Popularity, Physical Appearance, and the American Dream in Death of a Salesman

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For many, the “American Dream” is the hope for a future filled with success and fortune. Although many may share the idea of the American Dream, each person has a different perception of what is necessary to achieve this goal. Willy Loman, the lead character of Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, believes 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 Willy confused about
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The boys ask their father if his business will be like their Uncle Charley’s. Willy responds by saying that he’ll be, “Bigger than Uncle Charley! Because Charley is not- liked. He’s liked, but he’s not- well liked.” From this example, it becomes evident that Willy thinks being “well liked” can make you successful.

The most significant example, however, is also one that takes place in one of Willy’s flashbacks. Again, he is speaking to his sons about becoming successful. He tells them, “...the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. You take me...I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. ‘Willy Loman is here!’ That’s all they have to know, and I go right through.”

From these examples, it becomes very apparent that appearance and popularity are unusually important to Willy when it comes to being successful in the business world.

As we can see from Willy’s ideas of personal attractiveness, he doesn’t seem to rely on hard work very much, particularly when it comes down to achieving the American Dream. 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,…