Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Arthur Miller alludes to the American Dream in Death of a Salesmen, which has the effect of capitalism and consumerism, through the depiction of two protagonists: Willy and Biff Loman and moves to further criticize these ideas by showing the tragic end of Willy Loman. Capitalism, consumerism, and the American Dream are interlinked ideas and when each of the latter idea occurs, the former happens. To have success, capitalism and consumerism are planned and implemented by the help of politicians and the media. Miller is acknowledging to the Americans that they are in an illusion and that the dream is fake resulting in various social problems and even in death like with Willy. In 1949 Arthur Miller wrote Death of a Salesman, in which the American Dream is depicted as a fruitless pursuit.
The basis of Arthur Millerr’s play is a disastrous life of a man as Miller himself stated a man who doesnt have any control and authority over his life. The main issue is that how can the life of a human be determined by capitalist society continue their way of life under this condition? And being old and all the problems along with oldness is a mere pretext to tolerate life in a society ruled by the upper classes.
Willy Loman is a salesman who believes that success comes from being well liked and popular and has tried desperately to instill his ideas to his two boys: Happy and Biff, Willyr’s biggest aspirations in life. His wife Linda is extremely supportive and is Willyr’s only connection to reality. While raising his boys and trying to instill his American Dream, he fails to teach them any sense of morality, leading them down what he feels is the wrong path. At one point, he defends Biff for stealing just because he was an amazing football player. Loaded with it. Loaded! What is he stealing? Her’s giving it back, isnt he? Why is he stealing? What did I tell him? I never in my life told him anything but decent things. Willyr’s goal throughout life was to achieve financial success. As a salesman, Willy was a failure and he tried desperately to prevent his sons to never end up like him. As a result, he loses his grasp on reality. Throughout the story, Willy often has flashbacks of the conversations that he and his brother Ben once had. These flashbacks illustrate Willyr’s loss of reality from the world. As Willy and Charley are playing a game of cards, Willy has a flashback of him and Ben and Charley became completely confused, believing that Willy is speaking to him. As a character, Ben represents the opportunity that Willy did not take and all the fortune that he missed.
Willy Loman embodies the average worker, who worked his whole life for the same company and who then gets fired, when the company no longer has any use for him. Howard Wagner, the head of the company, who is much younger than Willy doesnt care about his past at all and shows no empathy for him. With this scene, Miller shows us how the average man is exploited by the system and thrown away in the end. With this the author tries to show to the reader, what salesmanship is all about: profit. He also shows how heartless and inhumane this business can be and how blind one someone must be in order not to get this. The exploitation of the average man and his depression is made even clearer in the end of the play, where Willy Loman commits suicide to provide his family with the insurance money from his death.
Willy Loman always dreams of getting rich through the system and continues having this dream, unfortunately he completely forgets about what happens with the people who dont succeed in fulfilling their capitalistic dreams. He thinks that you can achieve whatever you want in the American system if you are diligent and hardworking, but if we analyze the successful characters more closely we find out that there was more luck than hard work involved in their success. Howard was born into and raised to one day run the company and it was only by luck that Ben found diamonds in the African jungle. The only character who has success due to hard work and diligence is Bernard, who becomes a lawyer. All the other people either have luck or fall for the great promises that are made by the system and the people who it made successful.
The struggle of Willy Loman becomes crystal clear when Linda Loman, wife of Willy and mother of Biff and Happy, explains why Willy must be honored. According to Linda, Dont say her’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. Her’s not the finest character that ever lived. But her’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So, attention must be paid. Her’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person. Through these words, the dark face of capitalism comes to us, though some western critics believe that Willy Loman is stupid and a hypocrite. Whereas we see Wagner Company has destroyed his talent, threw him away from job without notice, has shown a class conflict between the owner and Willy Loman, and has also sent him in an uncertain life.
Willy believes that to be well liked is the means to being successful. This is an illusion that Willy lives in. He often lapses into a flashback and appears to be reliving conversations and situations that occurred years ago. This itself is an inability to see reality. This reality versus illusion eventually brings about Willy’s downfall. In the end, Willy believes that a man can be “worth more dead than alive.” Charley, always the voice of reality tells Willy, “A man isn’t worth anything dead.” Willy is also unable to see change. He is man lost in the modern era of technology. He says, “How can they whip cheese?” and is constantly “In a race with the junkyard.” Willy has lost at trying to live the American Dream and the play can be viewed as commentary about society. Willy was a man who was worked all his life by the machinery of Democracy and Free Enterprise and was then spit mercilessly out, spent like a “piece of fruit.” As Happy says in Requiem: Im gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. Itr’s the only dream you can have”to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where Im gonna win for him.
In the end, this piece is a critique of the American system. One major part of the whole piece is to show what happens with most people who try to make it in the capitalist economy, and that this system is not only good, but has two sides. Arthur Miller wanted to point out, that in the capitalistic society the definition and meaning of success is often misunderstood.
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