Death of a Salesman - Problems with the American Dream Essay

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Death of a Salesman - Problems with the American Dream


What specific ills does Miller diagnose in the America Dream? Discuss with reference to “Death of a Salesman”.

The American Dream is an idea that originated from the Pilgrim Fathers and has remained in the American society. It is the belief that America is the land of opportunity where everyone can be “great”. The word “dream” is in fact probably the best way to describe the problems that Arthur Miller can see in this belief. The word “dream” can suggest something wonderful to look forward to achieving, or, it may imply that something is only a dream, something that is impossible to achieve. We can see Miller believes “dream” to mean the latter of these interpretations when we see
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So convinced is Willy of the rightness of this doctrine, that he raises his sons by it and, without intending to, he subtly undermines their moral character, turning one into a lecher and the other into a “bum” and a thief. Thus Miller demonstrates how such great self-confidence that the American Dream can produce, can have adverse effects on young people.

Although the dream used to be one about self-fulfilment, it has become perverted by materialistic concerns so that it is now a dream of financial success; exterior wealth measures a person’s success. Miller seems to appreciate the original idea of the American Dream as he shows through Willy’s flashbacks of good times, that the past was “golden”, as he himself describes. It is how people interpret the idea of the American Dream now; that if people live by it there is a natural order in favour of them succeeding; that is essentially the problem. This view that society has, makes it seem that success is easy to achieve, and so there is disgrace in failure and people feel there is a need to succeed. Such pressures that the individual can feel, due to society’s “laws”, can have tragic results. Miller’s demonstration of this is through Willy, who ultimately finds himself a victim of such pressures of the American Dream.
His downfall derives from both his personal failure in relation to his values and from the values themselves. He shows, through the way in which he lives…