Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as an Example of the American Dream
The play Death of a Salesman can be considered one of the many examples of the ‘American Dream’ and the hard work to success in American literature. In the play, readers read of the Loman family and the hardships they experience and discuss. Along with this, readers learn about the family’s aspirations in becoming successful and their never-ending efforts in accomplishing the “American Dream.” In spite of this, each member in the Loman family seems to be struggling to reach the success they desire. Also, Willy Loman, the protagonist in the play shows external and internal conflicts throughout the story. Unfortunately, Willy becomes suicidal and kills himself as a result of his chaotic life. Ultimately, the major themes that afflicted Willy’s pain, led to his death. Nevertheless, going into the book, one learns that it was more than Willy’s money struggles and personal problem that influenced his sullen death. The ‘American Dream,” father and son relationships, and abandonment and betrayal are the major themes in Death of a Salesman that contributed to Willy Loman’s death.
At the beginning of Death of a Salesman, Biff is talking to Happy and says, “Why does dad mock me all the time”. This small excerpt of the play, tells readers that the relationship between Willy and the boys is strained and communication is needed between them. Their father and son relationships had fallen over the years and this in result dawned on Willy and eventually contributed to his death. However, their father and son relationship did not crumble until Biff and Happy were in high school. Willy always taught the boys during school, that being popular and well-liked was key to a bright and successful future. Unfortunately, this influenced Biff and Happy’s behavior and school ethic that caused Biff not to graduate. That summer however, Biff gets the opportunity to go to summer school and retake the math class, but catches his father having an affair when he goes to visit Willy in Boston. This encounter destroys their relationship and upsets Biff, that he never ends up going to summer school and graduating leading to Biff’s unhappy and miserable life. To add on, Willy never educated the boys how to be mature and respectful men. This idea relates to Happy’s life and it shows through the play by Happy being a womanizer and disrespectful towards women.
According to Death of a Salesman pg 9, Happy is talking to Biff about his first encounter with a woman and describes her as a pig. Later in the book he discusses with Biff again, and states that he slept with his boss’s fiance. At the end of Act II, Happy and Biff leave Willy at the restaurant they were supposedly going to have dinner at, feeling embarrassed in front of Miss Forsythe and Letta. “No, that’s not my father”. Happy’s statement basically disclaimed Willy after finally having enough of Willy’s troubled mind. Throughout the play, all of Willy’s wrongdoings affected his relationship with Biff and Happy and led to his downfall. Willy felt like a failure and at last realized all his mistakes he did raising his children. With no more to fix or able to amend what he did, the major theme of father and son relationship became part of Willy’s reasoning to kill himself for the better.
To add on, throughout Death of a Salesman, the Loman family and Willy the most encounter experiences of abandonment and betrayal. This major theme can be found within the play and readers are able to see how this factor, played a role in Willy’s death. Willy’s job as a working salesman, caused him to travel frequently and abandon his family for long periods of time. However, the loneliness Willy felt when he was on his trips led him to feel abandoned too. As a result, of the loneliness he felt, Willy cheats on Linda and more problems began to accumulate in his life. Linda never discovers about the affair and Willy feels like he betrayed her and the family. In addition, Willy felt in despair and abandoned, that he attempted to kill himself many times before his death. Linda confronts him about the incidents and reveals the fact that he had been using a rubber pipe and car accidents to kill himself. This argument in the family is one of the last straws for Biff about being concerned of his father’s mental health and health. Nevertheless, the play shows that Willy feels abandoned and betrayed in various ways. Willy feels that the company has abandoned him, but confronts Howard. He finally realizes that in the past 34 years of working with the company, has not felt satisfied with the success he has worked for. The boys as well betray Willy multiple of times within the play, the boys abandon their father, according to the novel, “…I’m leaving you pop, I’m not coming back…” Biff abandons Willy. The problems challenging Willy, create him fragile and easy to break. To add on, he feels guilty after finally realizing all the times he had betrayed his family and abandoned them. Willy begins to feel overwhelmed with the problems, which contributes to his decision of killing himself.
Death of a Salesman takes place almost a decade after one of the worst economic crises, The Great Depression. The catastrophic events caused millions to start over and this new beginning meant much more for select American individuals. This idea was known as the ‘American Dream”. In the play, Death of a Salesman, the ‘American Dream’ is one of the major themes that stands out to readers and helps readers recognize the reason Willy killed himself. Throughout the story, Willy constantly works hard and strives to become a successful salesman. His life goals being, to financially support his family and be well-liked, however this philosophy took a huge toll on Willy’s way of living his life and his happiness. Willy’s fail at the ‘American Dream’ contributed to his death in many ways. In Death of a Salesman, the play shows that Willy cannot support his ‘American Dream’ due to money issues. With over thirty-four years of working at Howard’s company as a salesman, Willy “can’t support his ‘American Dream’ due to money issues”. As a result, Willy talks to Howard about moving to New York to work there as a salesman. However, Howard believes that Willy is not suited for New York and that he should retire and tell his boys to work to support him and the family. Willy’s obsession with the “American Dream’, cause him to fail at it and not become successful. Based on Death of a Salesman, Willy prioritized success and being well-liked to achieve the ‘American Dream’, and his philosophy made him a failure. Willy accepts the fact that he was a failure and wasn’t capable of doing enough to support his family solo.
In summary, Willy’s relationship with Biff and Happy, abandonment and betrayal, and his unsuccessful attempt at the ‘American Dream,” contributed to Willy’s death. With the constant reminder of his failures and taking no responsibility for his actions, Willy did the ultimate sacrifice for his family. Nevertheless, Will ended his corrupt life to stop comparing himself to the perfect, ideal image of an average working man and “American Dream’ family.
