Death of a Salesman challenges the ideals of our society even to this day. Arthur Miller wrote this play in 1949, but in 2013 I can still relate the issues presented to my personal life. This play revolves around Willy Loman’s rigid view of success/the american dream.
To achieve this dream Willy works hard as a salesman and consistently fails. The American dream is that you work hard, get a good job and provide a decent living for your family. Willy Loman believed in that dream and worked to be successful, but year after year he did not meet those goals. He constantly fell short of his dream to be a great businessman which was well respected.
Through these events Miller uses this play to comment on the society of that time and even today. The ideal of the American dream is still very much alive in 2013. We are raised to believe that if you work hard you will be rewarded. Miller presents the flaws in this plan through the tragic events which occurred throughout the play. As the play progressed you began to witness how Willy slowly lost his mind. He had illusions of Ben and his travels to exoitc places are a byproduct of Willy’s obsession with the American Dream. This obsession with this ideal literally caused him to lose his sense of reality.
Willy’s fall into madness presents the dangers of the American dream in this age. As people, we cannot place our lives in this empty notion that pursuing the “safe” or “prestigious” position will yield concrete results. Believing wholeheartedly in the American dream drove many individuals to the point of giving up their lives because it did not meet the standard which American society has placed before them. When the stock market crashed in 1929 citizens responded by jumping off of skyscrapers. Those individuals gave their lives to the American dream and when it failed they surrendered their lives. You also see this tragedy played out in Death of a Salesman as Willy sacrifices his life for the concept that his son’s will carry out the American dream which he was never able to achieve. Miller making Willy sacrifice his life in vain supplements the frugal attempts to devote yourself to the American dream.
As college students it is easy to fall into the trap of living for that elusive dream. We may not want the white picket fence in the suburbs, but we do inherently believe that if we work hard we will reap the benefits of our labor. This naive notion is only illuminated when the world brings us to our knees (like in the stock market crash or when Willy was at the end of his rope). This play presents a timeless lesson that devoting your life to the fleeting promise of the American dream is not the path which we should take. In this time when our lives can be turned upside down in a second due to financial collapse, war, terrorist attacks, or personal tragedy we must devote our lives to something more than an idealistic notion of a naive dream. Even to this day it is still referred to as the American dream and this unrealistic reality will cause us to lose touch with our lives and the current events we are facing. We should not let the American dream make us lose of sense of reality, like Willy, we must not devote our lives to a dream, but to a concrete foundation on which to build our reality.