The portrayal of the American Dream in “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" is a play that depicts the life of an ordinary salesman, Willy Loman, and his family's struggles in pursuit of the American Dream. The American Dream is the idea that anyone, regardless of their background, can achieve prosperity and success through hard work and determination. However, Miller challenges this notion through the portrayal of the Loman family and their shattered dreams. The use of artistic elements such as setting, characterization, and symbolism enhance the themes and messages of the play, including the portrayal of the American Dream.
The setting of the play takes place in New York City during the 1940s. The Loman family lives in a small house surrounded by towering apartment buildings, representing the overwhelming sense of insignificance and powerlessness in a city filled with ambition and competition. The house is also located near the highway, symbolizing the constant movement and restlessness of the city. Furthermore, Willy's constant references to his travels to different states and cities evoke the idea of the American Dream, as he believed that traveling and selling would lead to success and prosperity. However, the use of setting ultimately emphasizes the failure of the American Dream, as the Loman family is confined to their small house in a city that has left them behind.
The characterization of the Loman family also highlights the failure of the American Dream. Willy, the protagonist, is a salesman who has been in the business for over thirty years. He is obsessed with the idea of success and being well-liked, believing that popularity and personal connections are the keys to achieving the American Dream. However, his delusional thinking and lack of success ultimately lead to his downfall. His wife, Linda, is loyal to her husband but is also trapped in the American Dream's illusion. She is supportive of Willy's dream, even though it has brought them financial hardship and emotional turmoil. Their sons, Biff and Happy, are also victims of the American Dream. Both are searching for their place in the world, but Biff's rejection of the traditional success path and Happy's shallow desires highlight the flawed nature of the American Dream.
Symbolism is also used extensively throughout the play to emphasize the themes and messages of the American Dream's failure. One of the most prominent symbols is Willy's car, which represents his identity and status. The car is initially seen as a sign of success, but as the play progresses, it becomes a symbol of Willy's failure and inadequacy. The car is old and unreliable, representing Willy's inability to keep up with the modern world's demands. The play's title, "Death of a Salesman," also represents the American Dream's failure. Willy's death, both metaphorically and literally, signifies the death of the traditional American Dream and the realization that the dream is unattainable for many.
In conclusion, Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" portrays the American Dream's failure through the use of artistic elements such as setting, characterization, and symbolism. The play's use of these elements enhances the themes and messages of the play, including the Loman family's portrayal and their shattered dreams. Ultimately, Miller challenges the traditional American Dream's notion, suggesting that the dream is an illusion and often leads to personal and emotional turmoil.