Death Of Salesman By Miller The American dream has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development. ..Epitomizing the democratic ideals and aspirations on which America had been founded, the American way of life ..developed for the benefit of the simple human being of any and every class.” J.T. ADAMS – The epic of America (1938) Playwright Arthur Millers ” Death of A Salesman” could be described as a study in the American Dream ideology, a system that at times is indescribably brutal and at other times benevolent. Willy Loman is a product of this ever increasing capitalist society, obsessed with making it, measuring success by popularity and material wealth and unfortunately impressing these misguided principles upon his family. He is by no means a tragic hero but a victim; a naive and ineffectual man for whom we as the reader feel pity.
For Willy Loman, to be liked, and well liked at that was the definitive criterion of life success. The American dream of affluence and fortuity became Willys dream, and once for the Lomans, it almost became reality. Now in his mid sixties, Willy accepts that in fact he has lived his life in vain, never achieving nor succeeding but remaining a mediocre shadow of his aspirations. It is this sudden insight that spurs him into a fantasy world of reflection, afraid to face the future. It is only through Willys failure as a salesman that his innate desire for the outdoors is exposed.
At the end of the play, Charley mentions, “.. He was a happy man with a batch of cement .. so wonderful with his hands .. he had the wrong dreams, all wrong.”. It has been often said that ” the play romanticizes the rural agrarian dream” constantly emphasizing that, perhaps the path not taken may have been the right one, still Willy holds the inability to see who and what he is.
Miller has created Willys wife Linda in such a way, that it is difficult to confirm whether she is a positive or destructive force upon his psyche. It is puzzling to understand why she allows this masquerade to escalate to the level that it does. The love Linda holds for Willy is relentless. She sees herself as his protector, allowing him to laps into his illusionary realm where he feels contentment. But in her love for her husband she is ironically his destroyer.
Linda in her admiration for Willy also accepts his dream, which as it turns out, is lethal. The character most adversely affected by Willys pursuit of the “Great American Dream” is his eldest son Biff. Similarly , they are both idealists, benumbed by existence; one by the repercussions of disillusionment, the other by illusions themselves. Still hunting for his purpose in life, Biff persists blundering, due chiefly to the “hot air” Willy fed him as a boy. While still in high school Biffs future was assured, described as ” a young God. Hercules something like that” and was tremendously well liked, but it all came crashing down soon afterwards (“just because he printed University of Virginia on his sneakers doesnt mean their going to graduate him!”) – discovering his fathers “cheap philandering”, shattering the vision he held of him.
Biff, paralyzed by reality comes to the realization that in fact there is more to life than being well liked and football. Now after a history of wayward roaming, Biff comes to terms with exactly who and what he is: “.. I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw the sky. I saw the things I love in this world .. and I looked at the pen and said to myself, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I dont want to be..I am not a leader of men ..
Pop Im a dime a dozen, and so are you.” Happy, the youngest son of the Lomans unfortunately is not able to see him self for what he is. A direct opposite of his brother he never realizes his fathers fallacy of “be well liked and you shall never want”. Less favored by nature and his family, he is constantly seeking out approval. ” Im getting married, Pop, dont forget it. Im changing everything. Im gonna run that department before the year is up.
Youll see, Mom.” This statement showing that Hap hasnt realized the phony part of his fathers dreams. He will carry on the “50 weeks of work routine” and live the life of salesman. “.. Im staying right in this city and Im gonna beat this racket ..he had a good dream. Its the only dream a man can have to come out number one man.
He fought it out here, and this is where Im gonna win it for him.” Arthur Miller sensitively realistic portrayal of the Loman family places emphasis on the “little man” struggling to achieve the perfection that is the American dream. It is not an attack upon the American system but an evidence of the systems possible effectiveness. A bitter reminder of what could have been, showing that upon steady utilization of ones ability ,the “American Dream” can be obtained. The American dream was not the Loman nightmare. Willys dream was.
In the end, the decision is up to the individual.