Failure of the America Dream in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

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Failure of the America Dream in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman


Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman examines Willy Lowman’s struggle to hold on to his American Dream that is quickly slipping from his grasp. As Americans, we are all partners in the “dream” and Willy’s failure causes each of us anxiety since most of us can readily identify with Willy.

Most Americans can readily identify with Willy. As children, our minds are filled with a “marketing orientation” as soon as we are able to be propped-up in front of the television. This orientation drives us to attempt to become the person that others desire us to be. In this society we all feel, more or less, that we must sell ourselves, must be responsive to the demands
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The proliferation of monthly payments allowed families with modest incomes to hedge their optimistic bets against certain future success. The husband would surely advance to higher and better paid positions over time, so why not buy these symbols today?

The rise of consumer capitalism produced an interesting cultural psychology. The promising American frontier became the world of business. Thousands of new niches opened in American culture, and the aspiring young man with talent and a dream could not help striking gold somewhere in the jungle of economic transactions. Willy, despite his inability to advance beyond his position as a common salesman, still believes he lives in "the greatest country in the world." His dream of success for himself and his sons has an aura of American Manifest Destiny. He believes that natural charisma, good looks, and confidence are the most important attributes needed for success. Biff's failure to move ahead despite his "personal attractiveness" bewilders him. Both his sons are built like Adonises; they are "well liked" and seem destined for easy success. Clearly, Miller wanted to capture the flavor of American culture in this play. Willy's peculiarly American job, his all-American sons, and his commitment to the American dream bind together the myths and symbols of American culture. Moreover, the dialogue of the play is littered with American slang: lazy bum, gee, Pop, fella, babe, flunk, and knock 'em dead. The dialect is…