The Illusion Of The American Dream In ‘Death Of A Salesman’ By Arthur Miller
There are few dramas that continue to resonate across the ages as ‘Death of a Salesman’. So multifaceted and subtle are the elements of the story as it unfolds, the best advice is to read the play at your leisure prior to attending a stage production. This will ensure a more comprehensive appreciation of the tale. While there are any number of subjects that would be good fodder for an essay, in this composition we will examine the multiple examples of the illusion of the American dream and its folly as they appear throughout the drama.
Let us begin with a brief summation of this classic account of an ordinary American man’s life in the late 1940’s. Willy Loman, his name indicative of something less than a member of the winning inner circle, was naught more than a traveling salesman. One would have to live during this era to understand the near contempt such an employment position instigated from others. Before venturing further into this review, it bears noting that the term ‘traveling’ has a double connotation – first as it indicates Loman’s job but, as well, regarding Loman’s endless search for happiness and success throughout the course of his life. One can feel the urgency and despair wafting from Loman from the opening lines. I daresay that it is human nature to want to distance yourself from an individual who so obviously falls within the ‘loser category’ – even today and despite psychology that claims we should be understanding of others and offer a helping hand. No, like a drowning man it is as much an inclination to avoid him lest you, too, be pulled under. That stench of failure and death emanates from Loman in each exchange and makes it difficult to continue to read the script. For myself, I was in search of the ‘proverbial’ exit with the exhalation of each line. A pall of depression hangs over this dramatic narration from opening to close.
In Act 1 we learn that Loman has poured the realization of all his hopes and dreams into his sons, whose future and success will validate Loman’s own life. Mind you, this is not untypical of most parents, but was likely becoming more pronounced at the time of Miller’s play because the country was on the cusp of prosperity that would allow for this indulgence. In other words, it was indicative of the ‘American dream’ as it was growing and taking shape during this decade. Biff and Happy, Loman’s prodigies, would fall short of his expectations and not only because of their own shortcomings. A life-changing event occurred when Biff found his father with another woman, and this caused a profound change in their relationship – never really to be repaired. We learn that Willy has aged and become less suited to a life on the road. At his wife’s behest he asks his boss for a local ‘gig’ and finds himself unemployed. The story continues down this spiral of depression in relentless fashion drawing the reader or play-goer to experience not only the same despair as Willy, but the poignant pain of each of the other characters, too.
In order to pacify their increasingly erratic father and his complaints of their lack of success, the boys console him with tales that are exaggerations of future career possibilities. Biff, certainly the one whom Loman had pinned his hopes and dreams on, attempts to engage a former boss in a business proposition only to be turned down. His brother, Happy (such a starkly out-of-place name in this dramatic presentation) warns him to shield his father from the truth. Raw emotions complete with flashbacks nearly drown the cast and audience in despondency as the truth is revealed during a restaurant sit-down. We are reminded that Loman had spoken earlier to a neighbor and delivered what was an obvious omen – ‘the writing is on the wall’, claiming he was worth more dead than alive. That is his ultimate fate – as neither he nor the play could be saved from any other outcome. It is the proposition of this writer that the illusion of the American dream drove the events of this story – from Loman’s obvious desire to provide material comforts to his family – all while offering no sense of emotional reliance (a wife who has been cheated on and treated as a non-entity, a son who finds his father with another woman) – never realizing that is the origin of true success, to the references to the trappings of what even then were considered to be evidence of having reached the ‘American dream’ – i.e., Charley’s son a successful lawyer. Time and again, we hear Loman complain he does not have the money to keep his family in the same lap of luxury of possessions as the people around him. He complains of running short of money, and his life’s regret of not joining his brother, Ben, who ventured to Africa in search of a diamond fortune. All of this yearning for material goods has done nothing but bring about an unhappy mental state and an inability to appreciate the true wealth in life. Let us consider at greater length the origin of the ‘American dream’ or its conceptualization as authentic.
According to one source the American dream is ‘the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved’. The concept can be traced to an author named James Truslow Adams who popularized the phrase in a 1931 text titled “Epic of America”. It only iterated the belief held in many corners of the globe that the United States is a land of hope and promise. But, originally, it was the goal of those who were willing to work hard for it, and it did not come as a guarantee along with citizenship. It did not take long for the idea to be reshaped and embraced as a covenant that many believed was prerequisite to adulthood and citizenship. If this were true in the 1940’s at the time of Miller’s premiere, it is only a thousand percent more so today.
The concept lives on in American life today, but a review of the country’s history might confirm the idea is cemented in this era as Loman (and his fellow Americans and family). Perhaps it has been fueled by technological innovations that set into motion the ceaseless quest for material goods that oftentimes cannot be quenched – a phenomenon that has continued to the present day. Or maybe it was Madison Avenue that created this bill of goods and sold it to everyone willing to pay a buck for a glossy magazine that shouted ‘this should be you’ from every page. For the reader or play-attendee, this quest for material goods obviously does not equate to a rich and fulfilling life. We can see it and want to shake Willy Loman into the same realization.
Death Of A Salesman: The Death Of The American Dream
The American Dream has often been linked with the long-lasting belief and philosophy of “Manifest Destiny”, which, while originally the process of civilizing the untamed West U.S. at the time, translated to an overarching ideal of seizing the opportunity for a better life than one currently held. Death of a Salesman is a tragedy that illustrates the “death” of the American Dream, which can be defined as one’s development into the self-made man or woman, successful in fiscal, familial, and personal matters. By using various literary devices such as anachronism, flashbacks, and dramatic irony, Arthur Miller exhibits Willy Loman’s unravelling dream, which, at the end, displays how the dream itself had already crumbled long before the events of the present play ever occurred, giving a dismal outlook on the consequences of aiming for this vision.
