An American Myth Exploded in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a demonstration of the affliction with which America has been stricken. It is an affliction of false idealism, but also a birthing of the consumer. It is this consumer society which is the affliction, and the characters of this drama are unable to cure themselves of it. Willy Loman is the manifestation of the consumerism which is destroying society. He is the corporeal manifestation of this myth, and the American dream is the myth itself. This myth can be broken down into several parts itself. First is the belief that situations, commodities, etc. improve with time, which is a technological misconception. Second is the understanding that hard work is necessary to bring about this sort of improvement. And third, the coming together of these amounts to the belief that commodities brought about by hard work will help in the betterment of our lives, and that this never ending accumulation of wealth will generate a truly happy life.
From the beginning it is made clear that Willy lives in anything but the present. He is either flashing back to the past and how good things once were, or he is looking towards the future and deluding himself in how good things will someday be. This is an example of how Willy embodies the first part of the American myth, being the belief that things will always continue to get better. Linda says repeatedly of Willy “how sweet he was as soon as you talked hopefully,” to Biff (48). Her noticing of how hope is a recurring theme, like a narcotic for Willy, which always raises his spirits, is demonstrative of how Willy fits into the American myth. When Biff and Happy proclaim that they will start selling sporting goods, Willy just lights up and forgets all ills. It is these events which demonstrate that Willy still believes very strongly in the myth that things will get better with time.
Willy Loman has worked consistently and worked hard all of his life. It was his understanding that someday he would get to the top as a result of his dedication and he would be able to back off.
I met a salesman in the Parker House. His name was Dave Singleman. And he was eighty-four years old, and he’d drummed merchandise in thirty-one states. And old Dave, he’d go up to his room, y’understand, put on his green velvet slippers—I’ll never forget—and pick up his phone and call the buyers, and without eve leaving his room, at the age of eighty-four, he made his living. And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. (61)
When speaking to his wife, Willy comes to a realization. “Figure it out. Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it,” (4). After some time it finally start to become clear that all his hard work and all of his endeavors have fallen short of the dreams of Willy Loman. Throughout the play this...