The American Dream as It Relates to Death of a Salesman Essay

1173 Words Feb 6th, 2008 5 Pages
The American Dream as it Relates to Death of a Salesman The theme of the American Dream is extremely prevalent in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. It is so prevalent that there are literally hundreds of different to ways to analyze how the theme is used in the play. One interesting perspective is that the different characters in the play represent different versions of the American Dream. Biff represents the 19th century version of the American Dream, Happy represents the 20th century version, and Willy represents a combination of the two, and is torn between them.
In the 19th Century the American Dream was symbolized by the ownership of rich farm land or the attaining of independent craftsmanship. Biff is representative of this
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He seems hell-bent on getting at others who he perceives to be more successful than himself. This can be observed when it is revealed that the girl he had been with that night was engaged to be married to the guy in line for the vice presidency of the store, and that this is the third executive to whom he has done this. Happy is also somewhat of a dreamer but wants success as it is he who hatches the idea of the selling of sporting goods.
A combination of the two above versions of the dream is represented by Willy. In Willy we see the personification of the past infiltrating the present. Present events bring to mind past memories and Willy spends a lot of time actually speaking to Young Biff and to a degree to Young Happy.
He also has dreams and goals, including wanting a hammock to swing between trees and being able to build things (19th Century American Dream) and wanting to pay off his house and have other material things (20th Century American Dream). His job as a salesman is the quintessential 20th Century American Dream job. He swings like a pendulum between the two versions of the dream and often finds himself in a very unclear middle ground. Miller himself observed in a notebook entry "Life is formless … its interconnections are formed by lapses of time, by events occurring in separated places, by the hiatus of memory" (Miller,

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