Essay Example on Book Review of Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller










Death of a Salesman is a tragicomedy centered on the events that take place at the end of Willy Loman's life. From the opening act, we learn that Willy and his family struggle to behave as a united front when they face financial pressures and strained familial bonds. This causes Willy to become desperate for success and validation. Death of a Salesman has commonly been interpreted as an analysis of the American dream. Within the ideal American society, citizens believe that the American dream allows each individual an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work determination and initiative. According to Willy Loman, the American dream is correlated to someone's likeability as opposed to someone's work ethic. The term American dream has become a phrase that is now attached to the play such that readers interpret it as Miller's only impactful theme. In fact, by saying that the play is solely explained by the American dream we create a blanket that covers up all of the other more concrete and narrowly focused themes within the story. This is not to say that the American dream is not somehow found within the play it's to say that there are more definite and fundamental aspects present within the story. At the core of Death of a Salesman, we see the themes of celebrity abandonment and altered reality arise all of which are more prominent and explanatory themes of the play as opposed to it being solely about the American dream.

The American dream has become this phrase used to explain the play as if it encompassed all of what it had to say. If we compared our definitions of the American dream they might be very different from one another and our definitions do not apply to everyone. For example, when examining the idea of wealth on the surface it seems like Willy Loman is concerned with his financial prospects and gain. Ultimately it's not the monetary reward that he seeks it s the idea of celebrity. The theme of celebrity arises through Willy's infatuation with success being attached to the Loman name. Throughout the play, we see that Willy is not concerned with the type of success but the immortality that it would bring to the family name. This need to glorify the Loman name is pushed onto his son Biff causing tension between the two due to Biff's inability to establish himself. During an argument between the two in Act I Willy states "They laugh at me, heh Go to Filene's go to the Hub go to Slattery's Boston Call out the name Willy Loman and see what happens". Big shot Miller 1178 demonstrating that he associates his personal value and success to the number of people who know his name.

The argument between Willy and Biff only subsides when Happy Biff's brother mentions a business proposal that would immortalize the family name. Come here Biff let's talk this over now let's talk some sense here You and I. Biff we have a line the Loman Line Miller 1178. Willy responds That's an idea Miller 1178. Showing again that his need to have legacy and fame is more important than the money itself. To Willy being a successful businessman means everyone knows your name without you necessarily knowing them yourself you're well-liked. In Willy's ideal world people knowing your name and being well-liked contributes to legacy as well as his need for validation. Willy's life has gone from one abandonment to the next leaving him in despair each time and explaining his need for recognition. From a very young age both his father and brother walked out of his life. As a result, Willy developed a fear of abandonment and a warped perception that being well-liked surpassed hard work. In Act I Willy states Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world the man who creates personal interest is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. You take me for instance. I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. Willy Loman is here Miller 1170 showing his efforts to raise perfect sons who reflect his reality of being well-liked and who could carry on the Loman name Biff the one Willy considers the embodiment of promise drops his ambitions when he finds out about his father's adultery. From then on Biff is unable to succeed in business furthering his estrangement from Willy and crushing his hopes for success within the family. At the end of Act II Biff shatters Willy's illusions Will you let me go for Christ's sake.

Will you take that phony dream and burn it before something happens. Miller 1197, and abandons Willy's notion of being well-liked. The shattering of Willy's most prominent illusion of personal attractiveness gives way to the major theme and conflict of Death of a Salesman the Loman family's inability to distinguish between reality and illusion. Willy has created a fantasy world for himself and his family. A world in which he and his sons are men of great men who can carry the family name to glory and men who are well-liked. Willy's need to feel well-liked is so strong that he often makes up lies that he himself believes. At one point Willy tells his family of how well-liked he is in all of his towns and how vital he is to New England. They don't need me in New York, I'm the New England, man I'm vital in New England Miller 1165. Later however he tells Linda that no one remembers him and that they laugh behind his back. Oh, I'll knock 'em dead next week, I'll go to Hartford. I'm very well-liked in Hartford. You know the trouble is Linda people don't seem to take to me Miller 1176, demonstrating Willy's need to feel well-liked.

This immense obsession with recognition causes Willy to become paranoid and drives a wedge further into his relationship with Biff. When Biff explains why he cannot become successful Willy believes that Biff is just simply trying to spite him. Willy refuses to acknowledge the reality of the world around him. Unfortunately, he never realizes that his delusions are flawed and in the end, this costs him his life. As Biff points out at the end of the play. He had the wrong dreams. All wrong Miller 1199. At the end of Death of a Salesman, we see that Willy Loman takes his own life not because he is disillusioned by the American dream but because he hopes to leave Biff money to carry on the Loman name. We see that the narrowly focused themes of celebrity abandonment and illusion vs reality are more prominent than that of the pressures of the American dream. Willy's need of celebrity negates the American dream by showing that Willy does not care for the money as much as he cares about legacy. The theme of abandonment shows that as opposed to the interpretation of hard work and success. Willy cares more about being well-liked. Within his warped perception success is calculated by someone's popularity not work ethic, therefore demonstrating yet another example of how the American dream does not fully apply to the play. Although aspects of the American dream are present within the play the interpretation that it explains the play in its entirety is a blanketed illusion. Meaning that this tunneled view limits the readers from seeing Death of a Salesman as a whole. Arthur Miller's tragicomedy focuses on much more than the failures of a dream it follows the downfall of a man who struggles to accept the reality of the world that surrounds him.

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