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Death Of A Saleman Essay, Research Paper

Willy Loman and the American Dream

Authors have been known to use the American Dream as part of a theme in many

of their works. The American Dream is sought out to be the full pursuit of happiness that one is capable of obtaining. It consists of an individual dream based on determination, labor, and well defined rules of behavior. To find the American Dream, one must seize the moment to acquire greatness. In Arthur Miller?s play Death of a Salesman, he portrays Willy Loman as the seeker of the American Dream. Willy has trouble finding this ?dream? because he did not necessarily enjoy everything he did in his life, although he did work hard at trying to achieve his dream.

Willy Loman is the main character in the play. He is an insecure, self-deceived traveling salesman. He is a lower middle-class working man, a status he retains throughout the play. Willy believes wholeheartedly that the American Dream will give him easy success and wealth. Throughout the play he presents himself as a more important, successful man than he really is. When he begins to lose his own power and his illusions to the reality of his actual conditions, Willy?s mental health begins to dwindle.

There are many reasons why Willy cannot fulfill his idea of the American Dream. In the beginning of the play he tells his wife about his recent excursion to New York. As he depicts

how he almost got into an accident, he explains that it is because of his constant dreaming. Willy states, ?I absolutely forgot I was driving. If I?d?ve gone the other way over the white line I might?ve killed somebody. So I went on again-and five minutes later I?m dreamin? again, and I nearly-I have such thoughts, I have such strange thoughts?(1797). The thoughts that Willy Loman thinks about are most likely having the American Dream. He dreams as if he is already there or what it would be like if he was there. All of his dreaming keeps him from succeeding. Willy could succeed in ways he has yet to realize.

Arthur Miller gives two distinct occurrences in the play where Willy is offered something and he turns them away. These occurrences could help Willy obtain this ?dream? he wants. One occurrence is when Charley, Willy?s neighbor, offers him a job with his company. Willy instantly refuses because he is too proud. Although Willy does not accept the job, he still asks Charley for money. Charley is generous to lend it to him because he knows that Willy will not pay him back. In the scene where Charley encounters Willy, Charley simply asks him the question ?You want a job??and Willy forcefully answers back ?I got a job, I told you that. What the hell are you offering me a job for??(1812) He may know he needs help or could use the job, but he will never admit it to anyone.

Another opportunity Willy turns down is when his brother, Ben, asks him to go to Alaska with him after he has just made a lot of money in Africa. Ben is an entrepreneur who is very wealthy and likes taking such risks. While talking to Willy, he explains to him that ?Opportunity is tremendous in Alaska, William. Surprised you?re not up there?(1813). Although he has just basically been told how the American Dream could be up there, Willy turns Ben down and refuses to get help from him. Willy feels that he should not have to look

anywhere else for this dream, because it should be right in front of him.

The American Dream can easily be seen in many aspects throughout the play. When Ben dies on his trip to Alaska, the reader sees that he symbolically represents the American Dream as well as death. Ben had everything going for him and was not afraid to go out there and do what he wanted to do. He took the risks he needed to take and made each day of his life worth living. Because of the way Ben led his life, he became a very successful and wealthy man. The reader may sense that Willy realizes this all along, but he is afraid to go along with his brother?s ideas. In the end of the play Willy commits suicide because he realizes he cannot reach this dream. Willy Loman could have attained the American Dream by realizing he was looking in the wrong places. The American Dream is not easily served to you on a silver platter; one must work for it and find it in their life before ?the dream? can become a reality.


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