Death of a Salesman Death Salesman essaysSuccess and the American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
What is the American dream? I decided to ask a few people as to what they thought it was.
One person told me that the American dream was to be rich. Another person told me it was having a perfect family situation. The last person believed the American dream was to be able to do absolutely nothing. Whether it is a family working together towards one common goal, or a single woman working her way up the ladder, in a sense it is all the same dream. Regardless of the goal one works towards, it all comes down to success. Success includes getting ahead at work and school, and the goal of attaining wealth, power, and prestige.
Without success why would anyone want to do anything? You would think that success is free to every American, but it is not. Success is afforded or denied to a person if they qualify. In Death of a Salesman, I believe Willy Loman was not successful in anything he did because he lived in his own world.
A big indicator to one's success is their performance on the job. If a person is doing well, generally, they are successful.
In the beginning of the play Willy Loman comments on how he was "vital to New England". This is a great example of how Willy's distortion compromised his obtainment of success. In all reality he was not "vital to New England", but a hindrance to his company. This is one reason why Willy Loman never obtained the American Dream.
Another indicator to success is wealth. Although you cannot attribute happiness to wealth, you can buy things and live comfortably, which a lot of people believe is the epitome of the American dream.
On Willy's last trip he made a commission of $70. But they owed money on a refrigerator fan belt and a carburetor for the car, which totaled $120. All these things were already breaking. Willy was constantly in a race with the junkyard; he was constantly frustrated that he couldn't use anything after they were all paid for.
The last indicator to success is prestige. If you think about one person that you know is successful, I bet they have prestige. Willy Loman is lacking in this department as well. Willy believes that he is well liked by a lot of people when in fact he is not. His entire life had been lived according to ideas about personal attractiveness and being well liked.
He never questioned these values and never realized that he lived in a world of illusions and dreams.
I think the American dream is alive and well. However, I might suggest, that for some the odds are nearly impossible to overcome as with Willy Loman. There are a lot of people out there that have to work three times as hard to receive the kind of things others take for granted. And there are those that may work just as hard as hard as any, but are destined to never get as far as the ceiling that America has put on them.