Kingston Essay

4141 WordsJun 7, 201217 Pages
The American Dream in "Death of a Salesman" What does Willy Loman sell? In the play Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller avoids mentioning Willy Loman’s sales product. The audience never knows what this poor salesman sells. Why? Perhaps Willy Loman represents “Everyman.” By not specifying the product, audiences are free to imagine Willy as a seller of auto equipment, building supplies, paper products, or egg beaters. An audience member might imagine a career linked with his/her own, and Miller then succeeds in connecting with the viewer. Miller’s decision to make Willy Loman a worker broken by a vague, unfeeling industry stems from the playwright’s socialist leanings. It has often been said that Death of a Salesman is a harsh criticism of the American Dream. However, it may be that Miller wanted to clarify our definition: What is the American Dream? The answer depends on which character you ask. Willy Loman’s American Dream: To the protagonist of Death of a Salesman, the American Dream is the ability to become prosperous by mere charisma. Willy believes that personality, not hard work and innovation, is the key to success. Time and again, he wants to make sure his boys are well-liked and popular. For example, when his son Biff confesses to making fun of his math teacher’s lisp, Willy is more concerned with how Biff’s classmates react: BIFF: I Crossed my eyes and talked with a lithp. WILLY: (Laughing.) You did? The kids like it? BIFF: They nearly died laughing! Of course, Willy’s version of the American Dream never pans out. Despite his son’s popularity in high school, Biff grows up to be a drifter and a ranch-hand. Willy’s own career falters as his sales ability flat-lines. When he tries to use “personality” to ask his boss for a raise, he gets fired instead. Ben’s America Dream: To Willy’s older brother Ben, the American
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