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

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

Willy Loman, the lead character of Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, believes in "the myths of the capitalistic society"(DiYanni 412). This essay will examine the impact of the capitalistic myths on Willy Lowman.

Willy believes in the myth that popularity and physical appearance are the keys that unlock the door to the “American Dream”. We are first introduced to the importance of popularity and physical appearance when Willy is speaking to his wife, Linda, about their son Biff. “Biff Loman is lost,” says Willy. “In the greatest country in the world, a young man with such personal attractiveness gets lost.” In this quote, not only is
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‘Willy Loman is here!’ That’s all they have to know, and I go right through.”

Willy believes in the myth of log cabin to president, which he transforms into a myth of philandering two-bit salesman to big business executive. As we can see from Willy’s actions, he doesn’t seem to rely on hard work very much. In actuality, it is the lack of hard work that attracted Willy to become a salesman in the first place. In a conversation with Howard, his boss, Willy speaks of an eighty-four year old man he’d met when he was young. “...he’d drummed merchandise in thirty-one states,” said Willy. “And... he’d go up to his room...put on his green velvet slippers...and pick up his phone and call the buyers, and without even leaving his room, at the age of eighty-four, he made his living. And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want.” Willy finds this man’s life so appealing, that he decides to follow in his footsteps, thinking that perhaps he could just as easily become as wealthy and as respected.

Willy believes in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, realized in his mind by his brother Ben. In one of Willy’s flashbacks, Ben is telling Biff and Happy about his accomplishments. “Why boys,” said Ben, “when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich.” Willy responds to his brother’s comment by saying, “You see what I been talking about? The
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