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Willy Lowman’s Tragic Misinterpretation Of The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman

1176 words - 5 pages

Barack Obama made history by being elected President of the United States, twice. This is just one more example that the American Dream is without a doubt achievable. Its pursuit is not easy; it requires undeniable hard work, modesty and optimism. Armed with these characteristics, seekers of this lifestyle will undeniably succeed. Success, though, is an interesting concept, for it can entail many superficial qualities. Willy Loman, the tragic hero of the play Death of a Salesman, sees only the superficial qualities of this dream. He views success solely as likeability (linked with attractiveness), and wealth. Ignoring all methods to honorably achieve these, Arthur Miller demonstrates how Willy’s search for the superficial qualities of the American Dream lead him to his own despair.

To begin, Willy’s methods of searching for likeability are erroneous. He believes that the superficiality of attractiveness goes hand in hand with being well liked. Willy’s downfall started with his impression of Dave Singleman, an 84 year old salesman. According to Willy, he had “…the greatest career a man could want.” Sure this man was liked in cities around the world, but Willy’s altered perception of the American dream masked the realities of his life. Willy failed to see that instead of being retired at 84, Dave Singleman was unwed, still working, and in the end “dies the death of a salesman”; alone and without love. Believing in this dream, ultimately leads Willy to his hubris; too proud to be anything but a salesman. Throughout the play, Charlie often asks Willy, “You want a job?” Instead of escaping his reality of unpaid bills and unhappiness, Willy’s shallow values lead him to refuse the switch from him attractive job, to that of a carpenter. “What the hell are you offering me a job for? …Don’t insult me.” retorts Willy. Again, Willy is stubbornly set on being a salesman, anything not striking such as being a carpenter, was out of the question. The fact that Charley kept asking him was a pure insult solely because of the superficial qualities of the job. He needed the money, but his shallow view of the American dream led him to believe that a carpenter, even with a steady income, wasn’t a respected or likeable job. This lack of money led to his despair, and was definitely a factor in the salesman’s death.

Similarly, Willy's downfall continues with the judgment of himself and others, due to his superficial likeability goals. For example, Willy blamed his lack of likeability and success as a salesman on his appearance. “I’m fat. I’m very – foolish to look at…I’m not dressing to advantage…” The tragic hero’s shielded vision stops him from seeing that it is himself, not his appearance that leads him to his failure at being a salesman. Hence, since he cannot accept the facts, his career never improves and he is fired from his job, shattering his perceived chance at the American Dream. In addition, Willy strongly disliked Bernard merely because he was...

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