Essay, Research Paper: Death Of Salesman By Miller

Literature: Arthur Miller

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The American dream has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest
development. …Epitomizing the democratic ideals and aspirations on which
America had been founded, the American way of life …developed for the benefit
of the simple human being of any and every class.” J.T. ADAMS - The epic of
America (1938) Playwright Arthur Miller’s “ Death of A Salesman” could be
described as a study in the American Dream ideology, a system that at times is
indescribably brutal and at other times benevolent. Willy Loman is a product of
this ever increasing capitalist society, obsessed with making it, measuring
success by popularity and material wealth and unfortunately impressing these
misguided principles upon his family. He is by no means a tragic hero but a
victim; a naive and ineffectual man for whom we as the reader feel pity. For
Willy Loman, to be liked, and well liked at that was the definitive criterion of
life success. The American dream of affluence and fortuity became Willy’s
dream, and once for the Lomans, it almost became reality. Now in his mid
sixties, Willy accepts that in fact he has lived his life in vain, never
achieving nor succeeding but remaining a mediocre shadow of his aspirations. It
is this sudden insight that spurs him into a fantasy world of reflection, afraid
to face the future. It is only through Willy’s failure as a salesman that his
innate desire for the outdoors is exposed. At the end of the play, Charley
mentions, “… He was a happy man with a batch of cement … so wonderful with
his hands … he had the wrong dreams, all wrong.”. It has been often said
that “ the play romanticizes the rural – agrarian dream” constantly
emphasizing that, perhaps the path not taken may have been the right one, still
Willy holds the inability to see who and what he is. Miller has created
Willy’s wife Linda in such a way, that it is difficult to confirm whether she
is a positive or destructive force upon his psyche. It is puzzling to understand
why she allows this masquerade to escalate to the level that it does. The love
Linda holds for Willy is relentless. She sees herself as his protector, allowing
him to laps into his illusionary realm where he feels contentment. But in her
love for her husband she is ironically his destroyer. Linda in her admiration
for Willy also accepts his dream, which as it turns out, is lethal. The
character most adversely affected by Willy’s pursuit of the “Great American
Dream” is his eldest son Biff. Similarly , they are both idealists, benumbed
by existence; one by the repercussions of disillusionment, the other by
illusions themselves. Still hunting for his purpose in life, Biff persists
blundering, due chiefly to the “hot air” Willy fed him as a boy. While still
in high school Biff’s future was assured, described as “ a young God.
Hercules – something like that” and was tremendously well liked, but it all
came crashing down soon afterwards (“just because he printed University of
Virginia on his sneakers doesn’t mean their going to graduate him!”) -
discovering his fathers “cheap philandering”, shattering the vision he held
of him. Biff, paralyzed by reality comes to the realization that in fact there
is more to life than being well liked and football. Now after a history of
wayward roaming, Biff comes to terms with exactly who and what he is: “… I
stopped in the middle of that building and I saw – the sky. I saw the things I
love in this world … and I looked at the pen and said to myself, what the hell
am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be…I
am not a leader of men … Pop I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you.” Happy,
the youngest son of the Lomans unfortunately is not able to see him self for
what he is. A direct opposite of his brother he never realizes his fathers
fallacy of “be well liked and you shall never want”. Less favored by nature
and his family, he is constantly seeking out approval. “ I’m getting
married, Pop, don’t forget it. I’m changing everything. I’m gonna run that
department before the year is up. You’ll see, Mom.” This statement showing
that Hap hasn’t realized the phony part of his fathers dreams. He will carry
on the “50 weeks of work routine” and live the life of salesman. “…
I’m staying right in this city and I’m gonna beat this racket …he had a
good dream. It’s the only dream a man can have – to come out number one man.
He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him.” Arthur
Miller sensitively realistic portrayal of the Loman family places emphasis on
the “little man” struggling to achieve the perfection that is the American
dream. It is not an attack upon the American system but an evidence of the
systems possible effectiveness. A bitter reminder of what could have been,
showing that upon steady utilization of one’s ability ,the “American
Dream” can be obtained. The American dream was not the Loman nightmare.
Willy’s dream was. In the end, the decision is up to the individual.
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