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Pressure to Conform in Miller’s Death of A Salesman and Ibsen’s A Doll House

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Pressure to conform to the societal norms of a culture can often be so weighty that those who balk against it are likely to be crushed. Usually the world wins in a very few cases though, the individual comes out the victor, beating the odds, a stronger human being as a result. In the case of Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman, the world devours Willy Loman in his search for the American Dream. It broke him down and eventually destroyed him. Nora Helmer, of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House, was also consumed by the world, but after being broken, fought her way free and defeated society’s expectations of her. Both seek fulfillment in their lives, falsely finding it in society’s expectations; Nora discovers this dichotomy between what she should…show more content…
Within seconds of his scathing condemnation though, Torvald learns that his reputation will not suffer from Nora’s actions and he “forgives” her with an open and willing heart. How could one not crack under such pressure as this? Willy, like Nora, had a dream. Willy dreamt of success: personal success, success in his family life, and success for his sons. For him, salesmanship was the measure of his success; throughout the many flashbacks he would often exaggerate his sales, boosting his image in the eyes of his children. He felt as though his place as a meaningful member of society hinged on this success. Therefore, he would only admit his shortcomings to Linda, who understood and never judged him. In the eyes of his young children, Willy could do no wrong: he made top sales records; he was “well-liked,” nothing could defeat him, further adding to his societal pressures (Miller 1.509). Willy also had to deal with the pressure from his brother who had struck diamonds in Africa by mistake, constantly living in that shadow, that stigma as the “little brother” who turned down the chance of a lifetime and instead became a salesman. Pressured to pursue his American Dream, Willy gives himself over to the overwhelming waters of society, drowning himself in its expectations and demands.
Nora finds strength in realizing her failure, resolving to find herself as a human being and not in what society expects of her. Nora’s recognition comes when Torvald so
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