Willy Loman's American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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Willy Loman's American Dream in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman is the story of Willy Loman, a middle-class salesman who, in the course of a single day, comes to realize that the American Dream, which he has pursued for 40 years, has failed him. Willy's relentless, but naive pursuit of success has not only affected his sense of his own worth but has dominated the lives of his wife Linda and his sons Biff and Happy. In the course of the play he realizes his true position in life, and in a final attempt to secure his personal dignity and provide a future for his sons through his life insurance, he commits suicide.

Willy Loman is, for Miller, the antithesis of the classic tragic hero. As his name implies, he
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In Death of a Salesman, Miller is not so much calling into question the pursuit of the American Dream, but the dream itself. For Willy, his adventurer / explorer brother, Ben, and his salesman hero, Dave Singleman, are images of success, but the character of Ben is fantastical and the achievements of Dave are idealised and exaggerated. Using these as his benchmarks, Willy can never achieve the success he so desperately craves. Through a series of flashbacks in the play, where we witness Willy's persistent efforts to make the American Dream a reality for himself and his family, Miller launches a scathing attack on the very notion of the dream. He questions the values upon which American society is based and the way in which these contribute to the destruction of a man such as Loman.

Willy's obsession and lack of insight thwart all his relationships and cause him to betray his own set of values. His loyal and loving wife, Linda, supports him in both his fantasies and failures and her life seems to be entirely absorbed into his. Unable to achieve the desired success in his own career, he becomes preoccupied with ensuring the success of his two sons, in particular that of Biff who, he is convinced, is destined for greatness in his sporting, professional and social life. Sadly, his over-zealous attempts serve only to reinforce Biff's sense of inadequacy and lack of identity. Willy realises toward the end of the play that

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