The play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller was first performed in 1949 on Broadway receiving immediate success and admiration from the majority of fans. It is deceptively simple story of a tragic road to the ultimate suicide of a salesperson that is struck by an emotional chord with the American audiences (Hurell, 82). It is the reality that the story indicated that led to its acclamation by many major awards with its production performance running for 742 times before its closure. It made the play become one of America’s most performed and adapted plays in the American theatrical history. Arthur was able to write such a magnificent piece through the conjoining of various aspects of artistry and taking advantage of a theme that the public could attach to at all levels. The play is majorly themed on the American dream turned into the American nightmare and the struggle of the populace in the fight to accomplish the dream. The American dream has over time become unrealistic for the majority of the citizens and is also the cause of significant pain and even results to devastation if not attained.
The American dream has been and is still, a dream of for every individual to be able to grow to their full development. Every individual holds the hope of being able to epitomize the democratic ideal and aspirations that America had been founded upon, and it is the American way of life that is available and developed for every individual in any given social class (Hurell, 85). The American dream as a theme was used primarily to mimic the lifestyle of many Americans at the time. Arthur tackles the significant social question of the then effect that came with capitalism in the American dream myth on the ordinary families. Tapping into the realities that faced Americans, he can bring out the contrast between those that live in mansions with private jets and those that are forced to live in tunnels and passageways begging for a meal. It is the harsh reality that faced Americans though the majority of the Americans felt competitive and ambitious to be able to join the minorities that have actualized the American dream by getting the high-end life.
Miller also tries to indicate the successes and failures that exist within the American system even as the majority are in pursuit of achievement and the frustration that failure may ultimately bring (45). By the use of a character named Willy Loman, as the dreamy typical American citizen that works as a sale agent, he holds dreams that are much bigger than his sales capacity (Miller, 50). His wife Linda, on the other hand, stands by him even though she could see the lack of realism in his ambitions and pursuit of what the society demarcated as a success. Biff and Happy also follow I the fallacy of their father while Ben is the only member of the Loman family that has the special aspect that is needed to achieve and be great. Charlie and Bernard his son, on the contrary, enjoyed better success as compared to the Lomans. Miller uses the play and romanticizes it to demonstrate the rural agrarian dream that society holds. However, there not all that can attain the particular dreams that they hold and it is this that may lead to the dream becoming a nightmare. The American dream becomes a nightmare to Willy and his family when he ends up committing suicide due to the inability to attain the desired goals in his life (Miller, 100).
Willy engages in acts of self-denial and acts in a delusional manner. It is because he tries to make himself better by holding on to the belief that he is still a successful business person he is going to the depths of lying to his family just as an ego defense mechanism on the harsh reality that faced him as an individual. He also disguises his significant anxiety and self-doubt with his increased arrogance and is periodically unable to maintain the image of strength that he so strongly wants to keep masking into his family and other people. However, with time he gets to a point of despair as he pleads with the other successful people around him for guidance and a form of mentorship. Despite the efforts that he puts, it came out clearly that Willy Loman is not as successful as he thinks he is not well networked and is also not liked by many people (Miller, 70). He was getting old and things seemed to get even bleaker for him since he could no longer drive competently, make any sales or even pay his bills sufficiently. Despite his failure to meet his goals in life from a tender age, he still holds on to the American dream and that anyone attractive and charismatic can be successful in America.
Willy is also an individual that is driven by the strong desire to succeed and is also a huge attention seeker. He often makes references to his older brother Ben who had made a fortune in Africa out of diamonds because it is the life that he wants to live (Miller, 34). It is the character, motivations and the destiny of Willy that are developed through his interactions with others in the play. His attention seeking tendencies are groomed by his strong false sense of his nobility and influence that leads to his making many wrong decisions along the way. He lives an unfulfilled and unhappy life in his pursuit of the American dream. For him, it turns out to be his American nightmare upon realizing that he was aging and still had not achieved the much that he wanted to attain.
The two plays by Arthur Miller that is the Death of a Salesman and All my Sons are similar in that they offer a criticism of the ideal American Dream. Following the ending of the Second world war, the family fathers in the two plays that are Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and Joe Keller in All my sons play are all after the fulfillment that comes with achieving the dream (Miller, 12). they so desperately want to attain their goals that they all ultimately commit suicide after realizing that they had failed to reach the dream for their families.
The two main characters are also influenced by the capitalistic nature of the country. However, Willy Loman is of the lower middle class working as a salesperson whereas Joe Keller is the upper middle-class business owner. Willy fails to achieve his dream of achieving more to secure a hood future for his sons Biff and Happy bur fails to attain his dream leading to committing suicide. On the other hand, Joe Keller feels that he needs more money to be able to maintain his family and that he cannot keep a family without money and property (Miller, 33). Therefore, in the pursuit of more success over the Second World War he gets into the business of selling defect airplane engine heads that end up causing a crash that claimed twenty-one American planes. In fear of the consequences, he blames his partner for the shipment and manages to get away (Miller, 50). However, upon learning that his son had committed suicide because he could not cope with his unethical lifestyle, the guilt in him leads to his committing suicide. It was different from what Willy as a salesperson faced since Willy was never able to attain any of his dreams, unlike Keller who at least had a thriving business that led to income. Willy’s salesperson job was not sustainable and was unsuccessful though he remained clean and ethical, unlike Keller, who resulted to unscrupulous methods to further increase his riches in pursuit of the American dream.
In conclusion, it is clear that it is the idealistic lifestyle of then capitalistic America that has led to the heartaches and even demise of many Americans. A majority of Americans are running after a life that is illusionary and not guaranteed and hence the need to ensure that individuals remain within the threshold of realism. The American dream has over time become unrealistic for the majority of the citizens and is also the cause of major pain and even results to devastation if not attained.
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