What are the similarities and differences between Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman and the film The Pursuit of Happyness?

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In the film The Pursuit of Happyness , Chris Gardner sacrifices almost everything to succeed financially in the business world. He knows that he is capable of more, and he has this seemingly unrelenting belief that if he keeps working, he will come out on top. When I say he...

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In the film The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner sacrifices almost everything to succeed financially in the business world. He knows that he is capable of more, and he has this seemingly unrelenting belief that if he keeps working, he will come out on top. When I say he sacrifices "almost everything," I refer to his relationship with his son, which is one thing he is not willing to sacrifice. Chris realizes he needs to provide for his son, and he is an inspiration for his son.

Similar to Chris Gardner, Willy Loman in Miller's Death of a Salesman also makes many sacrifices to succeed financially in the business world. He doesn't have the same relationship with his son that Gardner has with his in Pursuit. In fact, one of Loman's downfalls is that he does sacrifice deep bonds with his family for more surface-level pleasures. When Biff catches Willy having an affair, it completely changes their relationship. Biff realizes Willy isn't the man Biff thought he was. Biff is still loyal to his father in that he doesn't reveal the affair, but he comes down from the pedestal Willy put him on and stands more firmly on the ground. It leads him to self-exploration and the realization that he just wants to work outside with his shirt off instead of in the business world.

All Chris does is work—for free. And he cares for his son. Even when his wife can't take it anymore, Chris stands firm with his son. Once, on his son's birthday, Chris throws some reality at his son's dreams, and his son gets upset. It only takes a minute for Chris to see that he shouldn't have done that; he swiftly tells the boy not to let anyone get in the way of what he wants, not even his father.

The bond Chris Gardner has with his son has deeper roots than the bond Willy Loman shares with Biff. Willy sees success as making money. Chris sees success as making money and providing a stout role model for his child.

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Both works speak to the difficulty of the business world.  This becomes one of the most striking similarities between both works.  Miller's work attests to the difficulty in making money and remaining competitive in a setting where only a few can claim success.  For Chris Gardner, the cut throat world of sales and Wall Street is shown to be brutal.  Yet, I think that this might be where the similarities reach an end.  Chris Gardner's narrative is shown to be one where the navigation of the harsh realities of a money based world is through the love of his son.  Gardner balances the cynicism of the world around him with the love of his child and the belief that emotional notions of the good are more important than economic ones.  Willy does not represent this, at all.  Willy's curse and his tragic condition is brought about precisely because he is not able to understand that his state of being is not solely economic.  He neglects the emotional bonds in his life and neglects investing in them.  He is more drawn to being considered a success from a material point of view.  Willy fails to recognize the transformative and sheltering power of these emotional elements.  Rather, he embraces and believes money to be the defining element of his being.  If he could be "something" from an economic standpoint, then all will be well.  For Willy, this becomes his center of being.  This becomes his identity.  It is here where he is vastly different than Chris Gardner, and where the narratives diverge.

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