda continues to be loyal, never questions him and always defends him. Linda is blinded into believing the only way her sons were to be successful is by becoming businessmen like Willy. She is fully aware and supportive of Willy’s unfulfilled life and meaningless aspirations, in hopes she will achieve her own American Dream of having a complete, happy family. Although Daisy and Linda have completely different characteristics, they are both oppressed by the men in their lives. They both use their husbands as their main and only support and are greatly dependant on them, which ultimately leads to their absolute lowest point in life. Daisy, in every aspect is perfect and exudes beauty and charm, but she is careless with people’s lives, as she lets Gatsby take blame for Myrtle’s death.
Instead of living a life that would truly make her happy she refuses Gatsby’s love for wealth, power and status and loses him, and must continue to live an unhappy life with Tom. Linda, who never worked a day in her life loses her husband and must now take care and support herself and her children. Daisy and Linda are the only characters with true power as they are the only ones with the opportunity to change things yet choose not to. Establishing how the American Dream may look a certain way but it genuinely is not what it seems. When trying to obtain the American Dream many forget the importance of moral values. Before gaining his wealth and success, Jay Gatsby was poor, lower-classmen and for this Daisy left and did not want to wait for him to get rich. Gatsby was willing to do whatever was necessary to prosper in life and never considered whether his actions were morally justified. Gatsby committed serious crimes such as bootlegging and did not conduct business ethically, for he was involved with men such as Meyer Wolfsheim who so called “fixed the world series”. He gained a considerable amount of money, became apart of the upper class, and would throw lavish parties every night. “Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York – every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves”. The fruits symbolize the moral depletion of the people who attend Gatsby’s parties, they come in fresh and pure but by the end of the night they are so drunk and have made so many bad decisions that they have leave feeling empty. Gatsby had a relentless desire to become wealthy and win back Daisy and in order to do so he had to pay the price in morals.
Ones behaviour and values are derived from their parents. Biff Loman was influenced by his father who established a poor standard of morality. “The next thing i know I’m in the office I took his fountain pen”. Since high school Biff had a tendency to steal, this now stands in the way of him finding an actual job. Willy never punished Biff for steal when he was younger, instead he encouraged him. The pen is a metaphor of Biff’s American dream as he is unable to obtain it because it does not belong to him. Conclusively, Gatsby and Biffs lack of morals fails them both. Gatsby does not get Daisy and ultimatley dies, while Biff.They are both so desperate to attain their American Dream that they lack any morality and ethics.
The Misguided American Dream: Criticism of ‘the American Dream’ in ‘Death of a Salesman’
The American dream is something every American strives to achieve. “Most American believe that everyone has the right to pursue success but that only some deserve to win, based on their talent, effort, or ambition. The American dream is egalitarian at the starting point in the ‘race of life,’ but not at the end”. The American dream is a happy way of living where a hard-working person becomes very successful in their own way: having a well-paying job, a loving spouse, a gorgeous home, fancy car, beautiful children and a stable income. “the materialism of American society has led to the development of a problematically selfish, materialistic and success-oriented ethics”. Families push too hard to get to the place where they feel that they have to achieve this dream when they do not realize that they are living the American dream becoming materialistic, greedy, and power hungry; this case in the life of the Loman Family.
Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,’ tells the story of a man, Willy Loman where his American dream is different from the true definition of the American dream, but most of us relate to Willy’s dream of triumph. We are all partners of the American dream where sometimes failures must outnumber successes. The Loman’s are the stereotypical American family in the 1940s. Linda and Willy are a middle-class family with two sons named Biff and Happy. “Willy’s own career as a salesman begins in the early part of the twentieth century, when it was, as Willy tells his sons, ‘personality’ that was considered the salesman’s greatest asset. His job was to make friends with the buyers and merchants, so they would buy what he was selling was selling. The product itself was not all that important. With the growth of mass production, however, the pressure increased on the salesman to move merchandise in order to keep up the volume of prod Willy’s generation came into its maturity, married, and raised children during the 1920s, there was a good deal of pressure to sell merchandise, but it was relatively easy to do since the American business economy was enjoying one of the greatest periods of prosperity”. Willy is a traveling salesman who is the breadwinner in the family while Linda, a housewife who cooks, cleans, and takes care of her full-grown children, sounds like a happy normal family, but Willy is disappointed in his sons especially Biff because they do not meet their father’s specifications of his American dream. “Biff Loman is lost. in the greatest country in the world a young man with such-personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There is one thing about Biff-he is not lazy”. In Willy’s eyes, Biff is a bum because he is living with his parents at the age of thirty-four not finding himself. “How can he find himself? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it is good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it is more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week. Biff’s dream is to work on the farm because he is very good working with his hands. Willy considers him a failure in his eyes and Biff is betraying him because he will not follow his father’s expectations being well-liked by others in order to be successful in life. “You and Hap and I, and I will show you all the towns. America is full of beautiful towns and fine, understanding people. And they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. The finest people. And when I bring you fellas up, there will be sesame for all of us, ‘cause one thing boys: I have friends”. In Willy’s perspective to obtain the American dream is that any man who is appealing, valiant and well-liked deserves success and will obtain it. “Willy believes that life’s problems can be solved by looking ‘Well-liked.’ But he does not realize the fact that the age in which he is living, the good looks does not matter, what matters is the wealth you have. By wealth you can buy anything. All relations are useless before almighty dollar”.
