Strive not to be of success, but rather to be of value. Albert Einstein
Truly appreciate life, and you’ll find that you have more of it. Ralph Marston
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town both explore the fulfillment of life. Emily and Willy Loman fail to take advantage of their lives because they have the wrong priorities and do not take the time appreciate what they already have. Willy focuses solely on achieving his dreams of success as a salesman and helping Biff become a great man, resulting in him ignoring his family, declining status in society, and reality, leading to his demise. He never realizes what he has lost by chasing after inconceivable dreams; however, Wilder’s Emily reflects on her life after she dies and begins to understand that her lack of appreciation for the little moments took away from the fullness of her life. Even though Wilder and Miller tell two unique stories, they use similar methods to show their thoughts on living and essentially convey the same message about how dreams can ruin people and how not appreciating the little things takes away from the quality of life.
After seeing both his father and brother find success, Willy attempts to prove himself to his family by chasing after his own version of the American dream. Willy grows up in the “wild prosperity of the 1920’s” when rags-to-riches tales inspire everybody, making them believe that “achieving material success [is] God’s intention for humankind (Abbotson, Criticism by Bloom). Willy’s father, a “very great” and “wildhearted man,” made a living traveling and selling flutes, making “more in a week than a man like [Willy] could make in a lifetime” (Miller 34). Even though Willy barely knew his dad, he built him up in his head as an amazing person and role model, striving to be as “well liked” as him (Miller 34). Willy also idealizes his brother, Ben, as evidenced by his constant one-way conversations with him. Ben, a “genius” and “success incarnate,” goes into the jungle in Africa at the age of seventeen and emerges four years later, rich after discovering diamond mines. Willy constantly seeks Ben’s approval on the way he’s raising his boys because he is trying to “imbue” them with the same “spirit” that allowed Ben to become so successful (Miller 37). These conversations give a glimpse at Willy’s insecurities about his parenting skills and his desire to help his kids be just as successful as his idols, therefore proving himself to his family and showing his worth. After seeing the people he looks up to find success, Willy begins his quest to achieve his dreams, leading to his pursuit of success at all cost. David Singleman inspires him to become a salesman, and he feels satisfied with his marketing abilities up until the Great Depression when “nobody ha[s] money to buy anything but necessities” (Abbotson). Instead of being satisfied with his life, he compares his success to that of Ben’s and laments that he did not “go to...