Author Miller grew up in New York. He was born on October 17, 1915. He began writing the play “A Death of A Salesman” as a short story at the age of 17. Miller grew up in the lower edge of Harlem, he graduated out of Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn. After graduating he started working for over 2 years as a stock clerk in an automobile parts warehouse. Over time working as a stock clerk he saved enough money to attend the University of Michigan. Through the National Youth Administration, he was able to obtain financial aid to help him pay for school. He also worked as a nightly newspaper editor for the Michigan Daily newspaper. Through that job he got the niche of writing plays and ended up achieving awards for his work he had done. Later on, in his life he was married to Marilyn Monrose. He had divorced his first wife for Monrose. They had two kids Jane and Robert Ellen. Shortly after Marilyn Monrose and Miller got married. He had first met the actress at a Hollywood party in 1951.This marriage really put Millers play writes in the spotlight. Monroe died after her and miller divorced in 1964. After her death he moved to another wife and also wrote other works such as A view From the bridge
Anachronism presents itself most obviously in two places: Willy’s house, and in Willy himself. His house, placed in Brooklyn, New York, remains as the only suburban building in what is now becoming an urban landscape. Apartment buildings surround and tower over the little house, showcasing the anachronistic quality of how the house remains trapped in time, trapped in the past. This exemplifies a reflective quality in its owner as well, as Willy is continuously shown to reminisce on better and more promising times: the majority of his flashbacks display the Loman family back in the boys’ high-school days, with Happy pushed aside, despite his best efforts – overshadowed by Biff’s prowess and achievements, bolstered by both Willy and Linda’s constant praise and projections of his promising future. The essential theme of the tragedy is the American Dream and its effect on those who try to achieve it – it particularly focuses on the effects of the single most important unit of society: the family. Some adjectives used to describe salespeople are deceptive, sneaky, talkative, and knowledgeable. Various techniques are implemented to ensure a sale is closed at the present, or a possibility opened up in the not-too-distant future. Most often, what separates a great salesman from other mediocre or incompetent colleagues is their influence over their clients and the knowledge they have of their wares. Moreover, the actions that great salespeople take to win over their clients is what can garner them more business, more referrals, and hence, more sales. However, Willy has disregarded this notion for his entire time as a salesman, as his conversation with Charley in Act II shows. Charley explains to Willy, “The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.” To which Willy responds, “I’ve always tried to think otherwise, I guess. I always felt that if a man was impressive, and well liked..” and the implication of personality alone being what defines a successful salesman is put forth. While this may be true to a degree, the overwhelming majority of the time, actions are what propel a person to the success they strive for. Having neglected this reality, Willy, in a delusional state, continuously cites his achievements and popularity throughout the play in an attempt to fool others and gain favor, deluding himself more-so than anyone else.
Willy consistently has flashbacks through the play, focused on the exaggeration of the Loman family’s successes – the old quote applies here: “Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.” Every one of the flashbacks contains this exaggeration or manipulation of success – no matter the situation, whether it be at home with the family, or with his mistress in Boston, Willy always takes the chance to bolster his own self-perceived accomplishments. While these flashbacks exhibit the anachronistic quality of Willy’s psyche, it shows his obsession with a dream, an unattainable dream, at least by his standards, that he still continually strives for in mind, yet not in action. The recollections often have Ben, who is Willy’s dead brother, a successful business-man who set up post in Alaska, and represents Willy’s desire for instant riches and fame. A metaphor often alluded to is the “jungle” that Ben had to go through – the play states that he went into the jungle at eighteen, and came out at twenty-one, rich. That mindset appears to have captivated Willy, simply perceiving the end product as the means. He believes that personality and being well-liked is the key to success in the business world, as that is the end result that he and everyone else sees. Similarly, many people attribute success to being well-liked and simply having connections, when in fact, that was the result of the hard work put into reaching that peak of success. Charley alludes to this, questioning Willy, “Why must everybody like you? Who liked J. P. Morgan? Was he impressive? In a Turkish bath he’d look like a butcher. But with his pockets on he was very well liked”. In many senses, Willy’s nostalgia over what could have been and what passed him by are what lead to his eventual death and suicide, as even to the end he deludes himself with the thought of Ben, as Ben said [with promise] “It’s dark there, but full of diamonds,” referring to the metaphorical jungle which a person would have to go through to achieve that American Dream (82). At the end, Willy continues to delude himself, not even facing the reality that Biff would rather be a simple worker than strive for what appears to be an unachievable dream, based on his own surroundings and his own attempts to reach it; consequently, in trying to avoid that reality and keep himself in this hallucinogenic state, he kills himself in his reliable Chevy, his own primary work tool. In summation, these flashbacks serve to metaphorically and literally drive Willy off the road to success, and only to remain there in the jungle without any diamonds to show for it.
