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The Jagged Edges Of A Shattered American Dream In Death Of A Salesman

1993 words - 8 pages

The American dream is an ideal for all Americans to get the best out
of life. It stands for an easy and comfortable life, which makes you
independent and your own boss. Historically, the American dream meant
a promise of freedom and opportunity, offering the chance of riches
even to those who start with nothing. This is something that Arthur
Miller conveys in his play Death of a Salesman. Before the Depression,
an optimistic America offered the alluring promise of success and
riches. Willy Loman, Millers main character suffers from his
disenchantment with the American dream, for it fails him and his son.
In some ways, Willy and his older son Biff seem trapped in a
transitional period of American history. Willy, now sixty-three,
carried out a large part of his career during the Depression and World
War II. The promise of success that entranced him in the optimistic
1920's was broken by the harsh economic realities of the 1930's. The
unprecedented prosperity of the 1950's remained far in the future.

Death of a Salesman tells the story of a man confronting failure in
the success-driven society of America and shows the tragic route that
eventually leads to his suicide. Loman is a symbolic icon of the
failing America; he represents those that have striven for success
but, in struggling to do so, have instead achieved failure in its most
bitter form. Arthur Miller's tragic drama is a probing portrait of the
typical American mind portraying an extreme craving for success and
superior status in a world otherwise unproductive. To some extent,
therefore, Death of Salesman evokes the decline of a man into lunacy
and the subsequent effect this has on those around him, particularly
his family. Willy Loman is a simple salesman who constantly aspires to
become 'great'. Nevertheless, Willy has a waning career as a salesman
and is an aging man who considers himself to be a failure but is
incapable of consciously admitting it. As a result, the drama of the
play lays not so much in its events, but in Willy's deluded perception
and recollection of them. [1]

Miller uses many characters to contrast the difference between success
and failure in the American system. Willy Loman is a deluded salesman
whose vivid imagination is far greater than his sales ability. Linda,
Willy's wife, honourably stands by her husband even in the absence of
essential realism. To some extent, she acknowledges Willy's
aspirations but, naively, she also accepts them. Consequently, Linda
is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this
dysfunctional family and their inability to face reality. In
restraining Willy from his quest for wealth in the Alaska, the 'New
Continent'[2], ironically the only realm where the "dream" can be
fulfilled, Linda destroys any hope the family has of achieving
'greatness'....

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