Willy Loman is a man on a mission. His purpose in life is to achieve a false sense of the “American Dream,” but is this what Willy Loman really wants? In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller analyzes the American Dream by portraying to us a few days in the life of a washed up salesman named Willy Loman. The American Dream is a definite goal of many people, meaning something different to everyone. Willy’s version is different from most people though; his is based more on being well-liked and achieving monetary successes rather than achieving something that will make him happy. Willy never becomes part of the “American Dream” because he never follows his true dreams and aspirations. He chooses a career that will make him money, but not much, rather than a career that he will enjoy. This is the big mistake that Willy makes in his life and in the end he never overcomes it. Willy never becomes part of the American Dream because he tries to become successful and wealthy rather than spending his life doing something that would bring him and his family joy.
“The American Dream “ is a term used to summarize the basic ideals held by the American public. Death of a Salesman focuses on this dream and analyses the dreams significance in the American social order. The basic principal behind the “American Dream” is the belief that if people have an aspiration and they work for it they will achieve their dreams. Furthermore, what lies at the heart of the American Dream is the desire to achieve wealth and power based on one’s looks and appearance rather than the value and quality of their work. The American Dream is supposedly what everyone wants to end up with; a family, a house, a car and a well paying job. The problem is that not everyone wants these things. People all over the world desire to immigrate to America because they have heard of this “American Dream” and they want to be a part of a country that makes it seem so easy to make a fortune. The problem with this dream is the theory at the basis of it; the fact that success is not assured, but if people work for their dreams they will eventually achieve them. People can work their entire lives thinking that they are contributing to humanity when in fact they are not. They believe that as long as they put something into civilization, at the end of their lives they will receive something in return. Many times this is simply not the way things work out. If people work their entire lives to achieve something that they can enjoy at the end of their life, they will miss the entire journey in between. “The American Dream” is the basis of American culture although some ideals at the heart of it seem incorrect.
Willy Loman’s dream is an adaptation of the American Dream. Willy believes that the only things that are important in life are the successes that he achieved and the amount of friends that he made. This is easily illustrated when Willy says “ It’s who you know and the smile on your face! … and that’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked!” (Movie). Success is an important part of the American dream, but Willy puts too much importance on the need to achieve success. He neglects the needs of his family and chooses to remain in the mindset that as long as he is well liked he will achieve success. Although he has lost his ability to sell, Willy continues to believe that as long as he works hard good things will happen to him and his family. Willy’s wife Linda realizes this and conveys these thoughts to her sons when she says “He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him anymore… what goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without earning a cent?” (Movie). Willy has delusional ideas about the American Dream. Even in the end Willy still believes that the only thing Biff needs to be successful is some money to start a business. We learn this when Willy says “Can you imagine that magnificence [Biff] with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket?” (Movie). Willy thinks that as long as Biff has some money to start out with he will find it easy to become successful. Biff knows that his father’s ideas are wrong and all Biff wants is to enjoy his life and for his father to be happy. Willy’s dream is focused entirely on being successful and popular which in itself is wrong.
Willy Loman did not become part of the American Dream because he does not follow his own dreams. Willy is not a salesman at heart, he is happiest when he is working with his hands and Willy never realizes this. After Willy dies, Biff realizes that his father should have worked out in the open, where he could truly be free. We learn this when Biff says, “He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong,” and furthermore when Biff says, “He never knew who he was.” (Movie). Willy thinks that since he can still conceivably work when he becomes eighty years old that a salesman job is the best vocation he could ever want. Throughout the play, we learn that Willy has obviously made a wrong decision about his career and the fact that he never realizes this is the tragedy in the story. Willy does not think about what he himself wants to do, he thinks more about what others have done and then wants to achieve the same heights they have. Willy is never content with just being himself; he always has to be something better. This is evident when Linda tells Willy “be happy right here, right now. Why must everybody conquer the world? You’re well liked, and the boys love you” (Movie). Willy never listens to his heart and because of this, he follows the wrong dream.
Willy was never really a part of the American Dream. In the end, we see Willy’s foolishness for killing himself. Willy has too much pride to take a job from Charley and would rather end his own life than work under his friend for money. Willy thinks he is helping everyone by giving them his life insurance money but everyone would rather have him still alive than the money. Striving for his dream of becoming well liked and successful leaves Willy with nothing that will make him happy. In the end, Willy’s dream ends up being for Biff to achieve everything that he himself could not achieve. Willy’s plan backfires though when Biff chooses the opposite of what Willy wants and leaves the city to try to find out what will make him happy. In the end, Willy’s obsession with the American Dream is his undoing. Willy never really becomes part of the American Dream because he never understands what he needs to make himself happy.