The Impact Of The American Dream On Willy Loman’s Life

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During the early to mid 1940’s the term “American Dream” became popularized and was a widespread goal. It was based on a set of ideals that included democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality which gave a chance for success, along with social notability for a family and their children. This ideal is part of a logic of thinking known as Ethos, which means character. It is described as a set of guiding beliefs and ideals that help to characterize a community. In the play “Death Of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, Willy is so adamant about achieving the american dream for him and his family that he loses touch with reality by trying to achieve something that is so far fetched. In turn he ends up becoming so delirious to the point where the American dream will never be achieved. 

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Throughout the course of the play Willy is searching for many things. He wants a better life for him and his family. He also wants his sons Biff and Happy to follow in his footsteps as a salesman in order to live his opinion of an ideal life. He is trying to be the most successful person in New England and wants to make a name for himself by the end of his career. Above all he is searching for self worth, to feel fulfilled with his family and his job. He will stop at nothing to make himself believe that the only way to be happy is to live the American dream. He does not end up finding these things because he is so caught up in his prosperity to have the American dream that he in turn becomes delirious. He has forced a false reality onto his family and coworkers. Instead of accepting his adversities and trying to slowly fix them, he instead turns to infidelity and fantasizing about his past to cope with his current struggles. Willy never had a chance of fulfilling the American dream due to him being out of touch with reality. Almost as if he is stuck in his own fantasy. A key example of Willy stuck in his own fantasy is from act 1 when he reflects on the time when his son Biff was a football star in high school. “Like a young god. Hercules — something like that. And the sun, the sun all around him. Remember how he waved to me? Right up from the field with the representatives of three colleges standing by? And the buyers I brought, and the cheers when he came out — Loman, Loman, Loman! God Almighty, he’ll be great yet. A star like that, magnificent, can never really fade away.” All he wanted to do was showcase his son to the community to try to convince them that his son is a prime example of the American dream. 

Willy Loman was not born a loser, although he was not brought up being the best off, he has consequently put himself in the position he is in today because he stands in his own way to success. During a scene in act 2 Willy is in Howard’s office trying to convince him to give him a job that pays good. Howard thinks otherwise and advises him to ask his sons for help and take some time off work. “Howard: Where are your sons? Why don’t your sons give you a hand? Willy: They’re working on a very big deal. Howard: This is no time for false pride, Willy. You go to your sons and tell them that you’re tired. You’ve got two great boys, haven’t you? Willy: Oh, no question, no question, but in the meantime…”. Willy is so delirious into trying to be a successful salesman that he immediately shuts down Howard’s suggestion. He can’t accept the fact that his life isn’t perfect and that everything can not always go in his favor. He can not possibly imagine having to tell his family and friends that he is not doing the best financially and that his dream of having the perfect life isn’t exactly in his favor. 

The American dream can mean many different things in the eyes of a person. Depending on your current mental or financial situation, trying to conform to an ideology and belief can sometimes lead to a bad outcome. Throughout the course of each decade, there will always be a trend or lifestyle that intrigues people enough to try and believe that in order to be happy and feel complete, that they must conform to what is most desirable. In the story, when it comes to the characters, there is one that sticks out that I compare to most. That character is Biff Loman. He is the oldest of the two brothers and it always trying to prove to his father that not being a salesman is not the end of the world and that in order to live a fulfilled life, it’s better to do what you love even if it does not pay well instead of trying to conform to society just to try and fit in. 

In conclusion Willy was so caught up in trying to achieve what he believes was the American dream that he in turn ruined it for himself. As the story progressed he became more and more adamant about making the American dream a reality. He shut out his wife and kids, and also made bad decisions in order to try to distract himself to from what was really going on in his life. 

16 August 2021

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