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Death of a Salesman and the American Dream

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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 dont need me in New York. Im the New England man.

Im 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 point he remarks that, “Personality always wins the day” (Miller, 1949: Act 1); at another point, he extols the virtues of being handsome and sociable.

If not particularly admirable, Willy is at least consistent. He is consistent in defining the American Dream in his own terms, as the product of charm and presentation rather than substance and sincerity. What this play demonstrates, rather than the fallibility of the American Dream, is an individual who has taken his opportunities for granted. He has wasted his opportunities for a secure and confortable retirement.

He has wasted his opportunity to enjoy a contented and happy family life in his twilight years. These losses flow from his misinterpretation of the means to success, and not any fundamental flaw with the American ideal of a materially and emotionally comfortable life. The American Dream, whether as a part of a company or as a part of a family, do not tolerate the selfish type of individualism and egoism in which Willy indulged himself.

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preview essay on Death of a Salesman and the American Dream
  • Pages: 5 (1250 words)
  • Document Type: Essay
  • Subject: Literature
  • Level: Undergraduate
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