Death of a Salesman Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman book cover
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How does the play Death of a Salesman relate to the American dream?

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One of the major themes in Death of a Salesman revolves around the concept of the American dream.  Willy's ideas of success are based on popular notions of being rich and well-liked by others in his field--he dreams of being a great salesman.  But in reality, Willy scrapes by financially, and he cannot bear to accept that he is "a dime a dozen."  Near the end of the play, Biff tries to get his father to realize that none of the men in the family have what it takes to achieve greatness and that that's okay--Biff finds happiness in working outdoors with this hands and has never desired to be a "big-shot" working in an office.  Biff tries to re-define the American dream for Willy--he wants Willy to understand that happiness and fulfillment is what the American dream is about.  However, Willy does not share this definition, and he remains disappointed by not being able to live up to unrealistic standards.

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