The portrayal of the American Dream in “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" is a poignant examination of the American Dream and the sacrifices one must make to achieve it. Through the character of Willy Loman, Miller explores the idea that the American Dream is a myth and that the pursuit of material success can lead to emotional and psychological ruin.
One of the most important themes in the play is the concept of the American Dream. In the post-World War II era, many Americans believed that if they worked hard and were determined, they could achieve anything they wanted. The idea was that anyone could become successful if they were willing to put in the effort. However, Willy Loman's story shows that this is not always the case. Willy has worked hard his entire life but has never been able to achieve the success he desires. He is constantly striving for more, but no matter how hard he tries, he can never seem to reach his goals.
Willy's obsession with the American Dream is evident from the very beginning of the play. He is constantly talking about his plans for the future, his hopes and dreams for his sons, and his desire for success. However, his focus on the material aspects of success blinds him to the more important things in life, such as his relationship with his family. Willy's single-minded pursuit of the American Dream ultimately leads to his downfall, as he becomes increasingly delusional and unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy.
One of the most interesting aspects of Miller's portrayal of the American Dream is that he doesn't completely condemn it. Instead, he suggests that the problem lies not with the idea of the American Dream itself but with the way that it is pursued. Willy's downfall is not caused by his desire for success but by his inability to see that there are other things in life that are more important.
Another important theme in the play is the concept of masculinity. Willy is a man who defines himself by his ability to provide for his family, and he sees himself as a failure when he is unable to do so. His belief in the importance of masculine strength and power is evident throughout the play, as he constantly emphasizes the need for his sons to be "tough" and "manly."
Miller uses the character of Willy to explore the negative effects of this kind of masculinity. Willy's obsession with success and his belief in the importance of masculine power lead him to become emotionally distant from his family and to ignore their needs and desires. His belief in the importance of success also leads him to make decisions that are not in his best interest, such as borrowing money he cannot repay or refusing to accept a job that does not meet his expectations.
Miller's use of symbolism is also important to his portrayal of the American Dream. The most significant symbol in the play is the idea of the "American West," which represents the promise of the American Dream. For Willy, the American West represents the possibility of a better life, a place where he can start over and achieve the success he desires. However, the symbol is ultimately empty, as the American West does not provide the escape from reality that Willy is seeking.
In conclusion, Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" is a powerful exploration of the American Dream and the sacrifices one must make to achieve it. Through the character of Willy Loman, Miller shows that the pursuit of material success can lead to emotional and psychological ruin. However, Miller also suggests that the problem lies not with the idea of the American Dream itself but with the way that it is pursued. Ultimately, Miller's use of symbolism, characterization, and theme make "Death of a Salesman" a timeless masterpiece that speaks to the hopes and fears of people everywhere.