Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller in 1949, won a Pulitzer Prize and established Miller’s international status. The play conveys issues of social realism and family complications as it explores the life of a man who lives in a fragmented state of reality with unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Arthur Miller’s play raises the question of the significance and value of the American dream by contrasting the two different views of becoming successful; one view believes that hard-work and support will lead to success, while the other relies on popularity, attractiveness, and likability to be successful.
Willy, the protagonist of Death of a Salesman, and his family have lived their lives believing an amoral and deluded version of the American dream compared to others. Willy is a very insecure, delusional, and misguided individual who whole-heartily believes the various lies and stunted interpretation he has based his life on; he believes that in order to be successful, one must be popular and attractive. Willy and his family are put at a disadvantage because throughout their lives “they continue to believe that the greater world will embrace them, will proclaim them, simply because they are superficially charming, are occasionally witty, and can bluster and brag with the best of them” (Thompson). Willy continues to look up to individuals that are very successful. Dave Singleman, and Willy’s brother are two characters in the play that Willy looks up to because of their hard-earned success. However, Willy helps the audience have an insight to the corrupted view of the American dream that is based on materialism, popularity, likability, and attractiveness.
The American dream that Willy is challenging was originally founded on the Declaration of Independence and the basis of support, hard-work, and freedom of choice. It is believed that this dream allows any american to become whatever they wish regardless of their wealth or family tree. However, it can be believed that Miller used the play to raise awareness of how society’s opinion of the American dream had changed from this point of view at the time:
Studies of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman invariably discuss Willy Loman’s self-delusion and moral confusion in relation to Miller’s indictment of the competitive, capitalistic society that is responsible for dehumanizing the individual and transforming the once promising agrarian American dream into an urban nightmare. (Centola)
The previous statement comments on how Miller used the characters in the play to show the contrasting views that were being examined during the 1940s. Willy is the character who is dehumanized by society and his own struggling beliefs. However, Linda, Willy’s wife, and Charley, their neighbor, continue to support Willy, but Willy continuously ignores their efforts, leaving him without help. Therefore, Willy subconsciously chooses to stay in this cycle of failure and unsuccessful living throughout...