In the light of crucial viewpoints go over Miller’s expedition of the American Dream in Death of A Salesperson in relation to the characters of Willy and Biff Loman. Focus upon the concepts of success and failure within the American Dream in relation to Miller’s portrayal of Willy’s idolisation of Biff and the result this has on Biff’s life.
The term ‘The American Dream’ by its very nature is an unrealistic expression. Making use of the word dream shows the truth that although it is an aspirational idea it might not in fact be attained by the majority of the American population.
Some might argue that it is a dream born of a system, which aims to make use of the industrious individuals of America. In his critique of Death of A Salesperson Leonard Moss states ‘Is he (Miller) not attacking simply put, a system that is geared to exploit the common man?’? There are clearly circumstances within the play where the writer suggests it is difficult for Willy to achieve the dream. Although the idea of the American Dream is thought to result in equality among a country of immigrants, it might be viewed as being dictatorial. This is due to the fact that it is informing Americans how to live their lives and although one goal of the American Dream might be to accomplish flexibility, it might in real fact be oppressing those in pursuit of it.
The American Dream is explored throughout Death of A Salesperson. Willy misguides himself into believing that the American Dream is simple to acquire and will lead to success for him. He believes that it will all pertain to him quickly which he is deserving of it. But realistically, he pins his hopes on the American Dream a lot that it is the factor behind his demise. Willy’s faith in the American Dream remains strong although his own boy challenges him with truth by saying “Will you take that dream and burn it prior to something occurs?” (Page 102 Act 2). As one critic states, ‘the play romanticizes the rural-agarian dream however does not make it genuinely offered to Willy’?.
This suggests that the American Dream has a purpose to draw Americans into a false complacency believing that they can accomplish the American Dream and financial success. This can be seen in the play as Willy totally thinks in the idea of the American Dream however he does not have any hope of attaining it. The play concentrates on the American Dream and highlights what is perceived as success. Biff explains his desire to operate in the country and be complimentary “We do not belong in this nuthouse of a city! We should be blending cement on some open plain …” (Page 43 Act 1) whereas Willy’s perception of success leads him to think that he will automatically get popularity and fortune through business success. On the other hand Biff wishes to live an easy life like that of the pioneer figure in the American Dream myth.
This brings us to ask another concern: What can be defined as success in the American Dream? For some it might mean that hard work and endurance results in financial security, approval and quality. The concept of success is extremely ambiguous as it might have different significances to the people who want to accomplish it as their lives are private to them. ‘The whole life of the Loman household is dominated by this male’s idea of ‘success”?. Willy is in continuous pursuit of the American Dream.
Willy believes as long as he appears confident he will be liked by other individuals which they will be buying into him instead of his products “Because the guy who makes a look in the business world, the guy who produces personal interest, is the male who gets ahead!” (Page 20 Act 1). He bases his work principles on a successful salesman who had many individuals concern his funeral as he was preferred. Nevertheless, at Willy’s funeral, he shows to be nearly entirely friendless. Willy has actually misguided himself into thinking that he is so popular and well liked but it is suggested that self interest in society prevents emotional accessories.
An essential example of success is Ben. Willy is living in Ben’s shadow as he is the effective brother. He had the chance to go to Alaska with Ben however declined to remain in America. Ben was part of a team that discovered diamonds in the jungle and subsequently earnt a fortune from this. Biff wants to soul search and discover his place in society, but at the age of 34 he has not yet done so. Although, as a kid, Biff seems popular and successful he finds that he can not adhere to society and is still trying to find someplace he suits. Biff challenges his dad’s expectations of him by asking “Why am I attempting to become what I don’t want to be?” (Page 99 Act 2). Miller is maybe suggesting that financial instability results in the repression of uniqueness.
Willy pins all his hopes on Biff. ‘Willy Loman suddenly sees how deeply his own child could care for him. This discovery presses him to the last extreme of his illusion, weeping out: ‘That boy– that boy is going to be stunning!’ and: “Ben, he’ll praise me for it!”‘?. He finds the capacity in Biff and after that begins to live his failed dreams through Biff. He puts a lot of pressure on Biff to succeed. This damages their relationship and may likewise have led to Biffs kleptomaniac propensities (perhaps an indication of rebellion). Biff at first seems the all American kid who is capable of accomplishing the American Dream however the play shows how the most promising of people can ultimately end up being absolutely nothing in life
‘Richard J. Foster specifies ‘Biff, who in the play as an amplification of reflection of Willy’s issues, has been supported on Willy’s dreams too. But he has been required to see the reality”?. Willy idolised Biff when he was a child as he seemingly had whatever and the potential in life to prosper. Willy tries to make himself a much better person by making Biff effective. Subconsciously, Willy has actually understood that he has actually failed in life and will not accomplish the American Dream, yet he fails to publically confess this; both to himself and his family. Biff is able to see that neither he nor Willy can achieve the American Dream and tries to let Willy know this indirectly “Biff understands Willy had the incorrect dreams. In accepting the reality about his daddy, Biff has the ability to make a decision about his future based upon a reasonable view of his abilities”?. He rebels from his father’s ideals of success and way of livings and this might possible be a method which he is trying to tell his father that they can not attain the American Dream.