Dramatic irony is by far the most utilized literary and dramatic device throughout the play. As the disjunct between what the character and reader know, its constant use ties back events that happen in the first and second acts, as well as tying together the futility of Willy’s actions and his influence on his two sons, potentially dooming them to a similar lackluster life. One example of this irony comes from a disparaging remark that Willy says to Charley during their game of cards, as Willy talks about how he put up the ceiling in his house. “A man who can’t handle tools is not a man.” The further the play progresses, the more we see that Willy is truly unable to handle these “tools” he speaks of. The primary tool of a salesman is himself, his actions, and his influence over others, and being unable to handle these tools, he proves to many people, especially Biff, that he is the least likely candidate of manhood. With the typical view of a man, he is meant to be the head of the household: the supplier, the leader, the mentor. Linda’s passing line to him near the start of Act I, “You’re too accommodating, dear,” runs more deeply than initially shown. One primary trait of a salesperson is that they cannot fold to their client – after all, they are the ones more knowledgeable about their product, and cannot simply accommodate whatever the client wishes; a compromise often must be made. A quote from the movie “Boiler Room” by Jim Young illustrates the attitude a successful salesperson must take: “Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t.” Lacking this motivation or drive to fulfill this dream of his, Willy is consistently unable to supply for his family fiscally, as is shown at the start of the play with him being unable to pay off the expenses of the house. As a leader, Willy also fails, as his constant praise of Biff and disregard for Happy leads them both down similarly unsuccessful paths: Happy, with his persistent attempts for his father’s appreciation and recognition, ends up blinding himself to his father’s flaws, leading to the end, where he plans to continue this flawed plan of Willy’s; Biff, learning of his father’s infidelity, ruins his drive to achieve anything great in his life, as he drops his pursuit in fixing his math grade or attending university, finding out that this mentorship that his father provided was a lie on many transcendental levels. Various occasions of this dramatic irony are present, all tying together the theme of a failed dream, and its long-lasting ramifications on those involved, whether it be Willy himself or his family, particularly the ones meant to pass on his legacy.
Slated as a tragedy, this play highlights many events and causes that led to this great American Dream being led astray – however, all these literary devices tie together the theme of lies and illusion. The anachronism of Willy and his house, as well as those of Biff and Happy with their idea of selling sporting goods show their deluded thinking that they are ahead of the curve, when in reality, they are much behind this curve. The flashbacks serve a similar purpose, with Willy’s lies to himself not only affecting his mental, physical, and fiscal state, but also his family’s, deluding Linda, Biff, and Happy that they are, in fact, living this fabricated American Dream. The dramatic irony wraps all these elements together, tying together many of the lies and deceitful events, and showcasing the ultimate consequences that many of the characters themselves are unaware of.
“Gee, on the way home tonight I’d like to buy some seeds.” Willy told his wife this line, to which Linda responded “That’d be wonderful. But not enough sun gets back there. Nothing’ll grow any more”. Perhaps the most impactful example of dramatic irony, Willy seeks to plant these seeds, metaphorically leaving his legacy in a place and time where he could no longer cultivate anything meaningful. This leaves the tragic ending of this play, a disheartening display that literally and metaphorically, Willy’s time was up, leaving behind the unsuccessful mentality of quick riches and the lack of growth that his seeds, or his two boys, had endured and would continue to experience, failing to convey the message that America is not the land of the spoon-fed.
Representation of the Unsustainable American Dream in Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Sometimes you have to let go of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you’re living (Rachel Marie Martin). Identity is how the world perceives an individual through their morals, values, and beliefs. But what if this identity is overdrawn by the fantasies of success made solely of societies views? It is undeniable that an obvious over obsession in consumerism can lead to a loss of identity and a life of discontentment. According to Neliti, ‘40% of respondents today believe that they are living a life that is the requirement of society’. The guilt these individuals receive from everyday society results in their fixation with wealth even though it doesn’t bring them true happiness. In Death of a Salesman Miller portrays how when the Loman family are under the influence of others, they feel pressured into believing that chasing false dreams will bring them continuous contentment.
In the 1940s as well as today, an immoderate passion in materialism leads to a loss of identity and life of discontentment. This is definitely evident through the scene of Willy and Ben discussing how Alaska could bring them countless success. If you think about it, have you ever been so caught up on what society thinks that you start to lose sight of who you are? Well, Willy Loman has. In Willy’s eyes what’s most important in life is ‘who you know and the smile on your face!’ indicating how the concept of the American dream has consumed his life. This substantiates Willy’s strong fixation with affluence, as he essentially believes that all he needs is to be well liked, and he will achieve opulence throughout life. Willy’s obsession is clearly based on societal beliefs because he recognizes that he ‘can end with diamonds […] on the basis of being liked’. The verbal irony present is that diamonds symbolises wealth, money, friends and fundamentally Willy’s American dream. Willy primarily believes that when he works hard on his image to society, good things will happen to him and his family. Willy’s unhappiness becomes prominent after his son’s abandonment. His son’s abandonment leaves Willy dissatisfied that he doesn’t ‘have a thing in the ground’ which worries him to ‘get some seeds, right away’. The seed symbolises a new success he needs to attain in order to leave a legacy behind for his family and ensure his life was worth it. The imagery and symbolism are used in conjunction to convey the idea that following consumerism as well as working a lifetime doesn’t guarantee satisfaction in the long run, but instead leads you to a life of displeasure. Many today, prioritise money and wealth over the things that should have real value to them. Some spend weeks on end working for success but can’t spend 3 minutes of quality time with their family. Willy realises that when you work ‘a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it and’ have ‘nobody to live in it’. Willy recognizes that affluence takes a lifetime to achieve and when you finally do, you are either too old or not alive to enjoy it. He put too much importance on the need to achieve success for the sake of materialism, that he doesn’t realise its everlasting effects on those around him. The obvious over obsession in wealth guided by society caused Willy to lose his identity and live a life of unhappiness.