Willy also focused on getting his sons to follow his American dream ideas, he raises them to believe that they will be very successful in life and school is the least important, it is very important to liked by everyone. “Buff Loman when, as an athlete, he evoked affection and admiration from the people around him. His life seemed full of promises, with a choice of three college scholarships to signify the abundance of future success life can offer the already successful”. Being well-liked is not the key to the American dream, Willy did not believe that school was important to obtain success, however, school plays a major role to obtain the American dream, being highly educated, with scholarship opportunities and people who admire you are key factors to obtain the American dream. Biff was following the right path to the American dream but it contradicts Willy’s perspective of the American dream.
Happy Loman, Willy’s youngest son Happy resembled him in many ways. “Happy is still deluded into thinking that the only important dream is to come out number one man”. He believed his father’s theory that success comes from being wee-liked by others. Willy always bragged and boasted about Happy having all the women. Being a womanizer was a part of Willy’s dream, which is not what the American dream is. “I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have- to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him”. “Happy is essentially the embodiment of his father’s views, thus further emphasizes the narcissism caused by it. This is evident by their shared traits that could be regarded as narcissistic. Consequently, he displays many similar traits of narcissism seen in Willy”. This shows that Happy is following his father’s footsteps. He will try to succeed but will eventually fail. Willy did die in vain and there is nothing he can do to change that.
Willy Loman is living a lie. He pretends that he has all the things he needs to complete his American dream, “struggling to be at one with society”. Willy struggles to be happy, he is always depressed. He tries to make himself feel better by lying to himself. In his world of concoction, Willy is a very successful salesman, “I was sellin’ thousands and thousands”, “The consequences of failing to attain prominence and to transform society into a home are loneliness, frustration, and ultimately despair. Because Loman deeps gratification to take social form, his life is crushed by indifference, criticisms, rejection, and abandonment”. “Willy’s self-esteem is unstable, ranging from extreme arrogance too, at times, desperate self-pity”. He is very arrogant telling everyone he has two sons who are also very rich and successful in life, but in reality, Willy is not popular, or well-liked and he never will be. “I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog”. Willy’s failure was caused by poorly chosen life goals. He begins to believe that the American dream and the promise that anyone appealing, well-liked and valiant is nothing but a tall tale. “Willy is unsuccessful to the extent that he cannot make a living and has to be supported by others, and eventually loses his job; he is unpopular to the extent that almost nobody attends his funeral; and as a father he witnesses his young sons turn into dropouts, good-for-nothings, who are full of hostility against him”. “The two failures that Willy experiences – the metal and the economic – are staged by Miller as intrinsically related to each other on the ideological and psychological level: it is partly due to his economic breakdown that Willy becomes increasingly irrational, and partly due to irrationally that he fails in business. Both failures make his life worthless, painful, and unjustifiable in his own eyes”. In a war with himself, he refuses to accept what he truly is a normal, old middle-class man, so his inner and outer conflicts destroy him.
