The Jagged Edges of a Shattered American Dream in Death of a Salesman

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The American dream is an ideal for all Americans to get the best out of life. It stands for an easy and comfortable life, which makes you independent and your own boss. Historically, the American dream meant a promise of freedom and opportunity, offering the chance of riches even to those who start with nothing. This is something that Arthur Miller conveys in his play Death of a Salesman. Before the Depression, an optimistic America offered the alluring promise of success and riches. Willy Loman, Millers main character suffers from his disenchantment with the American dream, for it fails him and his son. In some ways, Willy and his older son Biff seem trapped in a transitional period of American …show more content…
Nevertheless, Willy has a waning career as a salesman and is an aging man who considers himself to be a failure but is incapable of consciously admitting it. As a result, the drama of the play lays not so much in its events, but in Willy's deluded perception and recollection of them. [1]

Miller uses many characters to contrast the difference between success and failure in the American system. Willy Loman is a deluded salesman whose vivid imagination is far greater than his sales ability. Linda, Willy's wife, honourably stands by her husband even in the absence of essential realism. To some extent, she acknowledges Willy's aspirations but, naively, she also accepts them. Consequently, Linda is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this dysfunctional family and their inability to face reality. In restraining Willy from his quest for wealth in the Alaska, the 'New Continent'[2], ironically the only realm where the "dream" can be fulfilled, Linda destroys any hope the family has of achieving 'greatness'. Even so, Linda symbolically embodies the play's ultimate value: love. In her innocent love of Willy, Linda accepts her husband's falsehood, his dream, but, in her admiration of his dream, she is lethal. Linda encourages Willy and, in doing so, allows her sons, Biff and Happy, to follow their father's misleading direction in life. [3]
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