Give an example of how Willy is his own worst enemy when it comes to trying to live the American Dream.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the end, Miller constructs Willy as a human being to be his own worst enemy.  Part of this comes from the fact that Willy is willingly crushed by the weight of his own dreams.  His inability to understand the construct of the various matrices that make it impossible for him to achieve success through the narrow definitions he has allowed himself to embrace becomes the reason why his own state of being makes him his own worst enemy.  In defining "success" through external means, whether through money or status, Willy has aligned himself to be unhappy, to not be able to to live out his own dream.  An example would be how he continues to live in the past about what being a "salesman" used to be.  The idea of achieving respect from others, connecting happiness to external means, and defining success not with subjective criteria but through artificially established and external means makes Willy a person who can never be happy because his dream, or his conception of it, will never be achieved.  When he describes his existence as "ringing up a zero," Willy's definition of happiness becomes external, something that makes him his own worst enemy for he accepts what society says success ought to be as opposed to defining it for himself.

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Death of a Salesman

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