Death of a Salesman: Willy the Everyman

Essay by zack76University, Master'sA+, November 2014

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Death of a Salesman: Willy the Everyman

Through the characters of Willy Loman and his sons, Miller is able to criticize American society and its false values of consumerism. Arthur Miller penned a direct attack on the rampant philosophy of prioritizing wealth, beauty, charisma and success over principles. The play also stresses that not all Americans were able to conform to the comfortable middle-class lifestyle that the American Dream promised. To better understand how the American Dream concept has faulted Willy Loman and lead him to his demise; a closer look at the post-war American culture and an analysis of its values is de rigueur. This new era of deceit, lies, and material gain at all cost is the realm of the Businessman. A persona that came to be a key component of the American Dream, businessmen represent achievement and success. As Harold Bloom, the literary critic, pointed out, an average American rarely believes it's possible to become successful and valued being a carpenter, gardener or a nurse; it is selling that is seen as the easiest way to becoming rich and respected.

Willy Loman and, by extension, his family are victims of this stereotype. The idolized persona of the successful businessman leads Willy to develop false ideas and philosophies. These concepts, in turn, were passed on to Biff and Happy who end up hurt by them as well. Consequently, Willy Loman is a victim of society and the American Dream.

There was a time when enterprise, courage and hard work were the keys to success. In the era of Willy Loman, however, it is the salesmanship that is much more important. This salesmanship implies a certain element of fraud, ability to sell a commodity regardless of its intrinsic usefulness. This created a new psychology, a new American Dream.