What is Arthur Miller's depiction of the American Dream in Death of a Salesman?

Expert Answers
bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The American Dream is shown through Willy Loman's desire to become wealthy and successful. It is the idea that anyone, no matter how poor, can achieve and succeed in America. For the uneducated masses, a salesman was one way to make money and achieve success. To sell, a man didn't need any special training or education, just willingness to learn how to manipulate his clients into buying what he's selling. By the 1940's, however, salesmen had changed, but Willy hadn't changed with the times. Salesmen needed to have more specialized information and training, which Willy doesn't have. He just keeps trying to use persuasion to keep his clients buying, and he can't understand why it doesn't work. Willy feels like a failure because he hasn't achieved the American Dream while his own brother, Ben, has.

katemschultz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Willy also defines the American Dream as being well-liked and as long as you're well-liked, that will lead to success. Unfortunately, as in the other answer to this question, WIlly hasn't learned that he needs to keep up with the times in order to keep up with his profession.

Miller also, through Biff, shows that the American Dream doesn't always have to do with wealth or being well-liked. Biff's dream involves him doing what he wants and what makes him happy. Willy is so focused on material wealth that he forgoes his family and enjoyment of the wealth he's gained.

Read the study guide:
Death of a Salesman

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question