Death Of A Dream Arthur Essay


Throughout the play, Willy longs for the wealth, privilege, and equality the America was alleged to have been built upon until he can no longer deny that the promises of the American dream are just an illusion. While this is without a doubt a scathing critique of capitalism, at the same time, the play seems to be trying to show that nothing is truly real and once you remove all of the 'bells and whistles.' In other words, 'real' people, just like the American dream, are a myth. No one is immune to putting on a 'front' for other people, but when the opinions of others dictate your life and your decisions, this is when the human soul begins to deteriorate. Willy Loman is the characterization of this corrosion. The death of the American Dream portrayed in the play, as well as the constant comparisons between the rich and the poor are evident. The reason for this strong focus on consumption of only the best and the finest appears to be that those who do not have the best clothes or the shiniest cars are considered to be less valuable or less worthy of respect than the "leisure class" who places such high values on these things. Ultimately, it is not just about 'looking good' - it is just as critically about not 'looking bad'. The irony of this perception rests in the notion that the more characters such as Willy strove to look good on the outside, the more they began to lose their true identity; of who they truly were on the inside.

According to Bloom, (1991) "Miller indicts the commercial ethos of success for its lack of any nourishing values, but the only solution he offers his characters is escape -- death for Willy, and back to the land for Biff, back to an agrarian, productive life (p. 26)." The fact that Miller offers no other solution but escape seems to indicate that his...


People wanted to believe that problems of social and financial stratification had been solved, but the reality was not compatible with that desire. So people like Willy convinced themselves that prosperity was a more universally attainable goal than it actually was. The notion that as long as you work hard, have a good personality and go after your dreams, the world is your oyster, had fueled Willy for most of his life. But one too many dead ends led to a downward spiral from which the only escape was death.
Ultimately, Death of a Salesman not only provides a glimpse into the story of one family's struggle with each other, but also provides commentary on twentieth century American culture that still resonates today. As Novick (2003) reflects, "A primary function of the theater is to perform social fact, to express it in terms of fictive yet truthful personal experience. With the passing of the years, social fact becomes historical fact, and the drama, particularly the realistic drama, stands as an often-invaluable record of what history felt like to those who actually lived it" (p. 97). There is little room for denial that Arthur Miller's Death of Salesman, whether being viewed on stage or on screen, offers audiences just such a chance to understand an American experience that is both personal and collective; both historical and contemporary.

Sources Used in Documents:


Bloom, H. (1991) Willy Loman. New York: Chelsea House

Miller, a. (1998), Death of a salesman, New York: Penguin Books

Novick, J. (2003) Death of a salesman: Deracination and its discontents. American Jewish History 91(1), 97-107

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