American Dream in Death of a Salesman
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Death of a Salesman
The term “American Dream” has many diverse meanings. For some, it may be to become
wealthy and live in big houses. For others, it could be to simply live a productive life that
contributes to society. Wanting to live the “American Dream” is the conflict in this novel that
opens the doors to many interpretations that can be related to wanting to be successful.
The setting of “Death of a Salesman” takes place in 2 major time frames. The story
is told mostly from the present memory of the main character, Willy Loman. However, there
are numerous times in the novel when he has flashbacks to when his two sons, Biff and
Happy, were children. Something else that was also deemed important to the setting is in the
opening of the book when Willy comes home and complains about the cramped atmosphere
of his home. He has a flashback to when there were two trees and a garden before the
population of the area bloomed and row after row of apartment blocks were built. It shows
that Willy had a longing for green and to be outdoors, not be cramped inside. To be open
and able to roam represents being free, largely what the “American Dream” is to many
foreigners. Ironically, the need to be outdoors was shared by one of his sons and paved the
way for the symbolic meaning of the story considering that his sons were happy to work
outdoors yet Willy pushed them to pursue what he wanted out of them.
The theme of this story is that of having values, or lack thereof, in pursuit of the
“American Dream”. Willys values are almost nonexistent. The few values that he did have,
which obviously were not good ones, were instilled into his sons. An example of this is in a
flashbackearly on in the novel where Biff “borrowed” a football from the school to practice.
Willy was well aware that the football was stolen, but failed to punish him. Biff was very
popular in high school, and is the way he is presented throughout the novel because of
Willys “its not what you know, its who you know” business attitude that was his hypothetical
nail in the coffin. Willy thought that being successful in a job was being successful in life; that if
you were well liked then you would automatically become successful. Unfortunately for Willy,
he was neither liked nor successful and this was because of his misdirected value system.
Willy wound up killing himself in order for Biff to collect on the $20,000 life insurance and start
a new business. However, it is unkown if Biff can even collect on the money considering that
most life insurance policies do not

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Willy Loman And Present Memory Of The Main Character. (April 17, 2021). Retrieved from