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The American Dream - Research Paper Example

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The American Dream Introduction The 20th century contained a great many seminal American playwrights. Two of the most renowned writers of this century were Arthur Miller and August Wilson. In addition to their work exploring many of the same themes, these individuals shared similar backgrounds, both emerging from a lower-middle class urban lifestyle…
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The American Dream

Even as this statement refers specifically to Miller’s work it could just as easily refer to Wilson’s. This essay examines both of these dramatic works considering the ways that their themes mirror each other, specifically through their exploration of the American Dream. Analysis From an overarching perspective Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ and August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ explore how different characters encounter the American Dream. One of the primary considerations in these regards occurs in terms of the patriarchs of the two plays – Willy Loman and Troy. While these individuals are from different socio-economic and racial backgrounds there is a striking similarity to many of their perspectives. At the beginning of the play both characters demonstrate an almost arrogance towards the challenges of the world. Frequently, Troy is situated as challenging death. He states, "Death ain't nothing but a fastball on the outside corner" (Wilson, p. 12). Troy makes this statement in the context of his broader diatribe on death as a means of placing himself as an almost mythic figure. One considers that Loman similarly situates his life in a romantic context. In one of the most crucial scenes in the play, Loman asks his boss for a raise. In a plea to convince his boss, Loman relays an anecdotal tale. He states, “what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?” (Miller Act II, scene ii). Just as Troy situates himself as a baseball player bravely encountering life, Loman has positioned himself as a soldier returning to cities to great acclaim. While in these texts these statements represent a crucial element of the American Dream, achieving purpose in life, as well as achieving subsistence, in both works there is also the recognition that they are accompanied with a great degree of pomp and arrogance. It is this pretense that will later come to underline many of the cynical aspects of this American Dream. As both works advance, the earlier notions of an idealized American Dream are gradually exposed. In great part this is more pronounced in Miller’s work, yet the theme of disillusionment is clearly a central part of both texts. While Loman has earlier asked for a raise, he is rebuffed. In these regards, Miller is highlighting the disillusionment Loman experiences with the American Dream. One need only consider that despite Loman’s considerable contributions and lifetime of work he is ultimately rebuffed by an individual younger and more powerful than himself. Willy states, “Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground” (Miller 122). Additionally, it seems that Miller is highlighting that the simple pursuit of financial gain is short-sited. While this disillusionment is more pronounced in Miller’s text, Wilson also explores similar concerns. He writes, “You got to take the crookeds with the straights. That's what Papa used to say” (Wilson, p. 25). Lyons makes this statement to Cory. He is referring to the challenges that he and Cory have specifically encountered and is directly presenting ... Read More
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