How does Miller use the father-son relationships to question the values of 1940's America? ("Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller)

Essay by yogiyoshi March 2006

download word file, 10 pages 5.0

Downloaded 49 times

In America in the 1940's, material success was preferable to anything else. Some people in 'the land of opportunities,' were experiencing immense prosperity and unprecedented wealth as social processes were occurring. It was the time when the war between capitalism and communism was occurring i.e. The Cold War, hence the era of McCarthy and un-Americanism. Here was too the time where the majority of citizens in the USA believed in the American Dream, which is the pursuit of material prosperity - that people work more hours and harder to get bigger rewards, financial freedom and the fruits of prosperity for their families. It also can be defined as an American ideal to a happy and successful life to which all may aspire to. The 1940's was also a period of mass unemployment and of an economic depression. The dream thus represented a reaffirmation of traditional American hopes in this time period for its citizens.

Through Miller's play "Death of a Salesman', the relationships between Willy and his two sons Biff and Happy, and Charlie and his son Bernard, are used to reflect upon how significant the dream was for many Americans, and how it leads to either financial and spiritual harmony or distress, or even total devastation.

Willy believes wholeheartedly in what he considers the promise of "The American Dream" - that a 'well-liked' and 'personally attractive' man in business will unquestionably acquire the material comforts offered by modern American life. Oddly, his obsession with the superficial qualities of attractiveness and likeability is at odds with a more gritty, 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--he childishly dislikes Bernard because he considers Bernard a nerd. Willy's faith in his underdeveloped version of...