Death of a Salesman

Fetters of the Dream: Failure and Success in Death of a Salesman College

Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is a story about the futility of self-deception, but it also examines the definition of "success" in post-WWII America and the danger of suppressing one's own inclinations to meet the expectations of others. Willy Loman's dismal failure results from delusions and a false sense of entitlement, but those are symptoms of a deeper problem: his desperate attempt to be something he's not. His collapse is balanced by Biff's self-awakening, which questions the strict definitions of success that led to Willy's downfall. In the end, it might be Biff who is the most important character, the only one capable of change. In Biff's willingness to face himself and pursue an alternative to the conventional American Dream, we see the freedom and self-fulfillment that people obsessed with social status can rarely achieve.

In post-WWII America, people were buying the advertiser's claims that everyone deserved a new car, fancy appliances, and a big house with a white picket fence. The definition of success was being whittled down into a rigid set of parameters. To Willy Loman and his ilk, success wore a business suit and carried a briefcase. Owning a nicer car or house or...

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