Death of A Salesman: American Dream free essay sample
Arthur Miller penned Death of a Salesman in an ever-changing period, the 1950s. During this time, many Americans were stepping back for a bit of self-analysis, both as a county, and as individuals. This is present in Death of a Salesman, as well as another well-known work, an essay by John Steinbeck, “Paradox and Dream. ” In this Steinbeck analyzes the state of America and what exactly it is they’re striving for(Thomas). In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller takes on a similar task, providing commentary on what the American Dream is through Willy Loman and his family.
Since then, Death of a Salesman has become one of the most well known, renowned plays in American theater for it’s interpretation of the American Dream. The presence of dreams in the play is highly debated. Some critics contest that the American Dream may not be in it at all, while others simply discuss which interpretation of a truly “American Dream” Miller portrays through the Lomans.
It is most easily said, that Arthur Miller wrote Death of a Salesman to bring the American Dream to light, rather than to give a clear, concise answer as to what it is.
To begin, readers shall look at the first case of American Dream in Death of a Salesman, Willy’s son Biff. Biff is the character in the play most torn between what the true definition of the American Dream is. Coincidently, Biff becomes the character who is most clear as to what his definition of the American Dream is. When readers meet Biff, he seems to be on the same path, as his father, chasing the same rendition of the American dream. While Biff doesn’t get particularly impressive grades, he makes up for it in charisma, and by being held in high regard amongst his classmates.
So, initially Willy and Biff have a mutual understanding of the American dream, but Biff’s interest in the outdoor life and working with his hands began to pull him away from his initial dream of a world in business. (Lawrence) Finally, as his father’s funeral, Biff makes his final decision on which path he will take with his life, deeming the vision his father had as the wrong one. In sum, Biff Loman uses his father’s image to transform his idea of the American dream and pick one for himself.
The next case of American Dream in the play is Willy’s other son, Happy. Like Biff, his idea of the American Dream is highly influenced by his father’s. The only difference is that while Biff is able to see his father’s faults, deviate from his dream and follow dreams of his own to suit himself, his brother Happy is unable to do so. A clear example of the two as stated before, is at Willy’s funeral. Happy makes it clear that he is steadfast in continuing to chase his dream and goes as far as to say he’ll “pick up where his father left off.
” Tying into the similarity of their dreams is the similarity of character that the two possess. Every characteristic Willy, has regarding self-confidence, expectations, jealousy and loneliness, Happy shares. It is clear that the way the two define their American dream is what shapes them into such similar characters. All in all, Happy Loman is almost a carbon copy of his father Willy, especially in the sense that they both think the same of the American dream.
The Lomans aren’t the only characters in the play that represent some sort of American Dream. Willy’s next door neighbor, Charley and his son do so as well, through their own actions, but also through the way Willy receives their actions. Both Charley and Bernard both embody the traditional America dream, but more importantly, the one that Willy strives for. Willy feels jealousy towards Charley for more closely living the American dream as a reality, but also Bernard for being a more impressive individual than his sons.
Willy’s relationship with Charley is incredibly important as an indirect characterization of Willy, as it’s really one of the only bonds that Willy is able to make with an outsider. Despite his intense jealousy towards him, Willy tells Charley that he’s his only true friend. Last but most certainly not least is the protagonist himself, Willy Loman. Willy is arguably the most complex character in the play, and this can be seen in examining the relationships he forms with the aforementioned characters.
Willy’s biggest fault is that the men he surrounds himself with, Ben, Charley, Biff, Bernard and even to some extent, Happy, make him incredibly envious. It is clear what Willy’s definition of his American dream is—he believes the key to his dream is to be universally liked because of his peers, gaining credibility in the business and his own social world through charisma and personality than credentials and qualifications. (Jacobson) Willy Loman goes through Death of a Salesman in search of his American dream.
Willy’s American dream is affected by the actions of the other characters in the plays, as well as their respective dreams. Willy chiefly feels jealousy towards the men he surrounds himself around, his sons, his neighbors, his brother and his father. Eventually, Willy’s dream drives him to death, Happy is left just as empty as his father was, and Biff Loman is the only character who is positively affected by his version of the American dream. To conclude, each character’s idea of the American dream is the driving force of their actions in the Death of a Salesman