Death of a Salesman and the American Dream

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Capitalism is a grand system of competitiveness. It does not rely on the united

efforts of the human race but the innate competitiveness that is to be found in every

person. The holy grail of this system is the American dream. It is the idea that a person,

with nothing at their disposal but hard work, can achieve success and thus happiness.

However, this idea is subject to many pitfalls. Not the least of these is the overwhelming

strain placed on the individual to compete with others in an industry. In Arthur Miller’s

Death of a Salesman, Miller explores the toll of the American dream on Willy Loman. In

a quote by Charley, he summarizes with, “Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is

got to dream, it comes with the territory” (Miller, 138). In this quote, Arthur Miller is

trying to communicate the flaw of the American dream through Willy: That for a

salesman, a dream and even the illusion, of success, is a necessity. For it is the only hope

offered. Willy’s tragic flaw, self denial, is expressed through Willy himself, and reflected

in symbolism within the story.

Willy practices his denial of failure through his words, particularly what he says

of his financial success, work performance and social status. Willy refuses to admit to

himself that he is not, and never was a financial success. In his confrontation with

Howard Willy yells, “I averaged a hundred and seventy dollars a week in the year of

1928!” (Miller, 82) Howard rebuffs him and tries to tell him he never did average that

amount. This demonstrates his Lack of financial success and Willy’s denial. Willy is

unwilling to see his lack of work success. When he describes his job he tells his sons

“I’m the New England Man, I’m vital in New England” (Miller, 14) He says this, but in

reality he was never vital to New England, but

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