“What are our American values?” And “What is the American dream?” Are very important questions in this country. Arthur Miller gives his answer to these questions in the book Death of a Salesman. Miller states “if Willy’s is an American dream, it is also a dream shared by all those who are aware of the gap between what they might have been and what they are.” 

Death of a Salesman is focused around Willy Loman a father and a salesman. As Willy is getting older he starts talking to himself and loses his riches and respect from others. In the beginning the Loman’s were seen as the perfect American family but throughout the book the truth is unveiled. Willy, the father, begins talking to himself and fighting with his sons Biff and Happy. The sons are no longer the hot shots that they used to be seen as. Happy is an assistant to the assistant buyer in a department store. Although he has a successful job he still dreams of moving out west with his brother which they often talk about. Biff doesn’t have a job like his brother and is more focused on moving out west. Just like in Of Mice and Men their American dream was to live off the land. After a big fight with his father Biff makes plans to ask an old friend and businessman for a job. After the meeting Willy and his sons met to share the news, which wasn’t as good as they originally hoped. “Then why’d you go?” “Why did I go? Why did I go! Look at  you! Look at what’s become of you!” This Biff says to his father after breaking the bad news that he didn’t get a job. Towards the end of the book their values get skewed, they all start to care more about money and reputation that they are now seen as somewhat crazy. 

The definition of the American dream is “a happy way of living that is thought of by many Americans as something that can be achieved by anyone in the U.S., especially by working hard and becoming successful”(Merriam-Webster). Throughout the book it is thought that the values and “American dream” is having money and being well liked. At the end of the book it is proven that all the obsessing over money and being well liked is not all that matters. Without giving away the ending, I can say that although some can see that in the end there is more to life than money others cant. “He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smiling back-that’s the earthquake.” Others were even able to see and understand Willys values and dreams. The book takes place in the 1940’s and sense then people’s values have changed. Now things like happiness is more important than money or looks and what others think of you. 

Works Cited

“The American Dream.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/the%20American%20dream.

Fichandler, Zelda, and Arthur Miller. Death of a Salesman. Penguin Classics, 1976.

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Penguin Books, 2017.

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CC BY-SA 4.0 The American dream in Death of a Salesman by Annie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

1 Comment
  1. Prerna 4 days ago

    Hi Annie,
    You did a good job of explaining the book and how the definition of the American Dream is incredibly idealistic or popular during the time I assume your book took place. I like how you examined each character’s arc because it helps me understand differing points of view along with how family is a harder thing to keep steady than one may expect. I also like the socioeconomic criticism you tied into this by talking about the money involved in the story.

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