Where can I find the theme of the American Dream in the Death of a Salesman in Act II?

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rshaffer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act II of Death of a Salesman is riddled with the theme of the American Dream.  First, according to Willy Lowman, the way to reach the American Dream is to be successful in both money and respect.  The way that Willy measures this is through being a "self-made-man."  Biff is attempting to fit Willy's mold when he goes for a job interview with Bill Oliver.  If hired, this would put Biff on the path to success.

   Second, the flashback Willy has to Biff's high school days of playing football is another example of this theme.  Biff was someone Willy could be proud of because as a good football player Biff had purpose; he was going to be a "somebody," and he was going to be respected for it. 

Third, when Willy is in Charley's office, he has a conversation with Bernard, who is the same age as Biff.  Through this conversation, we learn that Bernard has achieved the American Dream because he is a "self-made-man."  He is success in business, thus, he is respect in society.

Finally,  this Act illustrates the disillustionment of the American Dream.  Often times, the road to the American Dream is one of hardship, sacrifice, and failure.  For Willy, his boys did not achieve the American Dream, and even Willy had many setbacks along his path such as the woman in the hotel and the many nights his job took him away from his home and his family.

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Death of a Salesman

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