Friday, May 11, 2012

Death Of A Salesman and The American Dream

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Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller, focuses on Willy Loman and his “American Dream.” Depending on perspective, he could be considered a victim of this fallacy or the creator of his own tragic end. A combination of the two perpetuates his ultimate decision to take his own life.

The “American Dream” usually entails having a happy family, a good job, a house and most of all, being successful. People in America sometimes have the notion that the only way to be successful and find fulfillment is to get ahead of the next guy. There seems to be a preoccupation with superficial things rather than having deeper values, and so is the case for Willy. He strives for material possessions to show for his efforts and years of hard work. The need to have tangible evidence of wealth contributes to his downfall. Since Willy has worked for the Wagner Company for thirty four years, he feels that respect is owed to him. When Howard, Willy’s current boss, does not give Willy a job in town, Willy tries to remind Howard of the years when he worked for his father. He stops Howard and says, “I’m talking about your father! There were promises made across this desk!...I put thirty-four years into this firm.” This meeting shows Willy’s desire to make his diligence evident. Many pressures from society force Willy to believe that his beliefs are not just the correct way, but the only way.

Along with the strain of America’s high standards, Willy can also be at fault for his own tragedy. His morals, mottos, and viewpoints are a bit foggy. He believes that education is not as important as being popular, and thinks the saying to live by is “be liked and you will never want.” He instills these values in his sons and honestly considers himself a big help to them. Willy has trouble listening to other people’s opinions about what is truly important and what is not. Charley, Willy’s best and probably only friend, always tries to keep Willy grounded when he gets too involved with Biff and his football games. On the day of “Biff’s big game”, Charley acts as if nothing is going on. He pretends like he has no idea of what it means to Willy, just to make him see what a big deal he is making. Also, when Willy does not like the outcome of a particular situation, he basically makes up his own ending and regards it as the truth. When Biff tries to tell his father the actual outcome of his meeting with Bill Oliver, Willy disregards what he says because he knows it will not be what he wants to hear. Instead, he insists on an explanation with an ending that is positive. Listening is a vital part of a relationship and when one cannot do it, association with that type of individual becomes a challenge. This is the case for Willy and his family, which is another factor of his suicide. Every member of the household lives a lie because they think it will hide the facts for just a while longer. Biff waits to tell his parents that he was in jail at one time and that he “stole [himself] out of every good job since high school”. Biff blames Willy for blowing him so full of hot air that he could never take orders from anyone. Happy is not the assistant to the buyer at his job, although he always said he was. No one ever tells the truth “for ten minutes” in the Loman household and because of the illusions they all want so badly to believe in, no one ever hears the legitimate truth.

In conclusion, both the “American Dream” and Willy’s disillusioned values bring about his downfall. The Loman family has a starry-eyed perspective on life and what truly makes someone a success. Because of the lies they live daily, disappointment is only avoided for so long, but in the end, it has its way of catching up and eventually makes Willy think that ending his own life is the best choice for all involved.

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