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Although Willy Loman grew up in a time period in which the American dream was a hopeful possibility for anyone to achieve, it was an impossible dream he tried to succeed in. Continuously pressured by society, friends and enemies, his status as a common man truly made him a low man in the tragic ending. Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ explores how Willy’s aspirations and dreams brought him to an irreversible downfall, loss of family, and the true lie of the so called ‘American dream’. Therefore, I generally agree that Willy’s complete downfall can be attributed to having the wrong dreams.

The play is set in 1949 which is the time that the Great Depression was falling to an end. This meant that a new fresh start was awakening to the country – a new possibility. Not only had this majorly affected the American population, but it also included immigrants which were increasingly arriving to experience this success themselves. So from the very start, the American dream was quickly starting to blossom. Yet, this opportunity was in reverse of what Willy had to grab on to – it was a big mistake that he thoughtlessly made. Therefore following after a dream brought him no victory – instead he should’ve leaded in his own dream.

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Willy’s true dreams were to work in a farm, yet he let this thought get stomped on and completely disappear since of all the pressure which was surrounding him. ”Willy lives in our time… in a system of value that tend to be de- value the individual” [3]. This means that an individual is much less cared than society itself – it is the society which makes an individual. Not only was this the American population which was receiving recognition, but close relatives such as his brother Ben and Willy’s neighbours. As a result, pressure was one of the main key points which made Willy choose the wrong dreams.

Firstly, Willy’s downfall gradually began ever since Ben took an overseas trip in which Willy couldn’t join, because of family. Pressured by the fact that Ben ‘went in the jungle, and came out rich’, those words haunted him for the rest of his life because he didn’t take the risk with Ben. Ben is a pure example of what Willy wishes to achieve, the true American dream which is thought of by everyone. Yet, Ben is the positive interpretation of the dream while Willy’s side of the dream lacks this. While Willy tries to succeed this, he does not have in mind that it takes more than personal attractiveness to reach one’s goals.

He believed that being liked is everything, therefore teaching his two sons, Biff and Happy, to have personality as a number one aspect in life. Yet, the American dream does not require this – all that is required is hard work, almost to the point of selling one’s soul completely, the anti- capitalist idea. This brings the gruesome fact that the business world only takes a man as a fruit, and only uses up the inside then throwing the peel away. This is the same for Willy; even though he has worked as a salesman for over 34 years, he is old and there are younger salesmen which replace his career.

Miller also compares and contrasts this as modern day – ”… There’s no lack of Willy Loman’s in the world – people who have been expelled from the production system of the country because of age or because their job is shut down around then. ” [1] He tells us that Willy’s character can be related to any present day human, as anti- capitalism still occurs in the present time. As a result, the business world never goes out of style – it always stays the same throughout generations on. Since his career as a salesman was reaching nowhere, he forced his son Biff to realize that he could make it also, ‘just like his dad’.

Therefore, Biff followed Willy in reaching the dream and believed that anything and everything is possible what Willy said. Yet, this changed at the point in which he saw Willy cheating on his wife, with the woman. Until that very moment, Biff believed in his dad and could’ve even had much more success than him. But right after he saw what had happened, everything disappeared; his dreams crumbled like a brick wall – once so stable, now nothing. From that time, Biff couldn’t talk to his dad closely, thus Willy made up that closeness. Willy kept repeatedly thinking that Biff could reach the dream that he wanted a decade ago.

As a result, Willy’s wrong dreams were not only affected himself, but also his family. Whenever Biff wanted to talk to Willy about his present job, Willy deliberately made Biff lie to himself that he is reaching the peak of his ‘dream’ career. However, Biff was just like his dad – a follower, but could’ve been a leader. This therefore separated the family, not only Biff, but also Linda and Happy. Since Willy concentrated the majority on Biff, this brought Happy to be isolated from the feelings of family love his dad should’ve given him. The reason there was affect on Linda too, was that she was emotionally abused.

Whenever she tried to support Willy, he told her to not talk and screamed at her. This brought Willy as a dominant figure in the family. The only time that Biff did stand up for himself was near the tragic ending, in which may have even triggered Willy’s suicide. Another false dream that Willy possessed was the dream of Dave Singleman. According to Willy, Singleman had reached success so far, that he didn’t even have to move places to sell – literally. Thousands came to his funeral, but the more we think about it, were the thousands just a lie?

There is no proof of Singleman, but the only proof is that Willy must’ve placed Singleman as his alter ego. Hence Singleman’s surname ‘Single Man’; this is completely alike as Willy’s ‘Low Man’. Singleman is also a pure embodiment of the capitalist dream, having everything succeeded. Yet, Willy doesn’t realize that he has no success no matter how hard he tries. ”These feelings are caused by his inability to face the realities of modern society” [2]. He is hinted that his success has reached the end, by what Bernard reminds him: ”Sometimes, Willy, it’s better for a man just to talk away.

” Willy has to take in mind that he will never reach the American dream, it’s better to just give up and walk away, than to cling on to a lie. On the other hand, Willy’s downfall may not have even been attributed to having the wrong dreams. For instance, he may have had the right aspirations, yet he worked for the wrong company for all the 34 years. Even if he could have succeeded being a salesman, the company that he worked in limited his abilities. For example, when he desired to go and sell products in New York, his boss Howard said that someone else has already taken this place.

This again brings the idea of using a man as a fruit, yet Willy may have been used as a fruit for his whole life. Hence, the small pay he received and the money he had to borrow weekly from his neighbour, Charley. Therefore, his downfall may have been instead attributed to working in the wrong company and receiving the small salary. And, even if Willy had worked in a ranch, it is less acceptable than reaching a city job. The society may also have a part to blame, because of the pressure it surrounds to the population.

However, even though he had possibly worked for the wrong company, there were no obstacles which were stopping him from reaching his desired dreams. This has also been mentioned by the government, which stated that it’s not the governments fault for the downfall of one’s dream. In my opinion, Willy is the one to blame for his wrong dreams, and not society. This is because he chose to follow the American dream; there was no force. If society was to blame for his downfall, then there must’ve been a pressure by society to force people to reach the American dream. Yet, it is a person who decides whether to follow what they want, or not.

And in this case, Willy had followed his wanted dream and ended up nowhere – only experiencing a downfall. In conclusion, I agree altogether that Willy chose the wrong dreams to have aspirations for. There were other ways of him reaching his own American dream, yet following to be a salesman led to nothing but complete permanent downfall. Even though he still would’ve been a common man, he would have had the happiness and love which was missing from his life. Therefore, for choosing the wrong dreams, his downfall is irreversible and there’s no way turning back, even after all the chances he had.


[1]  AOL Chat with Arthur Miller February 21, 1999 American On-line Chat

[2] Internet

[3]  AOL Chat with Arthur Miller  February 21, 1999 American On-line Chat

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