Linda Loman had beliefs in the American dream. She believes that anyone can achieve it. She always criticizes her sons for not living up to their father’s potential and not being more attentive and understanding.”You’re doing well enough, Willy”! “Linda remained loyal, but her constancy cannot help Loman. She can play no significant role in her husband’s dreams; and although she proves occasionally capable of dramatic outbursts, she lacks the imagination and strength to hold her family together or help Loman define a new life without grandiose hopes of Biff”. Linda loves her husband very much, she always have her husband’s back, however, Willy is having an affair with another woman. Having many women was another part of his American dream which is unacceptable. Will becomes more erratic and his dementia becomes worse than ever and begins to talk to himself; creating an imaginary world where his sons are living his America dream. “He’s the dearest man in the world to me, and I won’t have anyone making him feel unwanted and low and blue. You’ve got to make up your mind now, darling, there’s no leeway anymore. Either he’s your father and you pay him that respect or, else you’re not to come here. I know he’s not easy to get along with – nobody knows that better than me”. Linda believes if her sons follow their dad’s path and become successful, Willy’s psychological problem will heal itself. She does not believe Willy’s meaning of the American dream, but she believes her sons are the only hope for Willy’s mental health.
Willy’s Chevrolet was very superior to him. In the 1490s, Chevrolet made the best-selling cars in America; they symbolized suburbia and the American dream. “Chevrolet, Linda, is the greatest car ever built”. Even though cars that Willy’s is a dream come true; however, cars begin to break down as the age. “That goddam Chevrolet, they ought to prohibit the manufacture of that car”. Once again nothing was good as it as what Willy dreamed, everything does not last forever and that is something Willy has trouble realizing it. Willy uses the car to draw attention to his condition. “He explicitly views himself in an idealized manner as a successful father and salesman, but his suicide attempts, which occur when he is in a semiconscious dream-state, suggest the presence of deep-seated feelings of self-doubt. throughout the story, Willy had multiple accidents in the car which were failed suicide attempts. The car symbolizes power and mobility which are symbols in Willy’s desperate, unmeaningful, crumbling life.
Throughout Willy’s life, he tried to obtain the American dream but failed numerous times. His life became nothing but a heap of futility. He realized that his life was filled with loneliness and darkness. The loneliness and bitter darkness destroyed his happiness. To redeem himself from the pain and failures, he commits suicide by crashing the car. Willy spent his life trying to obtain the American dream but fails because in this his American dream is being good-looking, valiant, and being well-liked by others is not the American dream. Willy was not liked by many people. No one even showed up to his funeral except his family. “in 1928 I had a big year. I averaged a hundred and seventy dollars a week in commission’. Willy’s mind was getting the best of him, In his man he was living his American dream but in reality, he was willing an ordinary life that filled with deceit and darkness.
Willy Loman was an average American who wanted to pursue the American dream, where a person has a well-paying job, family, car, and children. Willy did not see the true meaning of an American dream. In his mind, being successful is being well-known by many people but in reality being wealthy is the American dream. Willy was not wealthy, he has been living a lie throughout his life pretending to be a successful salesman with successful sons who also did not find their American dream which made him crazy and delusional. Will push too hard to get to the place where they feel that they have to achieve this dream when they do not realize that they are living the American dream. Willy would have had a better life living the American dream if he did was not so self-centered and letting his children live their own lives instead of living through theirs.
Nostalgy in a Play Death Of a Dream
In the play, Death of a Salesman by Author Miller, the play focuses on the nostalgic dreams of the main character. The Lomans, especially Willy, pay particular attention to these dreams while fearing that these goals are unreachable. Yet this fear is necessary to the hope; Willy would much rather dream than succeed. It is the destruction of his dream that destroys him, not its failure. Willy Loman, the central character of the play, dreams of achieving the American Dream, wealth. He dreams of success in business. He wants to be liked by all, the quality which he believes is a major token to success. He also wants his sons to follow in his footsteps and be popular and well-liked.
During the actual time of the play, however, Willy’s dreams have obviously failed. He is a sixty-year-old salesman whose friends have all died. He later gets fired halfway through the play. One of his sons is a farmhand, the other is in the business world as assistant to an assistant. Willy spends the play thinking back on his better days and often believing that they are reality. His obsession with dreams prevents him from seeing the wreck of his life. Willy does not want to acknowledge the turn his life has taken, and uses his daydreams to escape the knowledge. He even acts on them, refusing to salvage the present if it means breaking from his goal. He desperately entreats Howard, his boss, to give him a job, and is willing to accept absurdly low wages to continue being a salesman, even a salesman who does not sell anything.
