74 pages 2 hours read

Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1949

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The Distorted American Dream

The central theme of Death of a Salesman is the distortion of the American Dream. The understood definition of the American Dream is the belief that anyone can attain success by working hard. This success can be defined by a variety of factors, including upwards mobility from one’s parents’ financial status, owning one’s own home, and being debt-free. While Willy Loman is extremely committed to the Dream in that he believes that working hard in business is a surefire path to success, his perception of the path to this dream is distorted. Where the pursuit of such a Dream would mean happiness and contentment, the Loman family seems to never achieve the American Dream despite attaining all of the its defining characteristics. For Willy, he is a successful salesman if he proves himself to have a well-liked personality. Though he never truly attains such a status—as is clear from his relationships near the end of his life and the lack of the expected crowd at his funeral—he still spends his life pursuing success as a salesman and is able to provide for his family and pay off their home. Where his father abandoned him, he has consistently provided for his family and refused to abandon them for his attraction to a life in nature.