Critical Essay – Drama The idea that any person can rise from humble beginnings to greatness is the basis of the American Dream. Arthur Miller paints a harsh picture of this ideal in the drama Death of a Salesman. The main character, Willy Loman, is a complex and tragic figure. He is a man striving to hold onto what dignity he has left in a world that no longer values the beliefs he grew up with. While society can be blamed for much of Willy’s misfortune, he must also be blamed for his bad judgement, disloyalty and his foolish pride. Willy Loman’s own delusions are a result of his failure to succeed in life.
He still believes he is popular, respected and good-looking. But at age sixty-three, he is none of those. When presented with a bill he knows he cannot pay, Willy convinces himself that a sales trip to Hartford will solve his problems. He vows to his wife, ‘I’ll knock ’em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford, I’m very well liked in Hartford’; (1809).
However, in those moments that he begins to realize the truth, his wife Linda while understanding his situation, supports his delusion.
She says to him ‘… you ” re the handsomest man in the world’; (1809).
But the truth is being popular and good looking is not the key to success. Success is achieved through hard work and perseverance. The American Dream has long turned sour for Willy. At the beginning of his life, he remembers travelling in a wagon going westward.
... I will knock them dead in Hartford. I'm very well liked in Hartford," (12). He also uses his ... being fired. There are several ways in which Willy avoids his problems. First, rather then deal ... In escaping this reality he ultimately destroys himself. Willy says, "I did 500 gross in Providence and ... of stress. And the constants flashbacks and disillusions Willy goes through to deal with these problems bring ...
His parents conquered the new frontier and succeeded. His brother Ben, ‘Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich’; (1811).
For a while, the American Dream was alive in Willy too. He helped stake out new territories by selling his goods, his son Biff was going to a university with a scholarship and he had a home with no apartments closing in on him. But now, Willy is forced to work on commission at an old age and ultimately fired by his godson. His favored son Biff is also a hopeless dreamer, unable to hold on to a job.
Willy’s ‘fatherly advice’; advocated ‘… it’s not what you do. It’s who you know and the smile on your face’; (1833).
Willy’s delusions of fame and fortune infected his own life and spread to the sons he had placed such high hopes on. Another problem with Willy’s ideals is that he has lost sight of achieving the true goal of the American Dream, happiness and freedom, and the dream took control of him. He struggled to achieve something that he could not.
He did not have the talent to be a salesman. He became so obsessed with living the dream that he was unable to be content with his talents in carpentry and with his family. When Willy’s successful neighbor comments ‘… that’s a piece of work.
To put up a ceiling is a mystery to me’; … (1812), Willy almost becomes indignant. He possesses a talent that many would envy. However Willy’s ego will not allow him to accept this as an occupation in the pursuit of the American Dream. He believed the untruth that it was more prestigious to be a less than adequate businessman than a content handyman. Willy is at the bottom in the world of business.
He owns nothing, and he makes nothing, so he has no sense of accomplishment. However, for Willy to live by his ideals, he is forced to tell lies. These illusions replace reality in Willy’s mind. He tells lies about how well liked he is in all of his towns, and how vital he is to his territory.
Willy created a reality for himself where he ‘knocked ’em cold in Providence,’ ; and ‘slaughtered ’em in Boston’; (1807).
... when all he is doing is selling all the dreams his family has ever had, the only thing that has ever ... so much for the family and he is not even capable of providing his son Travis with some pocket ... he will watch the same occurrence happen to his son... Walter's Situation Walter's mama gives him the ... similar to the Thomas's living conditions in Native Son. He sees his future just like Bigger Thomas in ...
Even when confronted with the harsh reality of being fired from his job, Willy declares, ‘… in 1928 I had a big year. I averaged a hundred and seventy dollars a week in commissions’; (1831).
Willy’s boss impatiently tells him, ‘Willy, you never averaged… ‘; (1831).
Once again, Willy’s delusion prevents him from facing the truth regarding his value to the company. Willy gradually realizes that his selling career is over. He foolishly believes it is below his dignity to work any other job.
Willy decides to commit suicide, so that his family may get the money from his life insurance. He does not consider his family’s love, but prefers to look at what is the best business move. Willy believes that this final act will give the family a chance financially. As well as salvage his own delusion of lost dignity when they see the ‘masses’; that attend his funeral. Willy’s final act of suicide was the ultimate delusion: bad judgement, disloyalty and foolish pride.