The Downfall Of American Dream In The Play Death Of A Salesman

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The play Death of a Salesman can be considered one of the many examples of the 'American Dream' and the hard work to success in American literature. In the play, readers read of the Loman family and the hardships they experience and discuss. Along with this, readers learn about the family’s aspirations in becoming successful and their never-ending efforts in accomplishing the “American Dream.”

In spite of this, each member in the Loman family seems to be struggling to reach the success they desire. Also, Willy Loman, the protagonist in the play shows external and internal conflicts throughout the story. Unfortunately, Willy becomes suicidal and kills himself as a result of his chaotic life. Ultimately, the major themes that afflicted Willy’s pain, led to his death. Nevertheless, going into the book, one learns that it was more than Willy’s money struggles and personal problem that influenced his sullen death. The 'American Dream,” father and son relationships, and abandonment and betrayal are the major themes in Death of a Salesman that contributed to Willy Loman’s death.

At the beginning of Death of a Salesman, Biff is talking to Happy and says, “Why does dad mock me all the time” (DoSM, pg. 10). This small excerpt of the play, tells readers that the relationship between Willy and the boys is strained and communication is needed between them. Their father and son relationships had fallen over the years and this in result dawned on Willy and eventually contributed to his death. However, their father and son relationship did not crumble until Biff and Happy were in high school. Willy always taught the boys during school, that being popular and well-liked was key to a bright and successful future.

Unfortunately, this influenced Biff and Happy’s behavior and school ethic that caused Biff not to graduate. That summer however, Biff gets the opportunity to go to summer school and retake the math class, but catches his father having an affair when he goes to visit Willy in Boston. This encounter destroys their relationship and upsets Biff, that he never ends up going to summer school and graduating leading to Biff’s unhappy and miserable life. To add on, Willy never educated the boys how to be mature and respectful men. This idea relates to Happy’s life and it shows through the play by Happy being a womanizer and disrespectful towards women.

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According to Death of a Salesman pg 9, Happy is talking to Biff about his first encounter with a woman and describes her as a pig. Later in the book he discusses with Biff again, and states that he slept with his boss’s fiance. At the end of Act II, Happy and Biff leave Willy at the restaurant they were supposedly going to have dinner at, feeling embarrassed in front of Miss Forsythe and Letta. “No, that’s not my father” (DoSM, pg. 91). Happy’s statement basically disclaimed Willy after finally having enough of Willy’s troubled mind. Throughout the play, all of Willy’s wrongdoings affected his relationship with Biff and Happy and led to his downfall. Willy felt like a failure and atlast realized all his mistakes he did raising his children. With no more to fix or able to amend what he did, the major theme of father and son relationship became part of Willy’s reasoning to kill himself for the better.

To add on, throughout Death of a Salesman, the Loman family and Willy the most encounter experiences of abandonment and betrayal. This major theme can be found within the play and readers are able to see how this factor, played a role in Willy’s death. Willy’s job as a working salesman, caused him to travel frequently and abandon his family for long periods of time. However, the loneliness Willy felt when he was on his trips led him to feel abandoned too. As a result, of the loneliness he felt, Willy cheats on Linda and more problems began to accumulate in his life. Linda never discovers about the affair and Willy feels like he betrayed her and the family. In addition, Willy felt in despair and abandoned, that he attempted to kill himself many times before his death. Linda confronts him about the incidents and reveals the fact that he had been using a rubber pipe and car accidents to kill himself.

This argument in the family is one of the last straws for Biff about being concerned of his father’s mental health and health. Nevertheless, the play shows that Willy feels abandoned and betrayed in various ways. Willy feels that the company has abandoned him, but confronts Howard (pg 82-83). He finally realizes that in the past 34 years of working with the company, has not felt satisfied with the success he has worked for. The boys as well betray Willy multiple of times within the play, the boys abandon their father, according to the novel, “...I’m leaving you pop, I’m not coming back…” Biff abandons Willy (pg. 127). The problems challenging Willy, create him fragile and easy to break. To add on, he feels guilty after finally realizing all the times he had betrayed his family and abandoned them. Willy begins to feel overwhelmed with the problems, which contributes to his decision of killing himself.

Death of a Salesman takes place almost a decade after one of the worst economic crises, The Great Depression. The catastrophic events caused millions to start over and this new beginning meant much more for select American individuals. This idea was known as the 'American Dream”. In the play, Death of a Salesman, the 'American Dream' is one of the major themes that stands out to readers and helps readers recognize the reason Willy killed himself. Throughout the story, Willy constantly works hard and strives to become a successful salesman. His life goals being, to financially support his family and be well-liked, however this philosophy took a huge toll on Willy’s way of living his life and his happiness. Willy’s fail at the 'American Dream' contributed to his death in many ways. In Death of a Salesman, the play shows that Willy can not support his 'American Dream' due to money issues.

With over thirty-four years of working at Howard’s company as a salesman, Willy “can’t support his 'American Dream' due to money issues” (pg 72-73). As a result, Willy talks to Howard about moving to New York to work there as a salesman. However, Howard believes that Willy is not suited for New York and that he should retire and tell his boys to work to support him and the family. Willy’s obsession with the “American Dream', cause him to fail at it and not become successful. Based on Death of a Salesman, Willy prioritized success and being well-liked to achieve the 'American Dream', and his philosophy made him a failure. Willy accepts the fact that he was a failure and wasn’t capable of doing enough to support his family solo.

In summary, Willy’s relationship with Biff and Happy, abandonment and betrayal, and his unsuccessful attempt at the “'American Dream,” contributed to Willy’s death. With the constant reminder of his failures and taking no responsibility for his actions, Willy did the ultimate sacrifice for his family. Nevertheless, Will ended his corrupt life to stop comparing himself to the perfect, ideal image of an average working man and “American Dream' family.

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