"Death of a salesman goes beyond oversimplified social protest ... because it concerns the fundemental qeustion: what does it mean to be satisfied in one's existence?" (Micheal C. Roudane) - Discuss.

Essay by babygirlyB, July 2005

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"The American dream has been a dream of being able to grow to fullest development."

Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman can be seen as an eulogy of a dreamer, which depicts one man's tragic life and death as he tries to bring his family into grace.

The word "dream" can suggest something wonderful to look forward to achieving, or, it may imply that something is only a dream, something that is impossible to achieve. We can see Miller believes "dream" to mean the latter of these interpretations when we see the character Howard in Death of a Salesman. It is implied through the way that he disregards Willy's past loyalty to his company, that he has only achieved his dream of success through moral compromises, and therefore, that few achieve the dream without doing this aswell.

The American society however, seems to support the first definition of the word "dream".

Willy supports this idea and relies on being "well-liked" in order to succeed, rather than working hard and having ability. So convinced is Willy of the rightness of this doctrine, that he raises his sons by it and, without intending to, he subtly undermines their moral character, turning one into a lecher and the other into a "bum" and a thief. Thus Miller demonstrates how such great self-confidence that the American Dream can produce, can have adverse effects on young people.

Throughout the play Willy Loman's lack of confidence and uncertainty in what he wants are qualities which prevent him from achieving his dream. Willy shows this weakness while observing himself in a mirror. He focuses completely on what he deems as negative qualities in his personality and physical appearance. But Willy's false pride is another factor that contributes to his pursuit of a prosperity: unobtainable to him...