In the 1940s as well as today, fascinations in consumerism can lead to a loss of identity and life of discontentment. This is certainly evident through Happy as he realizes his father’s downfall while he too follows societies American dream. The vision Happy follows is similar to Willy’s as it’s based on societal beliefs and living up to social expectations. However, Happy’s is less about helping his family and instead more self-centered. Happy explains to Biff how because he is ‘Well liked’ that they would ‘both have the apartment’ and have ‘any babe’ they want. This imagery is used to clearly demonstrate the impression societies dream has left on Happy. He displays a direct link between popularity and success which is exactly what Willy does. Happy’s idea of materialism becomes unattainable just like Willy due to him primarily believing that when he works hard on his image to society, he will receive all the money and girls he ever wanted. Happy tries to convince himself that Willy ‘had a good dream’ and that ‘it’s the only dream you can have — to come out number one man’. This dialogue represents Happy devoting himself to Willy’s conviction of prosperity in order to prove that his imaginings were real and attainable. He does this to keep his father’s memory alive as he is too set in his ways to believe that consumerism lead Willy to his death. Happy is so caught up trying to obtain girls, money and ultimately success, that he is oblivious to the effects of materialism. When he metaphorically ‘beats this racket’ he provides insight into his deteriorating condition. The metaphor is used to represent the revenge he wants to take for his father’s death which was caused by materialism. Happy understands Willy’s misconceptions of prosperity and how there is no escape from the dream’s indoctrinating lies. The notion of greed leads Happy to have an unrealistic self-confidence and grand visions about getting rich quick. While talking about Willy’s dreams, Happy mentions that Willy’s ‘never as happy as when he holds onto something’. Happy recognizes Willy’s downfall and how what ‘he holds onto’ is the unattainable American dream. Nowadays social media causes the same affects the dream does as societies pressure causes an individual’s self-confidence to plummet. The unduly fixation with consumerism leads Happy to a loss of identity which made him realize the cause of Willy’s dissatisfaction.
The personal morals, values and beliefs of an individual shape their identity. But when these personal morals are mixed with societal values, their theory of materialism becomes blurred. This blurred notion is evident through the characters of Willy and Happy. Willy becomes unsatisfied after realizing his blurred concept of success results in the destruction of his life. Happy ignores Willy’s downfall because he is too set in his ways to realise the effects’ society has on him. It is absolutely verified that when one has an excessive fixation with an unreachable American dream it leads to a loss of identity and life of disappointment.
Willy’s American Dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The American dream is the belief that with hard work, a person will become successful. The American Dream is something every American family makes great efforts to achieve. Some families push themselves too hard to get where they feel they’ve achieved the American Dream; this is the case with the Loman family. Willy Loman plays a man in his sixties who has gone all out for his American dream for the past 30 years of his life but in reality has failed poorly on his goal. His goal? To be a rich salesman like his icon Dave Singleman.
Willy goes through extreme measures causing himself to go into a deep state of depression. The Dream that Willy wants to achieve is a dream that only consist of flaw upon a flaw. To start off, Willy dreamed of all the wrong things for the wrong reasons. Not to mention, Willy gives himself way too much recognition in the play. Also, Willy believed that the only important things in his life were his achievements, and the number of friends he made. In Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, the character Biff says ‘He had all the wrong dreams. All, all wrong, he never knew who he was’. Willy is a confused man that deals with pain. Instead of wanting things like money and a certain amount of friends, he should want things like love and companionship instead. Unfortunately, Willy created a meaningless life. His wife Linda was rather a part of the problem instead of a part of the solution. Her constant love and loyalty only made a bigger fire instead of solving it. Linda will always support Willy and be his number one fan, but she had no control in herself when it came to encouraging Willy’s lies. Another problem with Willy’s dream is that he gives himself a lot more credit than he deserves. He would continuously say in the play that he is well known in all of New England as a great salesman. This can be seen when Willy says, “I’m the New England man. I’m vital in New England.” However, in reality he is an ordinary, aging deadbeat. Willy portrays to put on a mask for the most damaging person he knows who is himself. Willy constantly lying to himself is what kills his soul. His constant determination of a goal that a man of his outlook could never accomplish is very dangerous to his sanity. This can be seen when Biff says, ‘Pop! I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you!’ Willy replies, ‘I am not a dime a dozen!
Willy Loman’s dream is actually opposite from the American Dream. Willy believed that his accomplishments and the amount of friends he made were more important than anything else. This can be seen when Willy says ‘It’s who you know and the smile on your face! And that’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked!”. In Willy’s mind, success is the most important thing in the American dream. However, this caused Willy to put too much attention towards the need to gain a load success. He ends up not paying attention to his family or their needs. Instead of his family, Willy chooses to continue his own mindset that as long as he is well liked he will gain success. Even though he doesn’t have the skills he used to have when it comes to selling, Willy continues to believe that if he works hard enough, good things will magically appear to him and his family. Linda eventually sees this. It can be seen in the play when she takes her thoughts to Biff and Happy and says ‘He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him anymore. What goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without earning a cent?’.
Overall, Willy has unrealistic ideas about the American dream which causes him to fail poorly. Willy was unable to achieve the American dream because he dreamed of all the wrong things for the wrong reasons, he gave himself way too much recognition than he deserved, and he believed that the important things in life were his achievements and the number of friends he made. The lesson learned is to not dream of all the wrong things for the wrong reasons, do not give yourself recognition especially if it’s false, and last but not least, don’t believe the important things are your achievements and the number of friends you have. Rather work hard towards your dreams and earn all the right and realistic things in life.
Symbolism In Death Of A Salesman By Arthur Miller
“Death of a Salesman” is a play written by playwright, Arthur Miller. This play is believed to have been one of Arthur Miller’s greatest bodies of work in the theatrical realm. “Death of a Salesman” was written from the trials of the playwright’s own life experience making for an relatable story filled with both direct and indirect symbolism about how the idea of success and achievement can drive an individual to do things they never believed they were able to do, with the flip side to that also is the narrative of how fear and failure impacts humans as well.
