Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman explores the ever-elusive American Dream. It is something that we all chase after, yet we have different concepts of it. Willy Lomans vision of the American Dream was a rather distorted one. He was obsessed with reaching this goal. He believed that finding it would make him successful, yet his perception of what the dream was all about ultimately caused his demise. His belief that popularity and risk-taking provide the essential tools for success proved to be a tragic mistake.
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Willy grew up believing that being well-liked was important to becoming a success. He thought that popularity could help you charm teachers and even open doors in business. He is proud to learn that flock around Biff and respond to his athletic abilities (Miller 1176). He even scoffs at the nerdy Bernard, who is to focused on his academic success to be popular. Willy believed that this adolescent popularity would ensure Biffs success in his adult life.
Even though Biff fails as an adult, his father still holds on to the ill-conceived notion that a business man Biff met numerous years ago will offer him a job (1213). He believes that his business opportunity will give Biff the chance he needs to recapture his vivacious nature, confidence and popularity he experienced in high school. At one point in the play, Willy meets Bernard again. Bernerd is preparing to argue a case before the Supreme Court of the United States (1206).
Sadly, Willy is unable to understand that Bernerd is successful because of hard work and determination. Willy can only wonder about fate and how Bernard turned out to be a successful lawyer and his own popular son Biff is a failure. Willy thought that popularity would be the key to success in his own life as well as the lives of his sons. Another part of Willys misconception about the American Dream is his belief that successful people are daring risk-takers. He often regrets that he turned down his brothers offer to travel to Alaska to make his fortunes.
He also views Biff, the high school athlete, starting a sports company (1215). He thinks that this company will be successful because of Biffs popularity and attractive personality alone. He never considers the possibility that the company may be a failure because of Biffs lack of experience or knowledge. In contrast to these tragic characters, the reader may view Charlie or Bernard. Both of the characters have worked hard and survived the business world, not because of popularity or risk-taking, but because of hard work and perseverance.
Willys distorted view of the American Dream causes many hardships for both him and his family. However, Miller shows the reader that the Dream is possible through the lives of Charlie and Bernard. The tragedy in the life of Willy Loman is that he never realizes that popularity and luck are just a substitution for real work education. His attempts to capture the American Dream fail to provide the contentment he seeks, but rather cause him pain and lead to his demise.