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Death of a Salesman Analysis | American Dream

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1927 words Published: 30th May 2017

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The American dream is a term that was first coined by James Adams in his book The Epic of America written in 1931. The American dream is a dream of a land where life is better and richer for everyone else. Where there is opportunity for each according to here ability and achievements. It its a dream of a social order where man and woman shall be able to the maximum stature that they are inherently capable of, to which they will be identified by others for what they are irrespective of the accidental circumstances brought about by birth or social position. The dream is a national ethos of America where the ideals of democracy are used as a premise for prosperity and the idea of the dream is rooted in the second sentence of the declaration of independence which states “all men are created equal and they are endowed by the creator with certain alienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This are deemed to be the foundation of the American dream.

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The dream today has become the pursuit of material prosperity that has seen many people working two jobs to achieve this dream. But have less time to enjoy their prosperity. In America today the dream is represented by the a ability to buy motor cars and a home(s)- seen as status symbol that separates the middle class from the poor to which the dream is far from their grasp. Traditionally Americans have sought to achieve the dream through hard work and saving. But in the 19th and 20th centuries of industrialization has seen the philosophy being eroded by the schemes of get rich quick through a variety of seductive and elusive strategies. The major avenues to achieving the American ream today include large prized television shows, big jack pot lotteries and compensation lawsuit. Yet to some Americans they see the dream as living a simple fulfilling life that has less focus on financial gain and materialism.

(b) Death of a Salesman

This is a 1949 play that was written in Arthur miller. It records the life of Willy Loman the main character who is a traveling sales man and has worked at his dead end job for thirty years without success. It characterizes tragedy as the down fall of a great man- miller Loman (low man). The play won the Tony award and the Pulitzer Prize for drama the play has been seen as an attack on the American dream and it seems to criticize the notion that greatness comes from fame or personal charm. It also signifies the importance of one knowing himself as a prerequisite to success. This essay will analyze the meaning of the American dream; for each of the main characters in “The Death of a Salesman”.


