Discuss Arthur Miller's "Death of A Salesman" as a tragedy of American values.

Expert Answers
Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Death of a Salesman" illuminates the tragedy of American values on at least two levels. Willy Loman, a struggling salesman who prioritizes business success over his relationships and his integrity, achieves neither success nor happiness. He meets his death tragically at his own hands, under the false impression that his suicide is an honorable move. In this sense, "Death of a Salesman" asks us to question whether the priorities implicit in the "American Dream," those of an enterprising spirit, profit motive, independence and capitalistic competition, are truly good for the soul. We see Willy descend into immorality and perhaps even madness, all because his priorities are backwards.

In another sense, "Death of a Salesman" demonstrates the negative consequences that a person ruthlessly pursuing this set of values will effect on those around him. Willy causes strife in his relationship with his sons and his wife. He isn't able to accept his sons for who they are, thus causing emotional trauma in their lives as well. Willy is basically unable to establish and maintain and healthy family and community life. Arthur Miller is using Willie to demonstrate the way in which traditional American values, when untempered by other values and priorities, make establishing a functional community or family virtually impossible.

Read the study guide:
Death of a Salesman

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question