“There’s more people! That’s what’s ruining this country! The competition is maddening!”. Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” revolves around the Loman family in which the main character Willy Loman, the father, works as a door to door salesman. In many respects the Loman’s appear to be what we would consider in today’s society to be a middle-class family. Often times the middle-class is viewed as having the economic means to provide the essentials required to cultivate and sustain a family, however the downside to that reality is that often times those same individuals struggle accepting that fact that they are not able to live their life to the same extent as those who are financially secure.
Yet, like many who find themselves in the middle-class of socio-economic ranking, Willy Loman fed into society’s perception in which the only logical means of advancing through the ranks and breaking the cycle of middle-class label would be by ensuring that he was well liked and deemed attractive by his peers. The drawback of this belief, was that the Lomans’ live an unfulfilled and unhappy life while they believed their neighbors and peers were reaping the benefits of their success. “When I was seventeen, I walked into the jungle. And by twenty-one, I walked out. And by God, I was rich!”.
Have you ever felt as though no matter how hard you tried to accomplish. For example, have you ever wondered how certain career advancements and promotions don’t always go to the individual who is more qualified, but rather to the individual who is deemed to be likeable? That kind of disappointment could push a person to betray anyone if it meant achieving what is deemed as success.
“You don’t understand. Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life….” A benefit that Willy had in his arsenal was that he was afforded the opportunity to have a friend like Charley. We all at one point or another have or had a friend who was similar to Charley, someone who we viewed as successful. The real question is whether we are appreciative of these friends with pure intentions who come into our life? In many society’s it is rare that the people who are successful are the most giving and the most generous. I believe Arthur Miller was able to symbolize this sort of connection by highlighting the generosity of Charley while revealing Willy’s insecurities.
Willy was blessed to have a friend in Charley who was willing help him in every conceivable way he could, from offering Willy money as a way of offsetting the pay he was not receiving from his sales job, to directly offering him a job. However as with most individuals, they tend to shy away from help in efforts to not appear weak or unworthy by their peers.
“Now listen, Willy, I know you don’t like me, and nobody can say I’m in love with you, but I’ll give you a job because — just for the hell of it, put it that way. Now what do you say?” Additionally, jealously began to overtake Willy as he begins to despise Charley and his family for the blessing that they have earned. Bitter about his own shortcoming in life, Willy feels as though Charley was not sincere.
In conclusion, Arthur Miller uses symbolism in the play to echo the trials and tribulations of the Loman’s. I believe Miller used this tool as a way to add levity to the circumstances that many of us face to this very day; highlighting how more often than not we are the ones who sabotage our own dreams by allowing our minds to cast doubt and angst. The concept of the obtain the “I believe that if the reader pays close attention to the symbolism used, then one can avoid the self pitfalls and be able to live a fulfilled and worthy life.
The American Dream In The Death Of A Salesman
In the Death of a Salesman, the main purpose of using day dream was to give to the audience ideas of what was going through Willy’s mind. The flashback and hallucinations played a big part in the audience eyes because they showed each event and produced explanation for each character’s action taken in the real time of the play. Every aspect of Willy character is necessary for the organization and progression of the Death of a Salesman play.
The theory and philosophy of all-American dream are heavily represented in the death of a salesman. In Willy perspective of accomplishment in life, every man has to be an influencer in any domain, famous and successful. During the movie, Willy repeatedly mentioned his desire of owning his business “company”. To Willy’s eyes, he feels that he is worthless if he wasn’t able to afford his red car and not loved by others. The theme of American dream derives from Willy’s complex of wanting to own any fancy material that every man could fantasize back then in a society where few people are able to afford certain things and be moneymaking. This is an image emulating American dream where some people enjoy life while others are living in a despairing way. The only way that Willy could feel better and worthy to the society was by owning a business and possessing certain luxuries materials.
The Loman family was a family that was devoting serious effort or energy just to be successful. They wanted to be member of the American society at any cost without looking at areas that could be practicable and almost doable. Willy desperation of wanting to be someone he wasn’t led him to start lying about his figures that he made at work. For example: after his trip he lied that he made five hundred and seven hundred then later on, he was asked again the same question, he lied but finally came up and told the truth about him making only two hundred during the entire trip. Willy felt whole again when he was lying, his number exaggeration made him feel famous, and successful salesman that could ever be.
In the Death Of A Salesman, almost every character expects the mother, they all had the same dream. They all wanted to be successful and lives as happy as ever. Both sons believed that they could be successful together by creating a million dollars company and put their parents to retirement, in the other hand Willy dreams were more self-center but he still wanted for his sons to follow his path as salesman and be successful in that area. During the play, Biff came up with testimony saying that his father picked the wrong career, his career wasn’t fit for him in other term, Willy chose to follow the wrong dream. Willy and Happy were almost alike, they were both delusional about almost everything. They didn’t want to face true reality, their world wasn’t what reality was presented to them. They lived in a world were life wasn’t valuable without success.
During the play, Willy spends almost the entire time reliving his past. The flashbacks in the play were separating real time event and past event. I believe that those flashbacks were sources of information, they were revealing all the insight of each characters mainly Willy’s character. Willy was thinking about suicide and his best way of running away from it was to relive in his memories or probably exaggerate some event which only reflected somehow all the happy moment he had. The only time that we see Willy happy was during the flashbacks.
