Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman dwells on the depressing story of a failed businessman named Willy Loman. Arthur Miller produced and published this play in 1949. It is a story of a man who hopes for fame and fortune promised by American dream. The character of Willy Loman symbolizes a broken American Dream. Willy spends his life dreaming about a fantastic future but none of his fanciful expectations had come to pass. Willy’s reality though profoundly conflicts with his hopes. This play reflects how people perceive American Dream as an easy path in finding happiness and comfort through hard work.
Arthur Miller during those times when America is in the process of industrialization wanted to articulate that American Dream is a goal that, for many families, is unattainable. Willy is almost drawn to obsession and intensity of achieving his dreams. But he did not equate success with perseverance and hard work. Since “a man without success is nothing in Willy’s opinion”, he killed himself inside that he is ultimately a failure without any importance at all. His desperation and obsession created devastating effects in his family and his way of life as a whole.
Though Willy achieves a professional understanding of him as a salesman, he failed to achieve self realization of his personal failure and soul destruction. Willy failed to see his loving family. He focuses so much in his failure, ambitions and regret. In Act I, Willy criticise himself that he can not move ahead because people around doesn’t like him. Willy blames himself that he is very talkative and jokes too much. Some man, according to Willy, earns respect because they are men of few words. Willy also complains that people laughs at him for being too fat.
But Willy’s wife in the midst of Willy’s self doubts assures him that he is a good provider and a handsome man. But Willy’s too much consciousness and insecurities eats him. He sees himself as a noble man but people around perceive him differently. In Act I, Miller also reveals the failures of Willy’s sons. It’s difficult sometimes to meet the expectations of the society and their father. Willy unreasonably praises his son in expecting that in return they will fulfil the affirmations that he is giving them. The play also gives flashbacks of Willy’s past and disappointments and hurts of his own youth.
Those traumatic experiences somehow contributed to him as a dreamer. Willy doesn’t want to experience that anymore. He measured his self worth by the given standard of American Dream. Willy wanted to be a part of the material facets of American success and identity. Willy is preoccupied in comparing himself to those American fathers who became successful. As a result, he ignores the more important part of his life- family, freedom and peace. Willy’s misconceptions of success, peace and happiness contributed greatly to his downfall.
His illusionary understanding of the world from its physical perspective made him a miserable individual. He wanted to raise perfect sons for them to achieve success and “greatness” however, his expectations shatters because of his inability to understand reality. This play from Miller is a good reflection to question what is meant to be “truly’” successful. Miller uses Willy Loman’s character as a vehicle to understand the essence of success. Will you feel at peace with the one you accomplished? It is an important material for self analysis of fundamental American values.