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A Comparison Of The Dream In Death Of A Salesman, Ellis Island, And America And I

1451 words - 6 pages

The Dream in Death of a Salesman, Ellis Island, and America and I

      The American dream is as varied as the people who populate America. The play The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, the poem "Ellis Island" by Joseph Bruchac, and the poem "America and I" by Anzia Yezierska illustrate different perspectives of the American dream. All three authors show some lines of thought on what the freedom inherent in the American dream means. The authors clarify distinct ideas on the means to achieving the American dream. The authors also elucidate some different goals striven for in the dream for a better life. Diverse ideas on how freedom plays into the American dream, what actions are needed to achieve the American dream, and the goals of that dream are explained in the works of the three authors.


The portion of American culture that makes the American dream possible is that of freedom of opportunity and self-determination. Opportunity in America means that people have a chance of making a good lives for themselves with proper guidance and strong wills. The character Willy Loman in The Death of a Salesman showed his faith in American opportunity when he thought of his brother Ben saying such comments as, "Opportunity is tremendous in Alaska, William. Surprised you're not up there" (Miller 45). Because Willy passed up opportunities, he felt that he had failed the American dream. In "Ellis Island", the speaker portrays opportunity as the chance to do honest work and get rewarded for it. This idea is shown in the lines, "[Dreams] Waiting for those who'd worked a thousand years yet never owned their own"(Bruchac l. 11-13). Similarly, the poem "America and I" expressed the freedom of opportunity as a chance to pull oneself out of poverty through hard work. "I was to find my work that was denied me in the sterile village of my forefathers" (Yezierska l. 14-15). Besides the freedom of opportunity, the freedom of self-determination, the ability to decide your own fate, is shown to be inherent in the American dream. In The Death of a Salesman Biff determines his own destiny and thereby achieves the American dream. Rather than becoming a salesman as his father had hoped, Biff decided to work with his hands-the lifestyle which he new he could enjoy. The poem " Ellis Island" said that the American dream is not achieved with the self-determination of Americans, but rather, it is achieved by the theft of self-determination from Native Americans. The line, "When the earth became owned", tells the reader that Americans only enjoy success because they took America, the land of success, from its original residents, the Native Americans (Bruchac l. 22). The poem "America and I" mentions the freedom gained once people are liberated from constant hunger. It says, "For the first time in America, I'd cease to be a slave of the belly. I'd be a creator, a giver, a human being" (Yezierska l. 16-17). When freed from the...

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