Willy Loman, Biff Loman and Happy Loman

He is 60 years old and he has not achieved nor fulfilled the dreams that he had for himself or his family. They live in a small apartment in New York and his wife has seen his work go unrewarded over the years. The sales firm that he is working for does not pay him salaries any longer but pays him commission. Working on these straight commissions has rendered him not able to bring home enough money to pay the bills. For thirty for years in the firm they have used him and discarded him. This has lead to Mr. Willy taking his frustration on his family. This has seen Lucia experiencing the torment that her husband is going through. She has to silently deal with her husbands outburst and she shares with her husbands longings for success but she can not bring herself to tell him that those dreams are not possible to achieve at his age. Instead, she continuous to fan his delusions of success and greatness. The story of will loman shows what happens when the American dream fails to materialize and subsequently dies. The denial by Willy loman leads to suffering of himself and his family internally and externally. Willy Loman saga indicates what happens to an individual when the American dream dies. The denial on the part of the dreamer usually leads to internal and external suffering. Willy thinks about the missed opportunities that he has had in his life. Like his brother he could have gone to Africa or Alaska and come back home with riches at one time he had been offered a chance to be a partner in his brother’s firm but he refused and chose the life that he has. This signifies the modern way that the American looks at the dream through savings and hard work to which Willy thought he could be successful in it. Although he ha s a vehicle and a house, Willy shifts the blame on his failure to succeed on others and himself and denies his role as to why he hasn’t achieved his dream. His lack of fulfillment is as a result of his two sons Happy and Biff who are in there mid 30s but neither seems to have put there life in order. The death of the American dream in him is seen by the way the sons are living. Happy a perennial ignored child has immersed himself in the company of women. He has a steady job but keeps promising his parents that he is going to settle down and get married bit the contrary is true. He is not going far in business and his goal seems to be that of sleeping with as many women as possible. On the other hand, Biff was a star football player in high school and won scholarships to two major universities. He failed in maths in his senior year and was not allowed to graduate. An attempt to correct the fail in summer was curtailed by his fathers in fidelity that changed his fathers view and the view of the world. He became disillusioned and traverses the country jumping from one job to the other toiling on the farms and trenches and was even jailed once for stealing a suit. He is more likeable than Happy (to mean the literal happy) but whenever he returns home for a visit, he and his father end up in a quarrel. The father wants him to make it big but bill seems incapable of taking up a white collar job. He engages in a monologue where he tells himself that he has always made a point of not wasting his life but every time he comes back home he inertly knows that he has wasted himself. (pg 23). He sees himself as failure headed the same road as his father. To him the American dream is to live a simple, quiet and fulfilling life that has less focus on financial gain and materialism not the working in a 9-5 office job that emphasizes money, car and a house. His coming home has resulted into problems being experienced. At the end of the play we see Biff finally seeing the truth and the realization that he is not a “dime a dozen” nor a great leader of men” something that infuriates the father. His father’s death confirms to him the illusions that his father was living in, but he is no longer struggling to understand what he wants in life. Both brothers are in there mid thirties. The life of Willy Loman is full of past regrets and undying hopes. As he is growing older, he has trouble distinguishing between the reality and illusion. He is often lost in flashback where the story is mostly told. A clear sign that he is suffering from the Alzheimer syndrome, to which his family was late in detecting. The flash back is generally during the summer after Biff’s senior year in school when all of the family problems started. He has had affairs with women where he is caught with Bill during one of his sales trips. Because he is mental sick and physically wasted, he is continuously trying to kill himself but in public he portrays himself as a prominent sales man and brags about the cities that he has visited. On page 62 we see him shouting “Call out the name Willy Loman and see what happens! Big shot!” yet he denies the fact that all those years he has not progressed and that everyone looks at him as a joke. When his family piece up the attempted suicide they realize that its part of the failure on him to realizing his dreams-the American dream. Willy Loman is a common man (low man), and he is used by the author to show that tragedy can also befell the common person. The author has used the book to criticize the corporate world of America that is notorious for using people and discarding them when they have become useless. Willy Loman successful neighbor has continuously offered him a job which he has continuously refused and despite the fact that he has several options to choose from which can give him a new lease of life he decides to choose suicide. Willy can not let go off his old scoured dreams. At the end of the play we see is loyal wife sitting by his grave yard/side where she ca not comprehend why he took his life. Buit Willy took his life so that he can provide his family with money from the insurance corporation ($20000) which they can use to start a new life. This represents one of the ways that the American society uses to get rich quick and hence achieve the American dream- through massive pay out of the insurance compensation lawsuits.

Linda and Charlie.

Linda is Willy’s wife while Charlie is Willy’s neighbor who has a successful sales firm. The two are the voice of reason in the play as Linda is the arbiter of peace in the family as she is the mediator between the sons and the father. The conflict between them is their failure according to their father to find a good job, settle down (own a house and a car), and have a family. she is the protector of Willy whom she understands as tired and at the end of his rope-life which is ringing up a zero to her she views freedom as an escape from debt and the total ownership of the material and wealth that symbolizes success and stability what in today in America is used to judge ones attainment of the Americans dream. Willy’s obsession on the American dream has weighed heavily on her living her internally conflicted, she has managed to keep her emotional stability intact. She foresees the tragic end of her husband with clarity. Charlie has on several occasions tried to set Willy on the path to success. His successful firm indicates that he has achieved the American dream. His assessment of Willy’s situation is logical and rational. He recognizes Willy’s financial failures and offers him a job although he doesn’t like him much.

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Bernard and Uncle Ben.

Bernard is Charlie’s good son who was a child hood friend of Biff. He was hardworking always studied and eventually became a successful lawyer. This is another clear example of the American dream being attained through hard work and maximization of an opportunity basing on ones capability those results to a better life. Will finds this success difficult to deal with. We see Bernard arguing a case at the end of the play. Uncle Ben is Willy’s dead brother who went to Africa and made it big in the diamonds mines of Africa. He was rich and successful that showed him to have attained the American dream.


The death of a sales man is an attack on the idea of the American dream, showing that it is not always successful i.e. it has a darker side. It also shows that common people also suffer from downfalls which are just as steep as those of people with high status. When people live in denial and do not realize there role in the failure of their dreams to materialize, it in most cases becomes detrimental to themselves. Death of the sales man is an antithesis of the happy endings to the fulfillment of the American dream.


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