American dream outlines people’s freedom to attain their desired level of success and to move within social classes without any laid obstacles and defines an opportunity to personal achievement that is free from discrimination. This paper seeks to explore the American dream as illustrated by Arthur Miller in his play, ‘Death of a salesman’.
The story, based on Willy Loman as the main character, revolves around him to demonstrate a number of themes including the American dream. Miller majorly applies flashback to demonstrate, through Willy, the concept of the American dream and its impacts on people’s social, psychological, and economic lives. Willy’s destiny, his interactions and his cognitive state illustrates both the desire to achieve the American dream of success and the consequences of failure to achieve the dream. Willy’s life majorly exhibits failure to pursue the dream. He is skeptical of his sons’ pursuit of success, an issue that both his wife and the sons recognize. When Biff comes to visit, Willy disapproves of his failure to achieve success. Biff and his younger brother also discuss their father’s continued complaints of their failure. The sons, as a result, embrace failure and only interact with the American dream in fantasy. Willy is also immersed in fantasy of his children’s successful pursuit of the American dream. He is similarly skeptical about his failure to travel with his brother to Alaska, a move that made his brother successful. Charley, in consolation, offers Willy a job but he refuses on bride (Miller, p. 81- 83; Sinclair, p. 2- 4).
The author, in these contexts, negatively evaluates failure to achieve the American dream of success. He demonstrates Willy as an example of this failure as his job is unstable and he fails to raise a successful family. Failure to achieve the American dream is also identified with inappropriate personal initiatives. This is because Willy’s failure cannot be blamed on external forces such as macroeconomic aspects of unemployment. Challenges at his workplace and his failure to seek another employment opportunity, and even accept Charley’s offer for a job identifies personal failure to achieve the American dream (Sparknotes, p. 189).
The theme of American dream in the play also identifies a “gap between reality and characters’ aspirations” (Shmoop, p. 11). Shmoop argues that some characters in play developed a virtual perception of the American dream. While Willy, his wife and his son, Happy believes in the possibility of achieving success, they do not strive towards achieving the dream. As a result, their lives, that majorly rotates around fantasy does not correspond to the fruits of achieving the American dream. This difference further isolates Willy’s family from other characters who are seemingly successful in the pursuit of success. Charley, Willy’s neighbor, is for example successful and is even in a capacity to offer him a job. Charley’s social success is also reflected in his ability to bring up an academically successful child. Ben, Willy’s brother also made ventures into economic success while his successful employer identifies his inability to work and recommends that Willy take a break. The American dream is therefore presented with both positive and negative impacts on the society. While the dream is attainable to those who are able to face the reality of hard work into success, it is a detriment to lazy people who hope that success presents itself (Shmoop, p. 11; Lyceum, p. 4).
Yasinski shares the same opinion about the theme of American dream in the play. According to author, the dream establishes a ground for financial success but is based on two factors that Miller demonstrates. The author first notices that financial success’ aspect of the dream is an open opportunity to every American but can only be achieved through hard work, a fact that distinguishes Willy’s family from others in the play. “Selfishness and social injustice” is also identified as an element in pursuit of the dream (Yasinski, p. 3). Miller illustrates selfishness through every character’s intent to personal, and not societal, success. Willy’s farther and brother for instance abandon him to pursue their personal success, and his employer is insensitive to his need to work in New York (Lyceum, p. 4).
One of the themes of Miller’s play, ‘Death of a salesman,’ is the American dream. The author uses two groups in the play, Willy and his family, and the other characters such as Charley, Ben, and Howard, to demonstrate the American dream, its pursuit, and the impacts of the pursuit. While the author identifies diligence with success, poor personal efforts identifies the American dream as a source of social frustration.Works cited
- Lyceum. “Death of a salesman.” The Royal Lyceum Theater Company. 2004. Web. 04 June 2012. < http://www.lyceum.org.uk/lyceum_images/Death%20of%20a%20Salesman%20Teachers%20Pack.pdf >
- Miller, Arthur. Death of a salesman. Ed. Brater, Enoch. London, UK: A&C Black, 2010. Print.
- Shmoop. Death of a Salesman: Shmoop Literature Guide. California, CA: Shmoop University Inc. Print
- Sinclair, Iain. Death of a salesman. Australia: Insight Publications, 2011. Print
- Sparknotes. Sparknotes 101 Literature. Ed. Janoski, Vincent. New York, NY: Spark Educational Publishing, 2004. Print
- Yasinski, Nick. Death of a Salesman. New Jersey, NJ: Research & Education Assoc., 1995. Print.