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A Salesmans Death Essay, Research Paper

An Analysis of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

When people accept an ideal to live by it can be a glorious and noble thing unless they become so obsessed with the ideal that it becomes a yolk and they are unable to realize their dream. This is especially true for Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. In this play Miller portrays a lower-middle class man, Willie Loman, respectively, who lives by an ideal that ultimately is self-defeating. Willie lived to pursue the American dream rather than living the American dream. He pursed the ideal rather than living it and thus is unable to succeed.

Willie Loman, in Death of a Salesman, has lived his life in pursuit of the American dream. Traditionally the American dream meant opportunity and freedom for all, and Willie believed that. However, hard work could not earn him everything that he wanted or thought he deserved. Willy judged himself and those around him by their material accumulation, as is demanded by capitalism and the protestant work ethic. The ethic demands accumulation and work as signs of favor in the eyes of god. Thus in order to please god and himself he had to accumulate wealth and objects. The consumer oriented society in which Willy lives will not allow him to live the American Dream. Willy is fascinated by accumulating things. His desire for goods makes him want objects that he neither needed nor could afford. As he tries to live the American dream he venerates those who have been successful at doing so, like Thomas Edison, B.F. Goodrich, and Ben, his successful brother. Furthermore he punished those who did not work towards that ideal or accomplish it, such as Biff, his son, and most importantly himself. The extreme to which he followed the dream brought him to disillusionment and lose sense of reality. Willy created a reality for himself where he “knocked ‘em cold in Providence,” and “slaughtered ‘em in Boston” (p.33). The ultimate result of his disillusionment is his suicide. It is ironic that he dies for his ideals although they are misconstrued.

The problem with Willy’s ideals which ultimately kills him is that he has lost sight of achieving the true goal of the American Dream, happiness and freedom, and the dream took control of him. He struggled to achieve something that he could not; he did not have the talent to be a salesman. He became so obsessed with living the dream that he was unable to be content with his talents in carpentry and with his family. There is also a manner in which he pursues the Dream. He is a salesman, a profession that is associated with trickery and illusion. He could not pursue a noble dream by doing something that is based in deceit. His quest was cursed from the start and the fact that he lived the quest and not the dream made it worse.


Miller, Author. “The Death of a Salesman.”

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