Death of a Salesman Relating to the American DreamGet Your
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Studieportalen. dk ~ The American Dream in Death of a Salesman ~ Death of a Salesman addresses the painful conflicts within one family, but it also tackles larger issues regarding American national values. The play examines the cost of blind faith in the American Dream. The American Dream is the idea, held by many in the United States of America, that through hard work, courage and determination one can achieve prosperity. These were values held by many early European settlers and have been passed on to subsequent generations.
What the American Dream has become is a question under constant discussion, and some believe that it has led to an overemphasis on comparative material wealth as the only measure of success and happiness. To be successful in the 20th century one must be able to accept change, for the world never stays the same for long. The goal of every North American is the American Dream. Willy’s inability to adapt to the changing world around him leads to his failure. His attitude is similar to a child’s; he is never willing to take responsibility for his actions.
As a result of his immaturity Willy builds enormous dreams which are unrealistic for a man of his age. Willy believes wholeheartedly in what he considers the promise of the American Dream – that a “well liked” and “personally attractive” man in business will undoubtedly and deservedly acquire the material comforts offered by modern American life. Oddly, his fixation with the superficial qualities of attractiveness and likeability is at odds with a more rewarding understanding of the American Dream that identifies hard work without complaint as the key to success.
Willy’s interpretation of likeability is superficial, for example he childishly dislikes Bernard because he considers Bernard a nerd. Willy’s blind faith in his distorted version of the American Dream leads to his rapid psychological decline when he is unable to accept the difference between the Dream and his own life. Willy’s fascination with the frontier is intimately connected to his obsession with the American Dream. In nineteenth-century America the concept of the intrepid explorer entering the unknown, uncharted wilderness and striking gold was deeply imbedded in the national consciousness.
With the postwar increase of consumerism in America, this “wilderness” became the bustling market of consumer goods, and the capitalist replaced the pioneer as the American hero. These new intrepid explorers plunged into the jungle of business transactions in order to find a niche to exploit. In the play the jungle is mentioned when Ben visits in one of Willy’s memories: “Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked Studieportalen. dk out…And by God I was rich. ” (p. 41 l. 9-11).
This refers very much to the American Dream of the American prospectors and the idea of the frontiersmen. A mentality where you have to experience life in the west to get educated and then afterwards return to civilization and become a success. This mentality is also seen in the play in Willy’s countless mentioning of planting a garden. He is always discussing the idea of planting a garden even though in Act I he says: “The grass don’t grow anymore, you can’t raise a carrot in the backyard. ” In this way he keeps the dream of the good American life in the country alive.
At the end of the play Willy makes a futile attempt at planting seeds in the backyard of his fenced-in house. This is symbolic of Willy’s need to leave something behind for people to remember him by. Something that people will look at and instantly think of him and remember him as a great man. This can also be related to Willy’s idea of the American Dream: If you are successful you can do great things and be remembered in the future. “Social mobility is the degree to which, in a given society, an individual’s social status may change throughout the course of his or her life. To Willy social mobility is an important part of the American Dream. Normally social mobility will be seen in a positive light but it is a twosided phenomenon. Unlike absolute economic prosperity and individual standards of living relative social class, strictly speaking, is a zero-sum game, and when there is upward mobility, there is also downward mobility. And this is what is happening in Willy’s case. According to himself he used to be a very well doing salesman but now everything is falling apart for him. He cannot sell anything and therefore he is now experiencing downward mobility.
His story about the perfect salesman Dave Singleman is probably a lie or at least a story he has added some details to as the years has gone by. Willy chose to follow Singleman’s path convinced that it was the modern version and future of the American Dream of success through hard work. In this way Willy only focus on one exemplary case while he is neglecting the average cases. Just because Dave Singleman has become successful it does not necessarily mean that Willy can accomplish the same. To Willy the solid family is one of the most prominent elements of the American Dream.
In the present Willy’s relationship with his family is fraught with tension. In his memories, on the other hand, Willy sees his family as happy and secure. But even Willy’s conception of the past is not as idyllic as it seems on the surface, his split consciousness shows through. No matter how much he wants to remember his past as all-American and blissful, Willy cannot completely erase the evidence to the contrary. He wants to remember Biff as the bright hope for the future. In the midst of his memories, however, we find that Willy does nothing to discourage Biff’s compulsive thieving habit.
In fact, he subtly Studieportalen. dk encourages it by laughing at Biff’s theft of the football, “WILLY [laughing with him at the theft]: I want you to return that. ” (p. 25 l. 6-7). It shows us something about Willy’s moral. He says to Biff that it is okay that he stole the ball but he must return it. In this way he applies double standards to his sons which creates a confusion of what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do. There are many things in the concept of the American Dream both to like and dislike. The main criticism would be that the American Dream is misleading.
For various reasons it is simply not possible for everyone to become prosperous through determination and hard work alone. The consequences of this belief can include the poor or the less successful feeling that it is their fault that they are not successful. In the play Willy is feeling really ashamed of his situation. This can be caused by the idea that it is all his fault and that if he confesses he will become even more disliked and unsuccessful. The concept of the American Dream also ignores other factors of success such as the family and this is a shame.
If Willy realized that he has success in the way of family the situation in which he is in would never have gotten this far. And in addition if he had realized that the American Dream in some ways is quite superficial and following that money does not buy happiness he could have found himself another job he would be better at and thereby support his family. Even in Willy’s memory Ben indirectly suggest that being a salesman is not good enough: Willy has just told that he is still in the selling business and Ben answers “Yes. Well…” (p. 42 l. 2627).
To this Willy answers: “…It’s Brooklyn, I know, but we hunt too. ”(p. 42 l. 29), and again the idea of the frontiersmen is brought up. Throughout the play there are differing interpretations of the American Dream. Biff and Willy both have very different ideas about what it is. Biff dreams purely of the free and open shown through his desire to be “out there… working with our hands”, while Willy is trapped in between this dream and that of the capitalist materialistic modern society. As a contrast to Biff Happy carries on Willy’s ideas through the play.
The myth of the American Dream has its strongest pull on the individuals who do not enjoy the happiness and prosperity that it promises. Willy pursues the fruits of that dream as a panacea for the disappointments and the hurts of his own youth. The men who should have offered him the affirmation that he needed to build a healthy concept of self-worth – his father and Ben – left him. Therefore, Willy tries to measure his self-worth by the standards of an American myth that hardly corresponds to reality, while ignoring the more important foundations of family love, unconditional support and the freedom of choice inherent to the American Dream.
In his obsession with being “well liked,” Willy ignores the love that his family can offer him. He has built his Studieportalen. dk concept of himself not on human relationships that fulfill human needs but on the unrealistic myth of the American hero. All in all you can say that for Willy the American Dream has become a kind of Holy Grail – his childish longing for acceptance and material proof of success in an attempt to align his life with a mythic standard has assumed the dimensions of a religious crusade.
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He places his faith in the elusive American Dream because he seeks salvation, and he blindly expects to achieve material, emotional, and even spiritual satisfaction through “personal attractiveness” and being “well liked. ” Willy forces Biff and Happy into the framework of this mythic quest for secular salvation. Source for historical information on the American Dream: en. wikipedia. org/wiki/
Author: Brandon Johnson
Death of a Salesman Relating to the American Dream
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