100%(8)8 out of 8 people found this document helpful
This preview shows page 1 - 3 out of 30 pages.
The American Dream in Arthur Miller'sDeath of a SalesmanDate:2009OnDeath of a Salesmanby Arthur MillerAuthor:Merritt MoseleyFrom:The American Dream, Bloom's Literary Themes.Death of a Salesmanis centrally concerned with dreams and dreaming.What are the dreams of its protagonist, Willy Loman? What is theirworth? This question occupies the surviving characters at the play'sconclusion. Son Biff, the most lucid among the Loman men and thusthe most despairing, cries to his father, as things are falling apart: "Willyou let me go, for Christ's sake? Will you take that phony dream andburn it before something happens?" (133).Willy, typically, misses the point, reading Biff's outcry not as a call tobecome wiser but as a confession of love. And in the Requiem,standing at Willy's grave, younger son Happy insists:All right, boy. I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a gooddream. It's the only dream you can have—to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this iswhere I'm gonna win it for him. (138-39)Willy is dreaming, in a literal sense, throughout much of the play.Explaining to his wife Linda why he has returned early, and empty-handed, from his selling trip, he acknowledges that his mind wanderstoo much for driving:I was driving along, you understand? And I was fine. I was even observing the scenery. You can imagine, melooking at scenery, on the road every week of my life. But it's so beautiful up there, Linda, the trees are sothick, and the sun is warm. I opened the windshield and just let the warm air bathe over me. And all of asudden I'm goin' off the road! I'm tellin' ya, I absolutely forgot I was driving. If I'd've gone the other way overthe white line I might've killed somebody. So I went on again—and five minutes later I'm dreamin' again, andI nearly—He presses two fingers against his eyes. I have such thoughts, I have such strange thoughts. (14)This is an important passage in setting up the way the tragedy willunfold. It is the audience's first indication that Willy is unable tocontinue his job as a traveling salesman, which he has followed formany years. Linda suggests in response that he ask the company to lethim work in town; Willy, still proud at this point ("I'm vital in NewEngland"), declines. Later, when he makes just this request, he isspurned on the basis of pure business calculations.Willy is drawn to death. We learn later that he has attached a littlehose to the gas line in his basement and is flirting with the idea ofsuicide. At the end of the play he carries through with it, apparently bycrashing his car. Though he tells Linda that by crossing the center line
he might have killed "somebody," rather than himself, it is himself thathe eventually kills. Perhaps it is his suicide fantasies that Willy refers toin his "strange thoughts."One reason that Willy can no longer be a functioning salesman—asidefrom age, exhaustion, and the death or retirement of his old friends in