Willy couldn’t stop wishing to become worthy of the society by being a successful salesman but all the opportunities were disallowed. Willy’s life was oppressive for him. As for dreams, they participated in the big part during the play but they didn’t favor Willy ambition of become who he wanted to be and the person in wanted to be in the American society. I believe that the author was telling the audience through the death of a salesman that a good society cannot only be focused on hopes beyond reach. As for the American dream, the author was talking about how American dreams only make the poor people to work hard by hoping that they dream will be achieved without knowing that what they are hoping for his hardly possible to come true. For my point of view, dreams can be a good thing but can also blind us from facing reality and make us scared.
Plot Analysis of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Death of a salesman
On the surface, the plot in Death of a salesman seems rather simple. This is in fact not the case, when you dig deeper into the themes and motives of the novel. It deals with the core value of modern American society, The American Dream. This is put in relation to the painful conflicts of a working class family in New York, who throughout their life has struggled to make a decent living and fulfil the American dream. The story revolves around the protagonist Willy Loman, a travelling salesman, and the rest of his family. It consists of his wife Linda and his two sons Happy and Biff. After a long life on the road, Willy is exhausted and has started to hallucinate about the past. This makes the novel quite difficult to read, as there are very few distinctions to when Willy is hallucinating, and when it is reality.The main theme in Death of a salesman is without a doubt the American dream. This dream has been the basis of Willys life, and he has a fundamental belief in it, that almost reach religious proportions. He has passed this trust in the American dream on to his two sons, which has quite dramatic consequences for them both.
For Biff his fathers belief in him has caused him to become a philandering bum, unable to keep a regular job and fulfil his fathers and his own ambitions. Furthermore, he has also become a kleptomaniac because of Willys poor fathering skills and his inability to set boundaries throughout his childhood. Happy, on the other hand shares his fathers belief in the American dream, and this has led to him conceiving himself, just like Willy does. He doesnt want to face the miserable reality of his life, and instead lies and cheats his way through life. He has inherited all of the worst traits from Willy, and doesnt even share his noble dream of making something of himself and his family. Instead he just wants to become rich, so that he can prove to his superiors that he is in fact worth something.The tragedy in all of this is that Willy has misunderstood the basic concept of the American dream. He believes that if you are just well liked, and is served a certain helping of luck by fate, you will make it big in life. This is wrong, because the essential message in the American dream is that if you, and only you, work hard enough for your dreams, only then will they come through. This means that you can rely on anyone elses help if you want to make it. This misunderstanding is what leads to Willys suicide, because he thinks he can give his boys a head start in life, by granting them his death, and the 20.000 $ that tags along. This could be right of him, but it would demand that the boys in fact had the abilities and ambitions to push through, which neither of them has.
Even though Death of a salesman probably wasnt intended to be a commentary on social inheritance, it is obvious throughout the story that Willy, Biff and Happy has been very affected by their childhood: Willy was abandoned by his father and brother, and has therefore sought to be well liked throughout his life. Biff was over-encouraged by his father who believed to much in him, and is therefore unable to keep a job in the present. Happy wasnt given enough attention, and always stood in the shadow of his older brother and therefore seeks attention from the ladies and his superiors, even though this forces him to lie and cheat. Freedom from want, by Norman Rockwell is painted in the same period as Death of a salesman. It expresses, as Death of a salesman does too, the American dream.
The main difference in this case, is that Rockwell is far from critical, while Arthur Millers novel deals with the consequences of this dream. In the painting, the main focus is the giant turkey in the middle of the picture. This focus is further emphasised by the fact that light is shining on it from the window in the background. This forms a sort of halo around the turkey, and the grandparents serving it. The painting is an expression of the American Dream comes true: Nobody is suffering, and the whole family is gathered around a delicate and plentiful meal. A symbol of the fact that no one is starving or suffering is that it is only a few of the participants in the meal, who are actually looking at the turkey being served. The rest are looking at each other and conversing. Another remarkable thing in the painting is that all of the youngsters in the painting are looking towards the front. This can be interpreted as them looking forward into the future and furthering the American dream. Freedom from want exemplifies the dream that Willy has, and shares with many Americans, in its purest form. It also states the ideal of the core family, which is prosperous, generous and harmonic. These are three traits that the Loman family has a severe lack of. The West in Death of a salesman symbolises the potential that Biff possess, in spite of his failed education and career. He has realised what he is good at in life, and has gained at least some self-knowledge. That is why he journeys west, just like the 18th century pioneers did.
The Marxist Theory of Consumerism in Death of a Salesman, a Play by Arthur Miller
Karl Marx is one of the greatest names associated with communism, but arguably his greatest works stem from economics rather than politics. Marx saw the destruction caused by industrialism and capitalism, which lead to many of his theories collectively known as Marxism. This school of thought examines the economic and political themes within society, primarily those expressed in literature. One concept within Marxist theory is consumerism. Consumerism did not arise until after the Industrial Revolution, when goods were no longer crafted by hand, but were mass produced and sold rather than bartered.
Although consumerism is not directly defined by Marx, it is well within the realm of his work. According to Lois Tyson in a chapter on Marxist Criticism, “Consumerism, or shop ’till you dropism…is an ideology that says ‘I’m only as good as what I buy’” (Tyson 60). This way of thinking leads to uncontrollable spending and often a large amount of debt, all in pursuit of the “American Dream”. When discussing the role of money in his theories on alienation, Marx said, “The quantity of money becomes increasingly its only important quality…Excess and immoderation become its true standard” (Fromm 46). In this quote, Marx mentions the “excess and immoderation” displayed in consumerism, in which the consumers must have “more” simply because of the esteem associated with innumerous purchases. Tyson elaborates by saying, “For Marxism, a commodity’s value lies not in what it can do (use value) but in the money or other commodities for which it can be traded (exchange value) or in the social status it confers on its owner (sign-exchange value)” (Tyson 62).Thus, consumerism can be considered one of the repressive, capitalist ideologies that Marx often criticized.
