Essay on ‘Death of a Salesman’
Death of a Salesman essay This essay explains the relevance and importance of dreams in the play; “Death of a Salesman”. There are three different types of dreams that each are very important in this play, these are; hopes and ambitions, daydreams and fantasies and the American dream. The play is based on Willy Loman who tries to achieve the American dream, but never accomplishes it, which distorts his reality, turning it into false fantasies. The American dream is based on being rich, being popular and successful and having the best quality of everything.
It is everyone’s dream to live this life, but it is not possible for everyone. Willy Loman has this same dream, but he cannot achieve it. Willy is an unsuccessful salesman, who looks up to his brother Ben because he is rich and successful. Willy is married to Linda, and they have two sons; Biff and Happy. Willy thinks being popular and well liked leads to success and wealth, but this is a false dream. His longing for the accomplishment of the American dream affects his whole family and his friends.
The Loman family have a lot of debts due to consumerism. Willy buys new cars and the best refrigerator, since having the best of everything is part of the American dream. He buys these products even though he can’t afford them causing the Loman family to have financial problems. Willy buys these products to make it seem he is living the American dream, but actually these goods help him to make the illusion of living the American dream more realistic. Willy affects his whole family with his longing for the American dream.
He tells his sons when they are young that popularity is the key to success; “Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world…is the man who gets ahead” (this again emphasizes on willies fake reality). Linda knows that they do not live the American dream, she keeps track of the bills; she is not blinded by the American dream, but plays along with Willy to try making him satisfied with his life. Happy however is exactly like his father, he also wants to achieve the American dream, and thinks that that popularity and being well liked is all that is required to be successful in life.
Biff questions the American dream; he wants to work on a farm in the open air. Biff knows what the Loman family is actually good in, which is working with their hands. Willy’s father used to make flutes, and sell and he was very successful doing that job; “With one gadget he made more in a week than a man like you could make in a lifetime”. When Biff and Happy were young, Willy influenced them with his own hopes and ambitions. Willy’s hope is to become the most successful salesman and to achieve the American dream. Towards his wife and children Willy portrays the image that he is very popular and well liked while this is not true. I can park my car in any street…and the cops will protect it like their own” This quote indicates that Willy thinks he is very well liked, but actually it is and illusion, he is not well liked. He portrays this fake reality to his family; therefore it removes the boundaries between reality and fiction for Willy. The difference between reality and fiction become unclear. Willy’s hopes and ambitions are unrealistic. Because he lives in fantasised world, and thinks he is very popular, he treats other people as if they are less than him. The main victim of his superior behaviour is his friend Charley. Charley is not-liked” This quote shows us how Willy acts superior to other people. It is ironic, because Willy himself is actually not liked, again telling the reader that Willy lives in a false reality. The reason why Willy has these unrealistic hopes and ambitions is because of his brother Ben. Ben left Willy when he was very young, and is now a very rich man. Ben is someone Willy really looks up to; it is as if Ben is Willy’s role model even though Willy does not know him very well. “There was the only man I ever met who knew the answer” This quote refers to Willy looking up to his elder brother Ben. the answer” Refers to; how to become rich and successful, which is Willy’s hope. When Biff and Happy were younger they were influenced by their father’s dreams. They both thought that the key to success was appearance and popularity. Willy’s interpretation of the American dream affects Happy more than it affects Biff. “I’m losing weight, you notice, pop? ” Indication that Happy is influenced by his father. Biff however does not have the same hopes and ambitions, once he grows up he wants to have his own farm, and do manual labour.
Willy completely disagrees with Biff, and does not want him working on a farm, since it does not suite his own ambitions. “How can he find himself on a farm” This tells us that Willy only believes that the business world can make a man successful, and that money is the most important thing. At the end of the play after Willy’s death, Biff says; “He had the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong”. This means that Biff finally realizes that he was not the one who had the wrong hopes and ambitions, but that his father was the one with the wrong ambitions and hopes.
This indicates that Biff is actually the one that knows what type of work the Loman family should be doing. Daydreams are also very important in ‘Death of a Salesman’, since they change the structure of the play. Willy often has flashbacks of better times, when Biff and Happy were young. When a flashback like this occurs, it is indicated by the sound of the flute in the stage directions. Every time the flute appears, the audience knows that Willy is having a flashback, and the time period changes. Willy spends a lot of time thinking about the past, because he tries to use the past to make his future seem better.
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