Failure of the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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Failure of the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is a story about the dark side of the "American Dream". Willy Loman's obsession with the dream directly causes his failure in life, which, in turn, leads to his eventual suicide. The pursuit of the dream also destroys the lives of Willy's family, as well. Through the Lomans, Arthur Miller attempts to create a typical American family of the time, and, in doing so, the reader can relate to the crises that the family is faced with and realize that everyone has problems.

Willy Loman equates success as a human being with success in the business world. When Willy was a young man, he heard of a salesman who could "pick up his
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He believes this because of the American Dream that he desperately clings to so that his life has direction and meaning. This idea, however untrue, has been burned into his head and clouds his vision. Willy is confused to such an extent that he can not even see what he would be both successful and happy doing. When Biff suggests that he does not belong in the business world, but rather as a blue-collar worker, Willy falls back on this American ideal and retorts "Even your grandfather was better than a carpenter." (61) The more Biff begins to realize that the American Dream is not for him or his father, the harder it is to pretend that he cares about it.

Biff denies his disbelief of the American Dream for over fifteen years. He rationalizes his situation, claiming that he is simply "finding himself". Willy cannot except the fact that Biff doesn't believe in the dream. Willy thinks it is impossible that Biff is lost because his future is obviously laid out for him. "In the greatest country in the world [where] a young man with such personal attractiveness...and such a hard worker could get lost." (16) This idea that anyone with a little guts and good looks can be a success is Willy's main idealistic belief, "Be liked and you will never want." (33) Although this is the attitude that Willy has trusted his whole life, Biff begins to understand that there is more to life then being liked and selling products.

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