What are the social implications of the play in terms of its view of capitalism/the American Dream?Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, is a play in which the American Dream is discussed as a social myth that grants every individual the same opportunity to become as wealthy and as successful as they want to become. This idea is a product of the advent of the many self-made tycoons of the time, the 1920's, one of them being Henry Ford, to name a well-known example.

Willy Loman is the anti-hero of the play: A man who fervently believes in the American Dream and develops his own plan of action to attempt to achieve it. He is an antihero because he clearly does not have the correct frame of thought, nor the proper plan in place, to succeed at what he wants. Moreover, he cannot help his children either, as he has programmed them to think and act the same way that he does. Their entire life journeys end up becoming a vain attempt to achieve success, and the entire family pays dearly for it.

The social implication of the play's treatment of the American Dream is that the audience will be able to understand that the American Dream is an idea that varies from person to person. Also, that the American Dream is not necessarily measured by monetary success. The idea of this dream is as unique as is the American culture: It varies from person to person and it depends on the person's own experiences and unique needs.

Willy Loman represents that part of society that has confused the American Dream with the mere act of attaining financial success. In the process of doing the latter, people lose their own sense of uniqueness and simply become money-making machines. Being like Willy means doing away with the purpose of life and submitting to the value of money alone. A society that thinks this way is bound to lose its spirit. Therefore, the American Dream should not be treated under the scope of capitalism but under the scope of quality of life and the achievement of personal dreams.

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Death of a Salesman

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