Rampant consumerism is easily identifiable in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman works desperately to provide for his family and achieve the American Dream. Because of his deep need to appear successful, Willy buys the newest amenities for his wife and family. However, the Loman’s cannot afford these expensive purchases and must buy on credit. In one scene, Willy asks his wife Linda what they owe and she replies, “Well, on the first there’s sixteen dollars on the refrigerator… [and] nine-sixty for the washing machine. And for the vacuum cleaner there’s three and a half due on the fifteenth. Then the roof, you got twenty-one dollars remaining. Then you owe Frank for the carburetor.” The debt from all these purchases comes to “around a hundred and twenty dollars” (Miller 23). By the time these purchases are paid off, the items are well-worn and in need of replacements, at least in Willy’s eyes. When they first fix the refrigerator shortly after purchasing it, Willy says “I know, it’s a fine machine” (Miller 13). However, when it is nearly paid off, he says, “I told you we should’ve bought a well-advertised machine. Charley bought a General Electric and it’s twenty years old and it’s still good…” (Miller 31). This is a perfect illustration of consumerism. Willy is content with his new machine until he realizes that his brother has something better. To Willy, his self-worth is directly attached to his material possessions. When these things begin to fail, he, too, feels like a failure.
Miller’s play is well-suited for a Marxist approach. The economic themes actually helped turn the lens on myself. Willy Loman is not a very likeable guy, especially with his constant need to be the provider. His drive to live the American Dream takes away from the truly important things in life, primarily his family. It is easy to hate Willy for his obsession with money and material possessions, and yet those same qualities can be found on any modern day street. The loathing that readers feel towards Willy speaks volumes about the current economic situation. Money rules the world around us, and yet we fail to see it. However, a Marxist Criticism of Death of a Salesman helps bring to light the realities of these issues and their potential consequences. Willy strived to show the world his perfect life through material belongings, and in doing so he missed out on living a real life and was left with nothing.
The Characters Of “The Great Gatsby” By F.Scott Fitzgerald & Death Of A Salesman By “Arthur Miller”
Aleksandar Hemon a famous writer from Bosnia once said,“Belief and delusion are incestuous siblings.” In The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, not all characters are an open book. Some might have dark pasts, others could be living a second life birthed by themselves. Instances of these lies are like Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby, a man who claims to have come from a wealthy family from San Francisco, studied at Oxford, and often host glamorous parties at his mansion. In Death of a Salesman, there is Willy Loman a perceptibly hard worker, who is constantly boasting about his success in being the most renown salesman in America. Both men’s perception of whoever they are and what they believe is a sign of their constant delusions, which result in their debacle in life.
The downfall of Willy Loman and Jay Gatsby were caused by the loss of their identity and unrealistic desires. Willy Loman’s loss of identity has many factors, with such being that he lived in an alternate reality and that he was provided an ego boost. One of the few goals he thought he achieved was being a highly successful and affluent salesman. In the book Willy says, “ I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. Willy Loman is here!… That’s all they have to know, and I go right through”(Miller, 30). Willy is shown to have lost his identity as in his alternate reality, he believes he is the most recognized and successful salesman and that he makes more than enough money to support his family.
In reality, Willy is a detrimental asset to the company since he is getting little to no pay and is seemingly worthless. Most of Willy’s income actually comes from Charley, his only real friend, which shows that he lacks the ability to make a sufficient amount of income for his family. Soon after being fired from the company for asking to work in a different department, Willy’s confidence is shattered and this leads to his slow regression into depression, and realization of the real world. The Woman, someone who Willy was having an affair with, provides him with an ego boost as well as happiness, when she tells him, “ You do make me laugh. It’s good for me… And I think you’re a wonderful man,” and “‘(…) You just kill me, Willy. You kill me. And thanks for the stockings. I love a lot of stockings’”(Miller). Willy craves an ego boost in which The Woman provides him with as he lacks it in his true identity.
Furthermore, Willy’s betrayal of giving his wife’s stockings to the woman he has an affair with goes to show that he’s incompetent as a husband and father figure, which leads to his loss of identity as his ties to his family are loose. All of these fantasies were made up by Willy to provide an alternate reality to allow him to escape from his reality which creates a conflict of two worlds he’s living in, thus leading to the loss of his own identity. Jay Gatsby’s downfall brought about by his tendency to chase unrealistic desires, primarily in his pursuit of Daisy Buchanan. When Nick and Jordan were having a discussion revolving around Gatsby’s motive to move across from Daisy’s house, she says, “‘Gatsby bought that home so that Daisy would be just across the bay… But it wasn’t a coincidence at all’” (Fitzgerald). Gatsby reveals his unrealistic desires as he makes an impulsive decision by moving from his home in San Francisco to West Egg upon receiving word that Daisy, a girl that he left for years only to end up chasing again, had settled in East Egg. Despite not knowing of Daisy’s current status, he still decides to move closer to her. He also decides to move without having any connections with anybody in New York, essentially starting a new life with the sole purpose of getting Daisy.
Another example of Gatsby’s unrealistic desires was when Jordan explains, “‘He half expected her to wander into one of his parties one night’” (Fitzgerald). Regardless of Jordan’s undervalued perception of his love for Daisy, he still hosts glamorous parties on a daily basis in order to gain her attention. Disregarding his own logic and what others assess from his actions, his wishes in order to be Daisy again are all riding on this false hope that he has set out for himself, and in the end, his downfall.