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What view of the American Dream does Miller present in “Death of a Salesman”?

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Introduction

What view of the American Dream does Miller present in "Death of a Salesman"? In "Death of a Salesman" Miller presents a corrupted view of the American Dream. It has become corrupted due to the increased importance of consumerism and materialism instead of the traditional values of spiritual happiness and physical comfort. In "Death of a Salesman" Willy's view of the American Dream is solely about material wealth, overshadowing the importance of freedom and spiritual fulfilment. The play is about how the American Dream translates from the original context of agriculture, and freedom through the ownership of land, to the modern day urban existence. Willy and Happy have been brought up to believe that achievement can only be measured in terms of wealth, as shown by Happy when he says "Yeah, but when he walks into the store the waves part in front of him. That's fifty-two thousand dollars a year coming through the revolving door." This is due to the fast economic development and urbanisation of America after World War II. The urban society found it difficult to relate to the traditional ideas of property and freedom. The play therefore romanticizes the rural-agrarian dream but does not make it genuinely available to Willy, instead it is just part of Willy's fantasies, as is shown when he tells Linda that "Before it's all over (they're) ...read more.

Middle

"I was thinking of the Chevvy," he says when he confuses the car he drives to work with the car he owned in 1928. As a result, the drama of the play lies not so much in its events, but in Willy's deluded interpretation and perception of them. Miller purposely names the main character of the play "Willy Loman" to emphasise the fact that Willy is meant to represent the Everyman. In using this average person as the main character of his play, Miller amalgamates the archetypal tragic hero with the mundane American citizen. Willy therefore is perceived as a contemporary example of a classic tragic hero. It seems that Miller's intention in writing about the death of a salesman, a seemingly mundane occurrence in twentieth-century society, was to express the playwright's own vision of an American society and the nature of individuality. Miller uses Linda as a vessel for his justification of writing about the tragedy of a mediocre individual when she says, "A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man. He works for a company thirty-six years this March, opens up unheard-of territories to their trademark, and now in his old age they take his salary away." Miller is showing how the corruption of the American Dream has lead to such competition for wealth and success that the average person is brutally cut down from office in the race for success. ...read more.

Conclusion

As Charley has clearly fulfilled the American Dream, the play cannot be seen to be condemning it, but merely showing that it is unattainable for the majority. Although paradoxically Charley has fulfilled the American Dream by ignoring it. The success of Bernard, "Gonna argue a case in front of the Supreme Court." Shows the merits of Charley's philosophy on life: "My salvation is that I never took any interest in anything." This shows that Charley's approach is the complete antithesis of Willy's. The fact that Charley has been successful, and Willy a failure, is a clear condemnation of Willy's huge aspirations for wealth. Biff tries to break away from Willy's ideas of the American Dream, and his incessant quest for wealth and improved social status. He realises that, although the possibility of property and wealth are open to many in the city, he is more suited to physical labour, as he does not have the entrepreneurial skills required to make it in the city. "I looked up at the sky... and I realised what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been." He can admit to being an average human being, something that Willy finds beyond him, as is shown when he tells Willy that "Pop! I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you!". Biff also realises that Charley is fulfilling the American Dream and so looks to him for inspiration, which even leads Linda to say "Then make Charley your father, Biff. ...read more.

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