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The Death of the American Dream

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Matthew R.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
  3. Willy Loman, the salesman
  4. Linda, the wife
  5. Relationship between the brothers
  6. Conclusion

What is the American Dream? There are as many answers to that question as there are Americans and those around the world who look to the American way as a guiding ideal. For some the American Dream might be achieving professional success, others may seek fulfillment in a life of freedom or an introspective journey to find their purpose, while some treasure a loving family more than anything. The different definitions of the American Dream are exemplified by the pantheon of characters in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Indeed, it has often been argued that, ?If but one text were chosen as the embodiment of the failure of an American dream, Death of a Salesman would be it.?("Death of a Salesman." Literary Themes for Students: The American Dream. Ed. Anne Marie Hacht. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2007. 195-208.

Literary Themes for Students. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 6 Apr. 2013). The character of Willy clearly represents the American Dream of success. Willy's wife, Linda, wants nothing more than to return the family to their dream like days of mutual love. Meanwhile, their sons Biff and Happy both seek to live very different lives of freedom. Each of these characters represents a different unfulfilled aspect of the American Dream and throughout the course of the narrative each becomes a slave to their respective dream.
Perhaps the most beautifully tragic of Miller's characters is Willy Loman, the salesman. When we meet sixty-three year old Willy he is already a shell of a man, destroyed by his dreams and greed, lost in the magic of his yesterdays. Yet Willy was not always this tragic figure.

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