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A play that demonstrates the emptiness of the American dream". How far do you agree with this assessment of 'Death of a Salesman'? It is evident from the first view of 'death of a salesman'

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Introduction

"A play that demonstrates the emptiness of the American dream". How far do you agree with this assessment of 'Death of a Salesman'? It is evident from the first view of 'death of a salesman' that there are definite, negative realities in the American dream. From writing this play, Miller has strongly illustrated that the American dream produces an image that human worth and values can be measured in financial terms. During 1940's America, capitalism and consumerism was at it's strongest with the American dream acting as a predator to the unsuspicious, determined and success-hungry businessmen of America. Although some of these men prospered in creating a successful business and earned a lot of money, others failed and felt that their own small achievements were empty and insignificant. In the play, Willy (like other American salesmen) has focused his life and attention on achieving the American dream and being a successful role model to his sons. Willy, however, does not accomplish success and instead falls victim to capitalism. His main belief is that popularity leads to personal and business triumph, and materialistic items prove that he is well liked and loved by his friends and family. ...read more.

Middle

This again could be construed as an purposeless success in the process of achieving the American dream. Another point of perspective is that the women, like materialistic items and commercialism, may produce status in the American social system, but they also produce stress and not necessarily happiness. Willy is in constant competition with his neighbour Charley, continuously aiming to be 'bigger than Uncle Charley' and promising his sons this success. This point suggests that materialism and the American dream are more important than general well-being and human worth, and some critics feel that through this neighbourly competition, Miller is questioning the values of America as a whole. Willy's mind and psychology also breakdown because of his obsession with the American dream, and his dreams become illusions. Eventually, Willy is fighting with illusions and reality and believes all he is worth is his insurance money, stressing the idea that the American dream is empty and human values can be measured economically. The irony of Linda declaring 'we're free' at the end of the play is both ironic and tragic as although she is now free of debt, the empty American dream the illuded both Willy and herself is still holding her and others ensnared. ...read more.

Conclusion

Miller himself argues that the play is not entirely based on the faults of the American dream although it does question American values very powerfully. He strengthens his argument because, although Willy is defeated by the American dream, Charley is entirely successful without creating personal flaws from his dreams of success. Bernard, his son, is also a genuine (as well as successful) person; a complete difference from Willy's sons. As a result, 'Death of a salesman' almost perfectly depicts aspects of the American dream today. Our twenty first century ideals, dreams and illusions echo, even more so perhaps, the prosperous America of fifty years ago. It can be related to by people of our culture today as well as those from the 1940's, making the powerful reminders of the illusion focused on in 'Death of a Salesman' completely relevant to our world. It is from this that I have come to the conclusion that, although 'Death of a Salesman' subtly contains stories of success due to the American dream, this play is a textbook illustration of the emptiness of the American dream and consumerism; where failure and disappointment eats away at happiness and confidence, but success is, similarly, an empty accomplishment. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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