The American Dream in the Heart of the Play “Death of Salesman”

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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The American Dream is one of the significant themes in literature that lies in the heart of the play “Death of Salesman.” The American dream promotes the idea that people can attain both social status and financial security through hard work and good fortune. The protagonists in this play attempt to achieve this dream in different ways and at times feel frustrated in case of failure. Willy Loman is the main target of the American dream in the play. According to Willy, his notions about the American Dream categorize success and being liked as one.

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In the process, he supports the idea of making his sons famous and liked in the society (Bradford, 2018). Likeability is significant for Willy as a salesman, yet his struggle towards achieving the success he desires is relatively a great challenge. His neighbor, Charley on the other hand, is comfortable in his life; he is hardworking and has achieved considerable success. Evidently, he at times provided employment opportunities to Loman who progressively refused the offers.

In his life, Willy and his two sons find it hard to achieve the standards of the American dream since its standards are of great heights (Mgamis, 2017). However, the actual tragedy is not the fact that Loman fails in achieving success as promised in his dream, but rather he is deeply rooted in this dream thus ignoring significant things that matter such as family love. His idea about the American dream derives a critical element; hard work. Willy’s remarks about his importance as a salesman must be taken with a grain of salt. a salesman as successful as he claims to be would likely be better off than he is.Nevertheless, he has strived for success only to be betrayed by his former boss son, who inherited success.

The qualities of the society at that time valued assertive, hardworking and perhaps stronger men. In light of this, Loman is unable to nurture these values or pass them to his sons in a rather productive manner. His older son fails from his anticipated football career. His younger son, Happy, on the other hand, is contented to make money by any means just to have fun and party. Charley’s son Bernard in comparison has achieved success in being an attorney. He is a clear representation of the American dream through his academic success. Considering Lowman’s situation, he sacrificed himself to get a life insurance policy that would support his family; he literally commits suicide for money (Mgamis, 2017). In essence, he critically illustrates that the American dream, through the aspiration of a powerful vehicle, can change a person into a product whose key value is his/her financial worth.


  1. Bradford, W. (2018). How Is the American Dream a Theme of ‘Death of a Salesman?’. Retrieved from
  2. Mgamis, M. (2017). Death of a Salesman: Critique of the American Dream, 5(1), 69-71. doi: 10.15640/ijll.v5n1a9. Retrieved from
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The American Dream in the Heart of the Play “Death of Salesman”. (2021, Apr 03). Retrieved from