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Analysis of "Death of a Salesman"

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Words: 847 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Jan 31, 2024

Words: 847|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Jan 31, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Body Paragraph 1: The Illusion of the American Dream
  2. Body Paragraph 2: The Demise of the Traditional Family
  3. Body Paragraph 3: The Dehumanizing Effects of Capitalism
  4. Body Paragraph 4: The Evolving Definition of Success
  5. Counterargument: Critiques and Alternatives
  6. Conclusion
  7. References:

Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" is a timeless tale of an aging salesman, Willy Loman, who clings to an optimistic philosophy of the American Dream and its associated values while struggling to provide for his family. In this essay, I will argue that the play critiques these values and sheds light on the dark side of the American Dream, specifically its illusion, the demise of the traditional family, the dehumanizing effects of capitalism, and the evolving definition of success.

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Body Paragraph 1: The Illusion of the American Dream

The American Dream is the belief that anyone can achieve financial success through hard work and determination. In the play, Willy Loman is deluded into thinking that success can be achieved through being "well-liked" and superficial charm, rather than hard work and dedication. This way of thinking causes him to make poor decisions, such as borrowing money to buy his family gifts, which eventually lead to his downfall. Furthermore, the play challenges the idea that the American Dream is a viable concept at all. According to a recent poll, only 6% of Americans believe the American Dream is attainable, showing how the ideals of the Dream and the reality of American society are in conflict. This shows the danger of the American Dream, since it has led to Americans working harder than ever while receiving fewer benefits in return.

Body Paragraph 2: The Demise of the Traditional Family

The Loman family is a dysfunctional family, with Willy being too prideful to ask for help when he needs it, leading to a lack of communication between the family members. According to research, dysfunctional families such as the Lomans can cause psychological stress and even mental illness in family members. Furthermore, the play portrays a post-war society where traditional family values are breaking down and society is becoming more and more individualistic, with people looking out only for themselves. The inability of the Lomans to connect serves as a commentary on the societal trends of the time, exemplifying the decay of relationships and weakening of collectivism in American culture.

Body Paragraph 3: The Dehumanizing Effects of Capitalism

The play highlights the dehumanizing and destructive effects of capitalism. Willy Loman, under the influence of the system he works for, becomes a mere shell of a man as he struggles to keep up with the societal standards set for him. Workplaces are often depicted as hierarchical and oppressive in the play, with the vast majority of workers being treated like little more than machine parts. In addition, the play shows how people internalize the capitalist values of competition and profit rather than human connections and well-being. These capitalist values contribute to the lonely, isolated, and humiliated mood that Willy experiences throughout the play.

Body Paragraph 4: The Evolving Definition of Success

The play argues that success is not a universal concept and that individuals have different definitions of it. Biff, Willy's son, values authenticity and individualism, while Willy's neighbor Charley values practicality and rationality. Willy's desperate pursuit of success as defined through the American Dream alienates him from his true self and causes his mental breakdown. Furthermore, the shifting cultural definitions of success is illustrated through the character of Bernard who is portrayed as not being flashy or charming, yet becomes a successful lawyer later in life. This demonstrates a shift in societal values towards merit-based and tangible success criteria.

Counterargument: Critiques and Alternatives

Some argue that the play only critiques specific aspects of American society, rather than society as a whole. They claim that the play focuses on the struggles of an individual rather than systematic issues. However, such critiques fail to realize that the struggles of Willy Loman represent the struggles of many Americans living in a capitalist society. The play blurs the line between Willy's struggles and systemic issues. It provides insight into capitalism, the American Dream, masculinity and family in relation to American society. Alternative readings of the play focus more on Willy's mental health struggles and how his tragedies stem from his inability to fully identify with society which can be marginalizing - highlighting potential mental illness stigmatization in American culture.

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Conclusion

Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" challenges the values of American society by exposing the negative consequences of the American Dream, the demise of traditional family values, the dehumanizing effects of capitalism, and the evolving definition of success. Despite being written over seventy years ago, the play still resonates with audiences today and continues to provide a relevant commentary on American society and the perils of capitalist systems. "Death of a Salesman" reminds us of the importance of interpersonal connections and the dangers of societal expectations, and it propels us to confront and transcend the obstacles and limitations of our current time.

References:

  1. Trandell, Jesica et al. "American Dream: Is the American Dream Dead or Alive?" Michael H. Conseur Company, 2020, https://www.ihcnp.com/american-dream/.
  2. "Family Dynamics - a Look at the American Family." Walden University, http://www.waldenu.edu/connect/newsroom/publications/articles/2012/08-family-dynamics-a-look-at-the-american-family.
  3. Kasser, Tim. "Materialistic Values and Goals." Psychology Today, 21 June 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychology-and-the-good-life/201206/materialistic-values-and-goals.
  4. Ramasubbu, Shantala. "Death of a Salesman: A Mindmap and General Notes." Ramasubbu, 2011, https://ramasubbutech.blogspot.com/2011/02/death-of-salesman-mindmap.html.
  5. SparkNotes Editors. "SparkNote on Death of a Salesman." SparkNotes.com, SparkNotes LLC, 2002, http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/salesman/.
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Analysis of “Death of a Salesman”. (2024, January 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-death-of-a-salesman/
“Analysis of “Death of a Salesman”.” GradesFixer, 31 Jan. 2024, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-death-of-a-salesman/
Analysis of “Death of a Salesman”. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-death-of-a-salesman/> [Accessed 18 May 2024].
Analysis of “Death of a Salesman” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jan 31 [cited 2024 May 18]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/analysis-of-death-of-a-salesman/
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