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Illusion Of The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman

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The American delusion that anyone can accomplish economic success and substantial relief lies at the center of “Death of a Salesman”. Many of the secondary characters attain the dream in different ways. Ben travels off into the outback of Alaska and Africa and happens to come across a diamond mine. Howard Wagner obtains his dream through his father’s business; while Bernard, who suggests a diligent bore when he was young, becomes very successful in his lawyer work. Revolving from this, Willy’s idea of the American dream has been leveraged by his brother Ben’s triumph. Willy’s version of this is that any man who is masculine, charming, and favored deserves prosperity, and that the lavish lifestyle will come spontaneously. Over the span of his life, Willy falls short of the impractical norms of this dream. As he fails to accomplish the financial gain promised in his realization of the American dream, Willy gets over involved in his idea of this. While doing so, he neglects the tangible things that he is surrounded by such as the affection of his family, while still focused on the path that he hopes will grant his family security. Willy’s unsighted confidence on his view of the American dream leads to his accelerated intellectual decline where he is unable to obtain the variation between the dream and his own life. In the process of this occurrence, Willy validates that the American dream, while an influential source of eagerness, can also twist a human into earning for success, whose only commodity in life is economic worth. With that being said, not all things that come with the American life are rich, elegant, and delightful. The American dream is merely an illusion. “Death of a Salesman” appears to parallel this idea to Willy’s attitude towards reality.

Willy, who is on the verge of death, wants desperately to justify his life. While in his sixties, he has yet to achieve the dreams he had in store for himself and his family. Willy has disregarded everything that has happened to him in the past, which takes a great toll on him and he must face what he’s done wrong. As this quote states, “he must face the consequences of past choices and question the values inherent in the life he has constructed from himself and his family” (Centola). Willy must fight his view on the American dream while being torn away from his chosen image for who he is in life. Success plays a tremendous part of the American dream, but Willy ties too much of his life with the importance of needing to attain happiness from his fantasy. As this quote states, “the American dream, which is the belief that an individual’s value as a person is tied to the socioeconomic success that individual has attained” (Lois). This helps show the correlation with Willy’s idea of wanting to be someone that truly isn’t possible with his effort. He neglects the obligations of his family and designates himself to endure in the mentality that if he is beloved based on the fact of his gain in wealth, he will achieve success.

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Willy’s bewilderment blossoms from his own feeling of being inadequate as an admired father. His adamant rejection of these feelings, connected with his confused effort to measure his dignity, only plays a big role to provoke his mental state. As this quote states, “Willy unwittingly hastens his own destruction by clinging fiercely to values that perpetually enforce his withdrawal from reality” (Centola). This dilemma is exceptionally noticeable in the way Willy approaches his career as a salesman. Being said, he sways himself to believe that his success or even failure in his career has significance for how his family values him. Willy does not pursue wealth as having any value in itself, but wants to be seen as a contributor and praised by his family. As this quote states, “Willy’s suicide turns out to be not to help Biff out of love with the twenty thousand dollars of usnruance money but his desire to be worhippped posthumously” (Sharma). While Willy’s self-identity weakened and crippled, he loses grasp of all things in general. His self-awareness remains at best imprecise and does nothing to sharpen it. Besides his weak mental state, Willy imagines the missed opportunities that he has had throughout his life. As this quote states, “This feeling of futility makes him wonder whether he has failed as a father and impels him to explore his past” (Centola). Like his brother, he could have experienced the riches from traveling to Alaska and Africa. He was also offered a position to be a partner in his brother’s firm but he denied in order to hopefully become successful on his own. This conveys the current way that the ordinary American looks at this false advertisement of the American dream as to Willy thinking he could be successful. Willy was only obscuring his identity and to that degree was not acting kindly. This shines a light on the issues that Willy was facing with identifying himself. He searches for a reason to continue his quest to find the American dream, but loses sight of what’s really meaningful in life.

In “Death of a Salesman” Willy validates that the American dream, which can cause influential decisions for life, causes mental distress that can later backfire on what is truly reality. Not all things in life are luxurious, simple, and amusing. Willy’s idea of this is merely an illusion which causes him to parallel this fiction to his life decisions. This has drove Willy to throw all of his frustration towards his family, while openly showing what happens when the American dream fails to unfold. At the center of “Death of a Salesman”, lies the American delusion that anyone can achieve economic success and substantial relief. Willy’s unsighted certainty on his view of the American dream leads to his quickened mental decay where he is incapable of obtaining the variation between this illusion and his own life.

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Illusion Of The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman. (2021, September 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
“Illusion Of The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman.” Edubirdie, 17 Sept. 2021,
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