The play, “Death of a businessman” was written by Arthur Miller in 1949. According to reasonable amount of evidence from the play, it is a parody of the American dream. The pursuit of this essay is to determine the extent of truth in this allegation. In order to comprehend the topic fully, it is important to have a glimpse of the meaning of the American dream. The dream is all about having a fulfilling life where one possess a decent job, house, car, good social connection and respect. The American dream concept is said to have been born in the in the nineteenth century. During that time, there was massive immigration to America by millions of people looking for fulfilling lives. All it counts for one to be within the limits of the American dream is possession of important things in life such as well paying job, home and a satisfying social life. The first time the phrase “American dream” came into existence was in 1867 after author Horatio Alger’s book, “Dick”. The book gave a story of a poor boy that moved from rags-to-riches. The boy was so determined. He worked hard, saved his money and eventually became rich. Therefore, the story was a great inspiration that determination, honesty and hard work were avenues to the realization of American dream. There are various connections in the play, “Death of a salesman” with the American dream.
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During the West movement, the American dream concept was developed. The conditions of living as at that time played a crucial role in the birth of the concept. There was extreme social stratification in Europe which caused many settlers to leave. The monarchy imposed extreme suppression on the middle class people. At that time, a life of a person in Europe was determined by the social class he/she occupied and how financially able his/her parents were. It was impossible to overcome the social barriers between different classes. The settlers sought to look for a better future and eventually found it in American habits. In the play, the author does not mention the products that the Willy Loman sells. Perhaps this can be seen as an opportunity to give diversified interpretations from the viewers. Similarly, it can be seen as a representation of all people. The interpretation given by each viewer should suit their life. Willy Loman is presented as a very optimistic salesman who is driven by false hopes of becoming rich one day. The criticism can be justified from the author’s socialist inclinations. Nevertheless, there are varied interpretations about the harsh criticism of the American dream presented by the author. The interpretation is highly dependent on the beliefs of the character analyzing the story.
Willy Loman is the protagonist in the play, “Death of a salesman”. As the author presents it, the protagonist has the desire to attain the American dream. However, it is ridiculous that he wants to achieve the dream through charisma. The greatest belief that Willy Loman possesses about his attainment of the American dream is personality and not innovation and hard work. The pursuit of the protagonist is to ensure that there is immense liking of his boys by the people. Willy hopes that if his boys are liked by other people and popular, they will definitely attain the American dream. For instance, when Biff confesses to making fun of the teacher’s lisp, the father is extremely concerned with the manner in which the classmates reacted to the joke. “BIFF: I crossed my eyes and talked with a lithp. WILLY: (Laughing.) You did? The kids like it? BIFF: They nearly died laughing! Of course” (28). The version of Willy’s American dream seems distorted and is a total criticism of the true American dream. In spite of the popularity that Biff possesses in school, he grows to be a ranch-hand. Eventually, the Willy’s career fails due to his poor techniques in sales. However, Willy maintains his personality that he must live the American dream. It is his misplaced personality that totally eliminates him. When he approaches his boss in demand for a promotion on the basis of his personality, the boss sacks him.
From the play, there are several instances that represent the American dream in its true nature. For instance, the protagonist brings to the fore some of the characters that lived to achieve the true American dream. An example of such a character is Willy’s brother Ben. Through the achievement that Ben acquired, Willy is jealousy about it. Willy expresses the humble beginning that Ben had before he later became rich. The journey for Ben towards being rich was not a simple one. Willy says that Ben set out for the jungle with clothes on his back. By the time Ben was twenty-one, he had already become immensely wealthy. At that young age, Ben was a proud owner of many mines for diamond. “That man was a genius, that man was success incarnate!” (32). Willy also tells of a story of a man who lived the American dream- his father. As Willy gives the account of Ben’s success, he remembers his father’s experiences. The father is said to have been a great inventor who set out to provide a fulfilling life to his family. He traveled with his family towards the west into America. Due to the success he attained through selling the inventions he made, he became rich.
The author presents the characters in different ways according to their view of the American dream. The protagonist’s perception is painted in a ridiculous manner. The pursuit of the American dream is demonstrated through his charisma and lack of commitment in his work. The author paints Willy as a character who lacks innovation. He is a mere fanatic and does not live in reality. Willy believes in attainment of great success through simple ways, effortlessly. It is through this lopsided thinking pattern that Willy ignores the importance of hard work in the attainment of his American dream. Willy’s brother, Ben represents a true path towards the American dream. When Ben sets out into the jungle, he is only seventeen years. However, he comes out at twenty-one a rich man. The author demonstrates a clear picture of the American dream through Ben’s encounter. The poor young boy moves from rags-to-riches. However, the process is not very comfortable; it involves immense risk and self denial. Ben denies himself the comfort and safety enjoyed by his brother Willy. He leaves for the jungle oblivious of the dangers facing him. His determination is just one- to get rich in spite of the challenges.
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The author shows that the American dream can only be achieved through persistence and possession of immense aggressiveness in business. In a modern world of great competition and extinction of competitors, the fittest of all people will rule. Willy’s lack of practicality wastes his American dream. He dies with his dream. His son realizes the mistake and vows not to be a prey to Willy’s confused dream. Biff decides to escape his father’s dream and pursue his own, “BIFF: There’s nothing more inspiring or – beautiful than the sight of a mare and a new colt. And it’s cool there now, see? Texas is cool now, and it’s spring. And whenever spring comes to where I am, I suddenly get the feeling, my God, I’m not getting’ anywhere! What the hell am I doing, playing around with horses, twenty-eight dollars a week! I’m thirty-four years old. I oughta be makin’ my future. That’s when I come running home.” (85).
From the foregoing, the author creates a picture of different characters and their perception of the American dream. The protagonist’s perspective is a complete satire of the American dream. Realization of personal success and achievement is a representation of the capitalistic tendencies of the American dream. The author demonstrates the agony and suffering that individuals have to put up with in their pursuit of the American dream. The negative aspects of the American dream are represented in the individual struggle and the eventual selfishness they depict after they achieve their goals. For instance, when Ben struggles to excel, he suffers profound pain. However, when he becomes rich, he gets tough and ruthless towards his nephew Biff.
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