Literary Analysis – Death of a Salesman
In “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, the conflict between father and son shapes the work’s overall significance and explains all the unfortunate occurrences throughout. The American Dream plays a big role in this novel. The American Dream symbolizes the ideas of futurism and possibilities. The American Dream has a definite objective for many people, and it means a different thing for all. The American dream also is accessible, but in this world, people still believe that because of what happens in their life, the dream can still be solved and can lead to its demise. Willy Loman from “Death of a Salesman” is the main character who accessed the false sense of the American Dream.
Willy was a struggling Salesman who, twenty-years after the Great Depression, tried to provide for his family. The American Dream idea for Willy Loman was how familiar or well-liked certain people are and through personal links. In his world of make-believe and denial, Willy does not want to confront his own role in contributing to the dissatisfaction of his son while his wife, Linda Loman, who is the helper of the family simply disregards all her family efforts to prevent her from living in their reality. Having spent his early career charming with customers, Willy fails to adapt to the evolving business community, which alone has little effect because of the lack of knowledge. Willy holds on to his promising dream, with his brother Ben earning a fortune from his diamond mines.
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Willy still hoped to make it as a salesman somehow, despite working on commissions alone. Even though he was eventually fired by his boss due to his work ethics, he never seems to abandon his American Dream and refused a job offer to retain himself. He has been successful in his business in the past, but he cannot meet the parameters of success in the present time because he still lives in the past. He recognizes this conflict he witnesses when he speaks to his wife, Linda, “You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take me…I don’t know the reason for it, but they just pass me by” (Willy, Chapter 1). Willy’s troubles show that, his commitment to the idea that one can manage business by imposing their personal views without taking account of any other concerns.
For example, when Willy talked to his children about Bernard, the smart kid who gets good grades in school. Willy told his sons that Bernard can get the best grades in school but when he gets out into the real world they are going to be ahead of him. He also states, “Bernard well liked is he?” (Willy). He calls Bernard a nerd and that “geeks” are the ones who are mostly successful. This shows that Willy’s beliefs are unrealistic and inaccurate. With Willy’s firm conviction that only through being loved by others, and being well-known, success can be achieved. He sees great potential for his sons especially his oldest son Biff. Biff is a football player with a scholarship to play in college whereby his father, Willy takes satisfaction in his athletic abilities, and fails to emphasize on his education and grades. With that being said, Willy had an affair behind his family’s back, but his son Biff discovers the truth which causes some tension between them. Biff then decides not to attend summer school while he was offered to earn his mathematical credits for his high school diploma.
Biff used to idolize his father, but he is very angry with him and accuses him for being a phony. He then moves away from his family but with his inclination to steal, he was unable to keep a job. Biff seems unable to enjoy his work due to the feeling of relinquishing his father and his high expectation for him. When Biff finally returns home, he tries to help his father realize that his American Dream are flawed and that he is not interested in pursing those dreams. Despite their arguments and disagreements and the hotel cheating incident, Willy ultimately discovers that his son Biff still loves him. However, Willy remains caught up in a set of false ideals. He listens to his brother, Ben who told him that money and riches was the right way to happiness. With everything he tried and feels there is nothing left to do, Willy decides that suicide was his only way out, as Biff would then collect the insurance fund and start up a business career. Willy commits suicide and dies a tragic hero. “…The funeral will be massive” (Miller). He also had the mindset that he was well-known and liked so with his death people would come to his funeral, but people did not like him like he thought.
The way Willy elevates his two children and how he expresses values and how his sons express theirs tells a lot about American values. This means that Willy’s idea of being well-known and well liked was his components of the achieving the American Dream but even though America’s society is competitive, he still strived to achieved greatness from nothing. “Thanks in part to the deluge of advertisements, many people came to associate the American Dream with homeownership, with some unfortunate results” (New York Times). Pursuing the American dream gave the outturn of not being able to accomplish what one wants and in this situation what Willy wanted in life. He died not knowing he could have done a lot more. For example, “….many people are still unemployed or underemployed, and any wage increases have mostly been wiped away by escalating housing and healthcare costs” (New America). Willy was an American man who earned a low income. In different ways, the author, Arthur Miller, presents the characters according to his view of the American Dream. The perception of the protagonist, Willy, is painted in an absurd way. His personality and lack of effort and commitment to his work shows the continuation of the American Dream. The author portrays Willy as an innovative character. He is a mere enthusiast and believes in achieving great success in the simplest ways.
Willy throws away his American Dream due to his lack of practicality. With his dream, he dies with it. His son Biff recognizes the error and does not wish to be a victim of the confused dream of his dream, so he decides to break free his father’s dream and follow his own dream. Will’s perspective is a complete parody of the American dream. It should be noted that there is anguish and hardship that people must endure in following the American dream. In individual struggle and eventual egotism, the negative aspects of the American dream are depicted when they reach their goals. All in all, the American Dream in “Death of a Salesman,” reveals Willy’s identity and his tragic flaw which lead to his tragic fall or death. It also deals with his false American Dream. Arthur Miller uses some symbols to convey the message of the novel. For example, Willy’s car is used as a symbol of family solidarity. This is why Willy begins to realize once he sees his misery, he loses control of both his automobiles and life.
Therefore, Willy decides to commit suicide by the car in an unconscious act of self-defense. The last act of control, control over his vehicle, is as if he is trying to demonstrate to himself. Ironically, Biff sees Willy’s teachings as lies because of his flaw, his lack of success and his failures in life. He then commits suicide to unites his family and to achieve wat he could never do. Willy had a job, but he demanded for a raise in his pay which led to him getting fired because he was of no use to the job.
As in the case of Willy, his actions illustrate that, the material riches cannot guarantee one’s happiness, and that, the pursuit of material riches often leads to the destruction of one’s own life. The author, Arthur Miller, shows throughout the novel that, the American Dream is a dream that is falsely read and that everyone could live a happy and successful life by hard work.