The 'Death of a Salesman' was written in 1949 by a playwright named Arthur Miller, who was showing what could be called the antithesis of the American Dream. The general description of the play's theme would be, an individual man involved in business laboring to become successful in a world which to him has become mystifying and unfriendly. Even in the name of the play the idea is vague, because of the use of 'a' instead of 'the', but throughout the play, any man in America at the time could sympathize with this man's story.
The American Dream was a commonly known 'ideal' which fulfilled people's hopes or specifically 'dreams' of freedom and equality amongst each other. Miller saw that this dream was fading because of the constant competitiveness and hostile behavior with which people treated one another. Originally, the American Dream was an undetermined promise which the United States created in which freedom would include the opportunity of prosperity and success. This made America an international attraction mostly for the poor and undervalued who wished to make a new start in the New World, as it was called. As the Americas had only recently been discovered by the Western world, (1492) new and unsettled land was yet to be discovered which attracted even more people. However, the dream began to crumble in the 1930's which is known as the Great Depression, which lasted until the early 1940's. This time period shows how far world economy can decline and destroy society's dreams. The Great Depression therefore retrospects the idea of the American Dream. Arthur Miller uses the Depression to show the failure of the American Dream through his character's failure.
Throughout the play Miller illustrates the Dream by using characters such as Willy Loman, Biff Loman and even Charley. The main character, Willy Loman, contradicts the idea of the American Dream although originally this 'dream' was his ambition. The character's childhood has much effected his view of life; he grew up almost without a fatherly figure, as his father left when he was very young and his only recollection of him is the fact that he played the flute, therefore representing nature for Willy as well as the idolized past. Willy's older brother Ben also left for Africa to uncover gold and new land. Willy regrets for the rest of his life not joining his brother because he believes that if he had gone he would have been successful. What he doesn't understand is that his decision not to go resulted in him creating a family that loved him. This inability to understand that he must leave the past behind as well as his failure to except his human flaws and face the truth, haunt him to his dying day. This also restricts him from doing what he enjoys and is considered the American Dream, which is being amongst nature because he believes that real success can come from city business; this is where he is wrong because real success is doing what you love to make yourself happy. Only in the end does Willy realize that he is worth more dead than alive, "imagine that magnificence with twenty-thousand dollars in his pocket!" and this is what Willy hopes for his eldest son, Biff, upon his death.
Biff is the opposite of his father because he accepts that he is not a main figure in society, that he is a "dime in a dozen" whereas Willy fights against being nothing by lying to himself that he is important. Biff decides to do what he loves by living a 'simple life' in the country instead of the crammed and competitive conditions of the city. Miller uses Willy to contradict the Dream and Biff to represent it. Willy doesn't achieve his dream no matter how hard he tried, whereas Biff follows his dreams and is happy. Happy, his other son, is just like Willy by trying to impress others and not being true to himself or others (superficial) therefore he is unhappy in the end.
The lighting in this play…