After Howard refuses, the unemployed Willy will not accept a gift of fifty dollars a week from his pragmatic friend Charley. To take this salary would be to concede defeat, even though it would save his family. Charley repeatedly asks Willy, ‘When are you going to grow up?’ and Charley’s son Bernard, a practical, studious teenager who becomes a high-placed lawyer, advises Willy that sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away from failure. Yet Willy will not walk away from his dreams. Yet sometimes he wonders if he was right to dream in the first place. His doubts take the form of his dead brother Ben, who made a fortune in African diamonds and Alaskan lumber. Ben urges Willy to seek the real, the practical, that which can be felt, inviting him to go to Alaska to work with real lumber. Still, Ben is nothing more than a phantasm, a shape who is himself unreal. He is the only one of Willy’s imaginings who addresses him in the present world, noticing his surroundings and having conversations that are clearly not memories. He may be a symbol of Willy’s distress, but he is no more substantial than that: he is Willy’s model for an imaginary success and his very presence emphasizes the impossibility of Willy’s goal.
Men who walk into the jungle at seventeen and come out rich at twenty-one do not exist; the only truly successful people in the play are the solidly pragmatic Howard, Charley, and Bernard. This does not keep Willy from trying to push off his hopes onto his family, and to wreck it by doing so. His wife Linda, is constantly trying to protect Willy from reality, encouraging her sons to lie about their own fortunes to him. Her entire existence seems to be tied soley around her husband even after his infidelity. Happy is more than happy to participate in his mother’s lie. Happy follows his father’s dream even though he recognizes that he does not enjoy the fruits of his labor, suggesting that the reason is his ‘competitive nature.’ This early realization hints at why Willy pursues the dream: because it is a dream, and because he needs something to pursue. After Willy’s death, Charley verifies this, saying, ‘A salesman…[has] got to dream,’ because what a salesman does is so insubstantial. The supreme salesmanly virtue of being ‘well-liked’ is very vague and a mere fantasy. Biff, Willy’s other son, also realizes this, although somewhat less expressively than Charley does. Biff announces that his father hates him because he knows Willy ‘is a fake.’ Biff wants to concentrate on farming and physical labor, things that are real and perceptible. He has no desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead he chooses a life of satisfaction over success and attempts to convince Happy to do the same. He only agrees to Happy and Linda’s scheme when he is convinced that it is the only way to save his father’s life. Even then he keeps trying to intrude with the truth, attempting to tell Willy that his plan to open a sporting-goods chain failed, partly due to Biff stealing a pen from Bill Oliver, his prospective backer. Throughout the play Biff reveals history of theft which in a way shows his need for real items. His need for realness n turn destroys Willy’s hopes. He continuously invades his father’s dreams of fortune with truth and reality. Biff chooses not to dream because he has seen the truth behind his dad’s impractical fantasies.
When Biff was young, he was a football star who dreamt more than Happy did and was the focus of Willy’s hopes. He wanted to get an athletic scholarship, but he refused to take a remedial math class in high school that he needed to graduate. This decision came about after he accidentally caught Willy’s mistress in a hotel room. Biff was struck with the reality that even though is father’s dreams seemed at their height, he was still a fake and not the man he took him to be after all. Biff’s presence is the main cause of Willy’s suicide. Biff is the visible sign that his Willy’s own ambitions destroyed his family. Willy clearly feels guilty over betraying his family. He is reminded in several ways of his betrayal and failure to his family. Willy worries that it is his fault that Biff did not attend summer school in order to graduate high school. He also constantly rages at Linda for darning stockings in his presence. The stockings represent his infidelity by reminding him of his mistress whom he bought stockings when his very own wife went without. Even in all this Linda still tries to bring Willie peace. But where Linda tries to comfort him, Biff insists on telling Willy that his ambitions are failed. Willy not only desires to earn something real, the twenty thousand dollar life insurance policy, but also to earn it for Biff. In Willy’s suicide is the final destruction of the dream. He thinks that he will have a salesman’s funeral that everyone will attend, and that the insurance money will put Biff ahead of Bernard. He kills himself by driving the car that was the subject of his nostalgia, or, more appropriately, by crashing it.
Even in his death his dreams are still nothing more than just that. His funeral is the just the opposite of what he wanted. The only people who attend his funeral is his family and two friends. In the moment when he does get something real, he kills his dream and himself. Willy’s dream fuel the entire play making it evident he lives his life off expectancy and hope. Ironically, having what he works for kills him, as it may well have Ben. The insurance money never appears in the play and Biff’s future never resolved. Willy is dead leaving no one surprised. It does not come as a surprise to the audience, who know the play’s title before ever walking into the theater, nor to the major characters, who have all known about Willy’s designs since at least halfway through the play. Once Willy and his dreams, which controlled the entire play, are dead, the powerful reality of their deaths is all that remains.