America has long been known and still is considered as the land of opportunities. The term "American dream" has a variety of the interpretations. Some people might say that this means to become wealthy and live in a big house. The others might think that American dream might be defined as a quick way of achieving the success that does not depend on the initial position someone has in society (or another words start with nothing), but achieving this success through personal fulfillments.
To begin with, the theory fails because Willy believes that in order to be successful a person just need to be well-liked, if a man is attractive he goes far in life. Therefore, from the beginning of his career as a salesman and in teaching his sons, Willy chooses an individual attractiveness as a main mean to achieve success, not to be hard-working. Willy explains this principle of being successful to his sons, "â€¦I thank Almighty God you are both built like Adonises. 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 you will never want. You take me for instance. I never have to wait in line to see buyer. "Willy Loman is here!" That's all they have to know, and I go right through" (p. 1568).This false mean or even more, such a poor ethnic to realize one's ambition to succeed in business is the reason why Willy has neither of the wealth and success in his life.
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Because Willy's sons were taught this principle as well, they also cannot attain the success. Once Happy says that even though he has what he wants "â€¦My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I'm lonely", and on Biff's question whether Happy is successful, Happy replies, "Hell, no!"(p. 1563). So, Happy's definition of success is similar to his father, and it is not valid at all.
In addition to the false belief that the attractiveness leads to success, Willy has an elusive idea that the perseverance will help to succeed even though his son Biff, as an example, does not fit a job of a salesman that Willy wants him to perform. Biff becomes a drifter because he "â€¦just can't take a hold of some kind of life" (p. 1578). This happens with Biff because Willy is wrong by forcing Biff to perform in business where Willy has not achieved success.
Willy does not give a chance to his sons to choose a way where they could express themselves, and even the firmness could not help his sons to achieve the success. Biff feels that time spent in Midwest was most inspiring for him, but the understanding that he needs to make his future makes him always to return home. In conversation with Happy Biff agrees that "What the hell I'm doing, playing around the horses, twenty-eight dollars a week! I am thirty- four years old", but when he comes home, according to Biff, "I don't know what to do with myself" (p.1562). The oppression Biff has from Willy ruins his dreams and life.
Finally, the theory fails because of the illusion that any person can accomplish the American dream, although the theory demands to show matching type of personality. Unlike his father, Biff understands that he could not do business because he is not a business-oriented person. In the last conversation with his father Biff claims that in the Oliver's office he has understood that he tries to become a kind of person he does not want to be and fools himself by trying to please Willy. Moreover, Biff does not see himself a diligent person as his father but a man "one dollar an hour" (p.1617).
Willy's brother, Ben, was a rich man who made a big business in the diamond mines in Africa. Ben in the conversation with Willy says, "William, when I walked into jungle, I was seventeen. When I walked out, I was twenty-one. And, by God, I was rich!" (p.1577) Therefore, such false beliefs about his brother success influence Willy's behavior towards his sons who become the victims of his illusions that every man can become rich starting from nothing.
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In brief, in Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller demonstrates the effects of the theory of the American dream on the life of people who seek the happiness through the pursuit of the American dream. This is the reason to consider this play as one of the foundational texts describing the American dream. In fact, Arthur Miller defines the theory of the American dream overwhelmingly cynical by showing certain failures of this concept, such as the belief that well liked person who does not have matching type of personality with the perseverance can achieve success in life.