Author Miller’s Death of a Salesman focuses primarily on the protagonist’s nostalgia dreams. Willy and other Lomans are particularly attentive to Willy’s dreams. However, they fear that these goals will not be achieved. Yet, the fear is necessary to hope. Willy would prefer to dream than be successful. His dream is what destroys him, and not its failure. This essay discusses Death of a Salesman’s most important theme, the American dream.

Willy Loman is the main character in the play. He dreams of becoming wealthy and the American Dream. He dreams about business success. He dreams of being liked by everyone. He wants his boys to follow his example and be liked and popular. Willy’s hopes and dreams are clearly crushed during the actual play. He is a sixtyyear-old, retired salesman whose close friends all have died. He is fired midway through. One of his children is a farmer while the other works in business as an assistant to a manager. Willy spends his time in the play reminiscing on his best days, and believing they are now reality. He is unable to see the ruin of his life because of his obsession with dreams. Willy refuses to see the consequences of his life, and instead uses his daydreams for escape. He doesn’t mind taking responsibility for the past, but he refuses to let it go. Howard, his boss insists that he give him a job. He’ll even accept ridiculously low salaries to continue to be a saleman, even though he doesn’t sell anything. Howard refuses to grant Willy a fifty-dollar weekly gift from Charley. It would be like he was claiming defeat. Charley repeatedly questions Willy about his future. Charley’s son Bernard (a practical, educated teenager who became a well-respected lawyer) advises Willy that it is sometimes better to fail than to succeed. Willy won’t give up on his dreams. But he sometimes wonders if his dreams were right. Ben, his late brother, doubts Willy’s ability to see the real him. Ben made a fortune mining Alaskan lumber and African diamonds. Willy is urged by Ben to look for what is real and practical. Ben also invites Willy on a trip to Alaska where he can work with real lumber. Ben is still a phantasm. He is an unreal shape. He is Willy’s only imagining that can speak to him in the real world. He notices his surroundings and has conversations that aren’t memories. Although he is a symbol of Willy’s sadness, he doesn’t have any other substance than that. Willy’s imaginary success model is Charley, Howard, or Bernard. Willy doesn’t care about his family. Linda, Willy’s spouse, constantly tries to keep him in the dark about reality and encourages her sons, who are also trying to hide their own fortunes from him. Even after her husband’s infidelity was discovered, her entire life seems tied together around him. Happy is happy to be a part of his mother’s lies. Happy believes in his father’s dream despite the fact that he doesn’t get to enjoy it. He realizes this and decides that Willy must pursue the dream. Charley, after Willy’s passing, confirms this by saying that ‘a salesman has] to dream’, because the work of a salesman is so insubstantial. Being ‘well-liked” is a mythical virtue that salesmen possess. Charley’s son Biff also recognizes this but less clearly than Charley. Biff says that Willy hates him and that he doesn’t like him. He doesn’t want to be like his father. He prefers happiness to success and tries unsuccessfully to convince Happy. Happy and Linda only convince him to accept their plan. Even then, he tries to intrude and tell Willy the truth.

Biff’s past of theft is revealed throughout the play which shows his desire for real objects. Willy’s hopes get destroyed by his need to be real. He is constantly a threat to his father’s fantasies of success by invading their dreams. Biff doesn’t dream because he sees the reality behind his dads impossible dreams. Biff was a football player who dreamed more than Happy when he was younger and was Willy’s main focus. He wanted to earn an athletic scholarship. However, he refused to enroll in remedial math classes at high school. After accidentally finding Willy’s mistress, he decided to take this step. Biff was shocked to discover that his father’s fantasies seemed so real, but he wasn’t the man he claimed to be. Willy committed suicide because of Biff. Biff is an obvious sign that Willy’s ambitions led to the destruction of his family. Willy is clearly guilty of betraying his loved ones. In many ways, he is reminded of his failures and betrayal to his family. Willy is worried that Biff missed summer school to finish high school. Linda is also a target of his rage. The stockings symbolize his infidelity and remind him of his mistress.

Linda is determined to bring Willie some peace, even though all of this has been going on. Linda tries comfort Willie, but Biff insists that he tells Willy that his dreams are not being realized. Willy does not just want to be able to buy a twenty thousand dollar insurance policy; he also wants it to be something that is tangible. Willy’s suicide marks the end of his dream. He hopes that he will have an all-attending funeral for a salesman and that Biff will win the insurance money. He either drives the car he is nostalgic about or crashes it. Even though he is dead, his dreams don’t change. His funeral was exactly what he did not want. His two closest friends and his family are the only ones that attend his funeral. He realizes that he has achieved his goal and is able to live the life he dreams of.

Willy’s vision fuels the entire play. It is clear that Willy lives from hope and expectation. Ironically, he may end up losing what he worked for, just like Ben. Biff never sees the insurance money and his future is unknown. No one is surprised that Willy has died. The audience knows the title of the play before they ever enter the theater. It is not surprising to the main characters who all know about Willy’s designs at least half way through the play. Once Willy and all his dreams, that controlled the play throughout, have passed away, it is only the brutal reality of their demises that remains.

Author

  • louiedawson

    Hi, my name is Louie Dawson and I'm an educational blogger and school teacher. I've been writing and teaching kids about stuff like math, science, history, and English since 2010. I hope you enjoy my work!

Death Of A Salesman: American Dream In Arthur Miller’s Play
louiedawson

louiedawson


Hi, my name is Louie Dawson and I'm an educational blogger and school teacher. I've been writing and teaching kids about stuff like math, science, history, and English since 2010. I hope you enjoy my work!


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