The American Dream in “Death of a Salesman”

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“Death of a Salesman,” a play by Arthur Miller, was written in 1948 and produced in 1949. In Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” one theme revealed in the drama play is the concept of the American dream of opportunity. America is the dream land of golden opportunities, even the poorest man can build his way upward in life. Miller uses this concept of opportunity by illustrating that new opportunity does not occur multiple times.

Born in Harlem, New York, Arthur Miller was an American playwright, and a widely known figure during the twentieth century American theatre.

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He earned world spread popularity for “Death of a Salesman,” which was remarkably performed live on Broadway in 1949. In this play, Miller tells the tragic life of a man named Willy Loman, who desperately longs for success in a country endless of dreams and opportunity. The play earned multiple awards and a Pulitzer Prize for drama. This story of a man longing for success became one of the most famous American plays of its era.

Most people are able to overcome obstacles that stand in the way of their dreams. Willy Loman’s dreams after all, simply led to failure. While Willy himself wasn’t successful as a salesman, he’s only hopeful now that his eldest son Biff will make it successful in business. He taught Biff that to make it in life you must be “well liked.” Willy makes the error of passing this mindset to his son. His mistake and ideas of the American dream lead to failure, ultimately affecting the people he cares for most. From the article Artofmanliness: “During the 1950s, men began to feel pressured to not just provide for their family but to also give them the luxuries that society was coming to believe every household was entitled to.

Every family deserved a house with a picket fence, a new car in the garage, and all the newest appliances to make life easier. Advertisers pitched the idea that the American dream was in reach of every man.” “Death of a Salesman” explores the effects that America’s new found prosperity had on men. The American dream of opportunity is the dominant theme in “Death of a Salesman”. Willy Loman’s perception of the American dream simply regard success with being well liked. For a salesman like Willy, likeability is a quality that is essential. Yet he is unable to achieve the success he eagerly wishes for. His neighbor Charlie in contrast, is able to form a comfortable living through hard work. Charlie’s son Bernard has grown up to become a successful attorney, while Willy’s sons focused on the fact that being liked is all that matters, never found such professional success. The Loman’s ideas about the American dream of opportunity leave out the most important factor, hard work.

According to Owlcation, “In his journey, Willy loses sight of what is important and becomes completely blinded by the riches that he would have been able to attain. Being a modern-day tragedy, Death of a Salesman reveals the tragic side of the American Dream.” It is true we have the freedom to pursue our goals and become anything we desire. Living the American dream carries on the liberty that our hearts chase. But in reality, the majority find that the American opportunity is only in one’s wildest desires. The dream of opportunity in America brings hope to many. Yet still some people become distracted and tend to lose sight of what’s truly important Willy’s manifestations got caught up by the desires of money, causing distractions away from his family.

Throughout the play, although he is somewhat misguided, the love Willy has for his family is still warming. For example, he displays the importance of his wife and children by choosing to support them, rather than tagging along with his brother Ben. Willy Loman overlooks the simple things in life that can bring happiness to his soul. The realization that Biff comes to in the final scene to his father was what Willy needed to hear. Biff realized that success wasn’t going to be the life of business, in a suit and tie, but rather than the outdoors with his shirt off. Success is only to be earned through an enjoyable job where you can experience happiness while doing it. To its examination of the American dream, for Willy it means making a lot of money and wearing a suit and tie, and that’s where the tragedy of his future lies.

Although he may not have become as wealthy as the men he wished to be, they all do share the self-absorption aspect. Willy Loman’s desperation results in his failure to achieve his American dream of success and opportunity.

In conclusion, “Death of a Salesman” portrayed a clear example of the loss of opportunity, as well as a man’s inability to accept change within himself and his dreams.

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The American Dream in "Death of a Salesman". (2020, Apr 04). Retrieved from