Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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How does Arthur Miller interpret the American Dream in his Death of a Salesman?

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Arthur Miller's classic American play, Death of a Salesman, is an exploration of the American dream in terms of Willy Loman's search for an answer to the question "what went wrong?" in his quest to achieve the American dream.

Willy Loman's idea of the American dream is focused on appearances. Look good, be personable, and make friends. Willy believes that any man who does those things deserves to achieve the American dream and will naturally accomplish it:

WILLY: Bernard is not well liked, is he?

BIFF: He’s liked, but he’s not well liked.

HAPPY: That’s right, Pop.

WILLY: That’s just what I...

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Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is as relevant today as it was when it first premiered at the Morosco Theatre on Broadway in 1949. Miller is stating that there are many posers out there hiding behind the facade of success as the American Dream. A new suit, a gift for gab and a fancy car during the time of the play whereas a puffed-up profile and pics on social media may do the trick nowadays.

The main character Willy Loman pretends to be a well connected businessman with an abundance of potential clients when he in fact he is just a washed-up old salesman, living in past triumphs (or so he thinks) without any leads in the present. It is his great illusion to perceive his self-worth in terms the status he gained (or not) in this world, all the while sweeping his lies under the rug. Not only is he deceiving his loved ones but ultimately betraying himself. It is well hidden behind the disappointment he has for son Biff who showed so much promise early in life but faded and now resents his father for his past sins, punishing him by becoming a nobody... the thing Willy despises most.

Conflict reveals them to be only but a reflection of themselves mirroring their own self hatred and failures. Eventually the "reality" of the American dream hasn't materialized for Willy and Biff doesn't want it. The author is saying the expectations we put on other people can be our downfall if it robs us of "seeing" the truth about ourselves and our faults.