We would all like to one day live a life of easy success and wealth. In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Willy believes wholeheartedly in the American Dream, but he never achieves it. In Arthur Miller’s eyes, the American Dream is said to be fulfilled when people have the right to a decent place to live, a fair reward for hard work, and a recognition of their worth as human beings. Willy Lowman is an insecure, self-deluded traveling salesman who constantly fails at achieving the American Dream throughout the story. Death of a Salesman unfolds as Willy’s sons do not fulfill his hope that they will succeed where he has failed. Willy’s desperate quest for the American Dream effects his realistic appraisal of life and ultimately leads to his untimely death.
Willy believes unconditionally in what he considers the promise of the American
Dream. He believes that a well liked and personally attractive man in business will indubitably and deservedly aquire the material comforts offered by modern American life. Willy Lowman’s obsession with the superficial qualities of good looks 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. Arthur Miller writes,And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. ‘Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty to thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many
Willy fathoms having people remember and love him as the ultimate satisfaction, because such warmth from business contacts validate him in a way his family’s love does not.
Despite his desperate searching through his past, Willy does not achieve the self-realization or self-knowledge typical of the tragic hero. Willy cannot grasp the true personal, emotional, spiritual understanding of himself. He is too drive by his own willfulness to recognize the slanted reality that his desperate mind has devised. Again, Arthur Miller writes,
I saw things that I love in this world. The work and the food and the time to sit and smoke. And I look at the pen and I thought, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be… when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am (1439).
Willy cannot understand any feeling of individual identity outside of the limits of the material success and well liked-ness promised by the American Dream. He achieves a professional understanding of himself, but he fails to realize his personal failure and betrayl of his soul.
Willy’s resolution that his suicide offers him represents only a partial discovery of the truth. His failure to recognize the love offered to him by his family is important to the climax of the story, and it presents the real tragedy. Willy’s blind faith in the American Dream leads to his rapid decline when he is unable to accept the disparity between the Dream and his own life. At the end of the story, Arthur Miller adds, “He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and shoeshine… A salesman is got to dream, boy” (1454). Willy is a victim of his difficult profession. Lacking confidence in his image and being torn psychologically, Willy still had to go out and give it his best and above all dream. He simply didn’t feel obligated to sell, and he failed to recognize that he had any choice in life.
In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Willy believes wholeheartedly in the American Dream, but he never achieves it. In Arthur Miller’s eyes, the American Dream is said to be fulfilled when people have the right to a decent place to live, a fair reward for hard work, and a recognition of their worth as human beings. Willy’s desperate quest for the American Dream effects his realistic appraisal of life and ultimately leads to his untimely death. Success and wealth both do not come easily, hard work is greatly involved.