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What does Death of a Salesman say about the american dream?

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3 Answers

In Death of a Salesman there are three different versions of the American Dream. Willy believes that one can rise to the top simply by being popular and "well liked". He teaches this to his son, but this line of thinking does not work out well for either of them. Willy's brother, Ben, went about it another way. He believes that the American Dream is to work hard and gain something from putting everything into nothing. Unfortunately for him, his way of thinking has made him ruthless. He will do anything to best anyone, as we see when he fights Biff. Biff is able to redeem himself, or so he thinks. He does struggle with it some, but he understand that his father - who sold products which are never named or described - has the wrong idea. Biff decides to pursue a life of manual labor, as he believes that this will make him happiest.

In seven words: To pursue the American Dream is suicidal. (And don't forget what Ron and Jennifer said!)

 

Matthew

The American Dream, as depicted in Death of a Salesman, is an abstract concept invented by the individual chasing it. The American Dream is different for everybody and can be shattered just as quick as Biff's admiration of his father when he catches Willy with another woman. Willy's American Dream was to be well liked and he passed that on to his children. But then reality sets in and Biff goes off (after disillusionment of the dream he was sold by his father) to fulfill his American Dream of peace of mind found through hard work. Happy, on the other hand, buys into what his father was selling him and decides to fill his American dream with the hedonistic traits that were just under Willy's surface. Willy was ever trying to convince himself that he was the greatest salesman and was "well liked" in which he thought was respect. After Willy's death, happy vows to be better than his father was, but seems doomed at the end of the play to continue living the lies of the American Dream that were instilled in him by his father.