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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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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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Death of a Salesman

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