Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman was written after the second World War while the American economy was booming. Society was becoming very materialistic, and the idea that anyone could “make it” in America was popular. These societal beliefs play a large part in Death of a Salesman, a play in which the main character, Willy Loman, spends a lifetime chasing after the American Dream.
Willy was sold on the wrong dream. He was enamored with a myth of American ideals and chose to put aside his real talents in pursuit of a fantasy. In several instances of the play, we see that Willy is a skilled carpenter. He wants to redo the front step ...view middle of the document...
Here we find one of Willy’s main problems. He is so busy striving to achieve financial success and widespread popularity that he ignores the unconditional love that his family gives. He is more concerned with being “well-liked” among the people he gives sales pitches to. His wife, Linda, views his job solely as a source of income, she is more concerned with Willy the person than Willy the salesman. However, instead of being content with the love of his wife, Willy has an affair with a woman while he is on the road. The woman has obviously bought Willy’s sales pitch; she likes him, and she gives his ego a boost. But she doesn’t love him. To Willy this isn’t important; she likes the man that he imagines himself to be. Willy chooses this artificial relationship over a real one because it fits in with his misguided ideals.
Towards the end of the play, reality begins to set in for Willy. After he is fired, he realizes that he will never live out the American Dream for himself. His hopes are crushed for a while, especially when he finds out how horribly Biff’s meeting with Bill Oliver went, and he loses his mind. But, he then thinks of a way to pass his dream on to Biff. When he realizes that Biff wasn’t just trying to “spite” him for all of those years, he returns to his old dreams. With the money from the insurance policy, Biff can surely become successful.
However, in the same scene where Willy becomes assured that Biff will become something great, we see just how disillusioned Biff has become. He can see through his father’s façade, and begs him to “take that phony dream and burn it before something happens.” (Miller, 133) Biff realized that Willy was a fake the night that he discovered his affair. Up until that point, Biff had believed in everything Willy said. We find out that this was a turning point in Biff’s life; from that moment on he didn’t care about anything else. However, this disillusionment eventually allowed Biff to free himself from the unrealistic dreams of his father. He knows that Willy is a fraud and that his ideas are phony. In addition, he is even able to blame his father for his inability to hold a job. “…I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody!” (Miller 131) He couldn’t stand to go through the regular routine of climbing the corporate ladder because he believed that success would just come to him.
Happy, on the other hand, still lives in his father’s fantasy world. This is ironic, because even though Biff is that much-favored son, Happy is much more like Willy. Happy has been infused with his father’s ideals and so continues to chase after the American dream. Like Willy, he finds fantasy easier to live in than reality. Lois Gordon states, “Hap, less favored by nature and his father…has escaped the closeness with his father that destroys Biff in social terms. Thus worshipping his gather from afar, Hap has never fully...