A Comparison of the American Dream in Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun

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The Value of a Dream in Death of a Salesman and A Raisin in the Sun


How does one value a dream? This question arises while reading both Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. Although the two novels are very different, the stories and characters share many likenesses. Death of a Salesman concerns a family’s difficulty in dealing with unrealized dreams. A Raisin in the Sun focuses on a family's struggle to agree on a common dream. In each of these stories, there are conflicts between the dreams that each character is struggling to attain.



In Death of a Salesman, Happy and Biff are uncertain of where they are in life, and only reach out for the simple
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One of Willy Loman's biggest fears is everything falling apart. He wants to be successful so that his family will never worry. He works hard, but things go downhill despite his hard work; he is sixty years old and "tired to death". Willy Loman is an untrustworthy character, because he is half-senile. In the same conversation with his wife Linda, he proclaims, "Biff is a lazy bum!" then says, "There's one thing about Biff- he's not lazy." But his craziness says more than that of any other sane character in the story. Willy Loman wants the American dream, and says to Biff, "Be liked and you will never want. If you're well-liked, that's all you need." He wants his boys to make something great of themselves, possibly which would redeem them for abandoning Willy, which haunts him daily. Willy Loman only wants to die the death of a salesman, in his slippers.



Symbolism played a key role in Death of a Salesman. Willy's brother, Ben, symbolizes a dissolved dream that Willy constantly looks back to, remembering the opportunity he had to come out of the African jungle with something tangible for his boys' future. Those diamonds could have made him rich. Ben also shed light on Willy's father, who played the flute. Willy longingly confided in Ben, "...Dad left when I was such a baby and I never had a chance to talk to him and I still feel- kind of temporary about myself...Ben, how should I teach them?" And whenever Willy Loman is…