Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2001

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True American Tragedy I chose Death of a Salesman because of its break from the mainstream. In a day where we see movie after movie of cliches and happy endings, I thought it would be nice to read something that parts ways with the "love conquers all," "good guys win" ideals of present day cinema. Death of a Salesman challenges the American dream. Before the Depression, an optimistic America offered the alluring promise of success and riches. Willie suffers from his disenchantment with the American dream, for it fails him and his son. In some ways, Willy and seem trapped in a transitional period of American history. Willy, now sixty-three, carried out a large part of his career during the Depression and World War II. The promise of success that entranced him in the optimistic 1920's was broken by the harsh economic realities of the 1930's. The unprecedented prosperity of the 1950's remained far in the future.

Willy Loman represents a unique, yet honest American figure: the traveling salesman. Every week, he takes a journey to stake his bid for success. It would be difficult to miss the survival of the American frontier mentality in the figure of the traveling salesman. The rush for gold and land in the nineteenth-century American West heavily influenced the idea of the American dream. It is no coincidence that in the 1950's, the decade most preoccupied with the mythical American dream, America experienced an unprecedented love affair with Westerns.

Willy and Biff try to build their version of the American dream with their families. In high school, Biff was the all-American boy as the captain of the football team. True to the myth of the all-American boy, girls and admiring friends surrounded him. Willy and Linda's lives are full of monthly payments on possessions...