The Value of a Dream in Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun
How does one value a dream? This question arises while reading both Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. Although the two novels are very different, the stories and characters share many likenesses. Death of a Salesman concerns a family’s difficulty in dealing with unrealized dreams. A Raisin in the Sun focuses on a family's struggle to agree on a common dream. In each of these stories, there are conflicts between the dreams that each character is struggling to attain.
In Death of a Salesman, Happy and Biff are uncertain of where they are in life, and only reach out for the simple, already-tangible things at hand. Biff: "I don't know- what I'm supposed to want", and Happy: "I don't know what the hell I'm working for", means that they bothh feel they havn't progressed. All they want to do is work with their hands, with their shirts off and their backs to the sun. Neither Biff nor Happy have struggled to get to where they feel secure, otherwise they would not be admitting such things. And both have also dismissed the truth; Biff saying "Never mind. Just don't llay it all to me" and Happy saying, "Just don't lay it all at me feet." Happy also wants to believe that everything is alright; Happy is fine, so long as he can make himself believe that everyone around him is fine. Towards the end of the story, when Biff accuses everyone of lying, Happy exclaims, "We always told the truth!" but in the beginning, he admitted to Biff, "See, Biff, everybody around me is so false that I'm constantly lowering my ideals."
Willy Loman wants his dreams so badly that, in his mind, he made them come true. Willy Loman does not have much, but of what he does have, he fears is falling apart. One of Willy Loman's biggest fears is everything falling apart. He wants to be successful so that his family will never worry. He works hard, but things go downhill despite his hard work; he is sixty years old and "tired to death". Willy Loman is an untrustworthy character, because he is half-senile. In the same conversation with his wife Linda, he proclaims, "Biff is a lazy bum!" then says, "There's one thing about Biff- he's not lazy." But his craziness says more than that of any other sane character in the story. Willy Loman wants the American dream, and says to Biff, "Be liked and you will never want. If you're well-liked, that's all you need." He wants his boys to make something great of themselves, possibly which would redeem them for abandoning Willy, which haunts him daily. Willy Loman only wants to die the death of a salesman, in his slippers.
Symbolism played a key role in Death of a Salesman. Willy's brother, Ben, symbolizes a dissolved dream that Willy constantly looks back to, remembering the opportunity he had to come out of the African jungle with something...