Comparing the American Dream in Miller's Death of a Salesman and Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun

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Comparing the Destructive American Dream in Miller's Death of a Salesman and Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun


America is a land of dreamers. From the time of the Spanish conquistadors
coming in search of gold and everlasting youth, there has been a mystique about the land to which Amerigo Vespucci gave his name. To the Puritans who settled its northeast, it was to be the site of their “city upon a hill” (Winthrop 2). They gave their home the name New England, to signify their hope for a new beginning. Generations of immigrants followed, each a dreamer bringing his own hopes and aspirations to the green shores. The quest was given a name – the American Dream; and through the ages, it has been as much a symbol of America as the
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Each feels inadequate as the leftovers of the dream, each struggles upstream towards his unattainable prize, and finally, each is unequivocally made to realize that the inherently destructive American dream has almost destroyed the only true valuable that they possess – dignity and family.

For Willy Loman, the salesman, the American Dream is more than a passing phrase. The salesman does not merely subscribe to the American dream; he is its personification. Indeed, only a capitalistic society obsessed with commercialism can spawn his profession, for the salesman does not produce anything; rather, his job, like gilded metal, often places a premium on appearance instead of value, a principle that Willy tries to embrace in both his professional and personal life, as reflected in his choice of the refrigerator that is perpetually breaking down but has “the biggest ads of any of them!” (Miller 35). That inability to distinguish between his sales pitches and personal life leads to the point later when he is no longer able to separate his illusions of an idyllic past from reality. Even in those flashbacks, he is literally trying to sell himself to his sons, regaling them with his supposed exploits as a way to convince them of his worth. Willy tries to reinforce that worth as a parent, according to Thomas Adler, through material objects, seeking to prove his love with punching bags and…