Death of a Salesman is an indictment not of Willy Loman but of the American Dream. How far do you agree?
The American dream is an ideal for all Americans to get the best out of life. It stands for an easy and comfortable life, which makes you independent and your own boss. Historically, the American dream meant a promise of freedom and opportunity, offering the chance of riches even to those who start with nothing. This is something that Arthur Miller conveys in his play Death of a salesman. Before the Depression, an optimistic America offered the alluring promise of success and riches. Willy Loman, Millers main character suffers from his disenchantment with the American dream, for it fails him and his son. In some ways, Willy and his older son Biff seem trapped in a transitional period of American history. Willy, now sixty-three, carried out a large part of his career during the Depression and World War II. The promise of success that entranced him in the optimistic 1920's was broken by the harsh economic realities of the 1930's. The unprecedented prosperity of the 1950's remained far in the future.
Death of a Salesman tells the story of a man confronting failure in the success-driven society of America and shows the tragic route that eventually leads to his suicide. Loman is a symbolic icon of the failing America; he represents those that have striven for success but, in struggling to do so, have instead achieved failure in its most bitter form. Arthur Miller's tragic drama is a probing portrait of the typical American mind portraying an extreme craving for success and superior status in a world otherwise unproductive. To some extent, therefore, Death of Salesman evokes the decline of a man into lunacy and the subsequent effect this has on those around him, particularly his family. Willy Loman is a simple salesman who constantly aspires to become 'great'. Nevertheless, Willy has a waning career as a salesman and is an aging man who considers himself to be a failure but is incapable of consciously admitting it. As a result, the drama of the play lays not so much in its events, but in Willy's deluded perception and recollection of them.