The Shattered Dream in Death of a Salesman Essay

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The Shattered Dream in Death of a Salesman

In America, anyone with some drive, some talent, and half a brain can be a success. Or so Willy Loman believes. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman tells the story of a man who seems predestined for failure, though he tries his best to succeed. Willy Loman is a symbol for the common man who tries and tries and tries, but is somehow unable to attain the "American Dream" of status and success.

Miller combines the archetypal tragic hero with the common American citizen. The result is the anti-hero, Willy Loman. He is a simple, unsuccessful salesman whose only goal in life is to become a respected, successful salesman. Nevertheless, Willy's waning career and old
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Willy's son, Biff, calls his father a 'prince', evoking a possible comparison with Shakespeare's Hamlet, prince of Denmark.. Thus, the play appeals greatly to the audience because it elevates an ordinary American to heroic status. Death of a Salesman seems to conform to the 'tragic' tradition that there is an anti-hero whose state of hamartia causes him to suffer. The audience is compelled to genuinely sympathise with Willy's demise largely because he is an ordinary man who is subject to the same temptations as the rest of us.

Miller uses many characters to contrast the difference between success and failure in the American system. Willy Loman is a deluded salesman whose vivid imagination is far greater than his sales ability. Linda, Willy's wife, honorably stands by her husband even in the absence of fundamental realism. To some extent she acknowledges Willy's aspirations but, naively, she also accepts them. Consequently, Linda is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this dysfunctional family and their inability to face reality. In restraining Willy from his quest for wealth in the Alaska, the 'New Continent', ironically the only realm where the "dream" can be fulfilled, Linda destroys any hope the family has of achieving 'greatness'. Even so, Linda symbolically embodies the play's ultimate value: love. In her innocent love of Willy, Linda accepts her husband's falsehood, his dream, but, in

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