English Literature » Notes » Death of a Salesman: American Dream

Death of a Salesman: American Dream

The tragedy of Willy Loman, says Arthur Miller, is:

“Willy gave his life, or sold it, in order to justify the waste of it…”

Willy represents Every low-man in America. Hence, it is a tragedy of every American. The play is really a challenge to the American Dream because it is the tragedy of a man troubled by the society. Willy believes in American myth that “Success is obtained by being well-liked”. His dream ends up in nightmare. So the play challenges to new American capitalistic concepts.

American dream means the dream of becoming rich overnight. The scale and merit of success is money, big house, a costly car and other material things. Nobility, truth, honesty are not merits. Values have been changed through this dream. Instead of hard work and courage, there is salesmanship. It implies fraud, the ability to sell a commodity regardless of its intrinsic uselessness. The goal of salesmanship is to earn a profit.

So, in these circumstances, man ceases to be man and spiritually he is hollow. He constantly wears a mask hiding his deceptive frauds. The only reality, the only goal is that of material success. The same situation happens with Willy Loman. By this way, Willy, to a large extent, represents Every Low-man in America. His fall, his death reflects the total break down of the concept of salesmanship, an integral part of America setup.

Willy believes that life’s problems can be solved by looking “Well-liked”. But he does not realizes the fact that the age in which he is living, the good looks does not matter, what matters is the wealth you have. By wealth you can buy anything. All relations are useless before almighty dollar. He receives his severest blows when he needs the greatest amount of love and care. He is unable to travel extensive. He makes a request to his young employer to relieve him of such a tiring burden and give him a comfortable job. But, for the capitalism businessman no moral or legal obligation can be biding. To him, Willy is commercially as useless as the peels of a fruit. So, he says:

I can’t take blood from a stone.

In fact, “Death of a Salesman” is a red light for American society. It shows that all Americans adopt one million ideas and dream for success. Everyone wants to become the president of America, but when he fails to achieves his dreams, he becomes frustrated. Willy’s suicide is a caution for such modern values.
Eugene O’Neil comments on the failure of American dream in following lines:

I am going on the theory that the United States, instead of being the most successful country in the world, is the greatest failure.

In conclusion we can say that Miller in “Death of a Salesman” has tried to show the failure of American dream. Implicitly, he tells us tht man is not a machine, he has emotions too. Thus placing all the values on riches is wrong. The whole situation he sums up in Biff’s remark who says on his father’s death.

He had the wrong dream. All, all wrong.