The style of unconditional assistance in between father and kid is explored in the play. “The character of Willy Loman is the “the little salesperson with a pathetic belief in his useless boy”?. As Willy is living his dreams through Biff, his love for Biff is great. He is willing to do whatever it takes to get Biff to accomplish something in life. When Biff is stopping working in Maths, Willy encourages him to cheat, and this represents the lengths that Willy would go to, to assist Biff. “That’s because he likes you. If somebody else took that ball there ‘d be an outcry” (Page 17 Act 1). Willy practically encourages Biff’s bad behaviour and excuses it since of his appeal. Willy’s daddy left him when he was a child.
Furthermore, he left no money or legacy to be passed onto Willy and Ben. This might have been the point in Willy’s life in which he began to suffer a social injustice as he felt figured out to make something of himself to pass onto additional generations to free them from the difficulty that he suffered. As Willy does not achieve this Biff is his last hope of having success related to him. Because his daddy left him as a kid with absolutely nothing, he is figured out to get Biff to accomplish something so that the Loman name is held with high regard. The name Loman is rather ironic as its specific components are ‘low-man’. This is significant in the play as it represents the common man and someone of low status who may be stereotyped as being unsuccessful in life and will total up to absolutely nothing.
The absence of success and achievements in Willy’s life have led to shifts in between the past and present in his mind. The shifts in between previous and present represent a time when Willy’s life was appealing and the American Dream was attainable. They also represent the irrational state of Willy’s mind. He is stuck in the past as it comforts him in times of trouble. He recollects over, what appeared to be, his prime as both a salesperson and a father. When the play is performed, it seems really logical and reasonable when Willy walks through a wall for example, and this signifies how real these shifts are in Willy’s mind. They reveal the illogical mental state of Willy. Willy is confused about where he is entering life and his mind is in a state of confusion.
The shifts in between past and present may suggest his failure to manage his life in the present and furthermore might be a method for him to escape his difficulties in today day. ‘Willy is the dreamy salesman whose imagination is much bigger than his sales ability’? and this connects to the shifts between previous and present. His imagination might lead him to a world in which he has no worries and feels that his life is fulfilling. In contrast to this, the language he uses is extremely simple.
Willy reveals himself through statements and clichï ¿ 1/2 s that are repeated so frequently that they border on monotonous with one example being “I’ll make it all approximately you Linda, I’ll -” (Page 25, Act 1) The shifts also expose the reality, which is not distorted by Willy’s perceptions of events. This is an essential element in the play as the remainder of the play is affected by Willy or Biff’s take on occasions. The shifts between previous and present are an example of expressionism in which Miller explores the psychological state of Willy.
A variety of motifs exist in the play which are utilized to represent American materialism. One of which are the stockings. When Willy has a flashback into the past he is with The Woman who he has purchased brand-new stockings for. Nevertheless, in today Linda is repairing her stockings. This exemplifies Willy’s inability to offer his household. An extra concept demonstrating the same point is the fridge. The use of both of these points reveals that Willy has actually been removed of his masculinity.
The flute is used very successfully as an expressionist device in Death of A Salesperson. It reveals the mood of the play at a particular moment. At the start of the play “A melody is heard, played upon a flute” (Page 1 Act 1). The flute gives a feeling of spring and optimism, generally a jubilant tone. There is a sharp contrast in between the innocence of the initial tune and the description of Willy’s house which is overshadowed by “a mad radiance of orange” (Page 1, Act 1).
The flute is significant in the play as it focuses on stages in Willy’s life and notifies the audience of the nature of the scene. The audience is informed that Willy’s missing daddy played the flute and at this point “new music is heard, a high rollicking tune”. This may imply that Willy’s dad was a pleased go fortunate salesman and it lays focus on the reality that Willy is not, contributing to his numerous insecurities. The flute is quite sombre/sinister towards completion of the play. Willy commits suicide “as the car speeds off the music crashes down in a craze of sound which ends up being the soft pulsation of a single cello string” (Page 105, Act 2).
The final principle to consider is failure in the American Dream. Is the individual or the system to blame for the failure of the American Dream? It could be argued that if the individual is gullible enough to be taken in by the American Dream, they have no-one to blame however themselves if they fail. Failure in the American Dream may represent the naivety of the American population. ‘The system is not the one to blame; Willy can only blame himself for not becoming what he wished to be’?. This supports the concept that the American Dream exists however it can just be attained if the individual adapts the American Dream to their life and is willing to strive to accomplish it.
Rejection plays an essential part in Willy’s lack of success in accomplishing the American Dream. He refuses to acknowledge that he is a failure. An example of this in the play is where Willy says that he’ll buy a brand-new tape recorder (like the one Howard has) even though he is totally conscious that he has no money to pay for it. “The Loman’s have unrealistic ideas of success.
To Willy, the foundation of success is not education or effort but rather ‘who you know and the smile on your face’?. Willy is a happy male who does not desire others to view him as a failure, as this would force him to confront reality, whereas he prefers to reside in a world where he hides his problems and keeps a false pretense that everything is great. Biff, like Willy, overlooks elements of reality that do not fit in with his perfects “You’re a– you’re an idealist!” (Page 11 Act 1). Some may argue that the system is to blame however eventually he produces his own destiny. Faith in the system encouraged him throughout his life but towards completion it left him “tired to the death” (Page 2 Act 1)
???? Craig M. Fort The System and the American Dream * DEATH OF
A Salesperson * (Online) http://playwrites.net/salesman1.html
?? Bamber Gascoigne (1962) Twentieth Century Drama. Hutchinson && Co.?? K. Linderholm (1995) The American Dream. (Online)
http://members.aol.com/sunny2345/salesman.html Accessed 01/12/2005
? Leonard Moss (1980) Arthur Miller. Quick excerpt from the preface