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Death of a Salesman and the American Dream - Essay Example

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Death of a Salesman and the American Dream

It would therefore be too simplistic to advocate an interpretation that denigrated the pursuit of the American Dream as a sole causal factor. To be sure, the text does not bear out such a narrow reading; the fact is that Willy Loman's own personal interpretation of the American Dream, rather than the American Dream itself, led to his downfall and to his personal failures.
As a preliminary matter, Willy Loman viewed the American Dream as a sort of hoax that the clever played on their fellow citizens. Wealth and success were obtained by misdirection, by charm, rather than through hard work and sincere relationships with other people. Early on in the play he proclaims that charm is the superior virtue, rather than talent or hard work, by stating "The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want" (Miller, 1949: Act 1). Being liked is not normally a sole basis for success in the American business world. To be sure, many of the most successful businessmen are despised and feared. The text, therefore, cannot be construed as an attack on the American Dream in and of itself. ...
His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person" (Miller, 1949: Act 1). His own wife admits that her husband may have pursuing something other than the American Dream. Willy had been pursuing a sense of recognition, a boost to his own self-importance, and attention from the people around him. These pursuits, while understandable, are not necessarily those associated with the American Dream. In the final analysis, Willy's attempts to be well-liked affected his life in ways which made the American Dream less accessible for him.
In addition, this superficiality was buttressed by Willy Loman's view that the American Dream was achieved individually rather than with the help of friends or family. He didn't identify himself as being a part of a team or as a part of a larger whole. Instead, he attempted to make the dream his own by setting himself up as something greater than other people. When asked about his interest in moving, Willy responds "They don't need me in New York. I'm the New England man. I'm vital in New England" (Miller, 1949: Act 1). He is neither a contributor nor a simple salesman. He views himself as vital, as more important than other people or the company, and in this way begins to define the American Dream according to his own ego. In addition, rather than focussing on hard work, a cornerstone of the American Dream as it is more commonly understood, Willy interprets it as flowing from charm rather than discipline, integrity, or hard work. At one ...Show more

Summary

This literary masterpiece by Arthur Miller, the Death of a Salesman, is too often described as the fallibility of the American Dream. It has become almost common lore to treat this text as a manifestation of its author's distaste for the pursuit of money and material success…
Author : brenda97
Death of a Salesman and the American Dream essay example
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