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Death of A Salesman and the Fading American Dream

Although the title of Arthur Miller's play is Death of A Salesman, the play is essentially about the death of a father and of a nuclear family. First produced in 1949, the background of the play is nevertheless grounded in the fading of the American Dream during the Great Depression of the 1930s, rather than in the prosperous, optimistic post-war era.

The basic thesis of the play is the fate of an ordinary man, a traveling salesman named Willy Loman, who when he reaches the age of 63 is discarded by his employer and worn down by his lifelong economic struggle to make a home for his family, and to pass his values on to his two sons so they can continue in his path. Unfortunately, Willy Loman's values are false and his dreams for his sons, especially his favorite Biff, almost destroys them.

On a naturalistic level, the play takes place over a 24-hour time period, although the expressionistic elements of the play add a variety of past experiences that broadens the time span to include all of Loman's life. The play opens with Willy's return home from an unsuccessful business trip. He can't bring himself to tell his wife Linda, or his sons, that his salary has been taken away and he must work on straight commission in a field that is economically shrinking. His two sons, Biff and Hap have also returned home, so the family is together. While Willy tortures himself trying to understand why Biff has not become a success, but rather a lost soul, the two boys are discussing their own hopes. Hap, who is like his father, would like to continue in the role his father has laid out for him and receive the same love his father shows Biff. But Biff has been struggling all his life to free himself from his father's illusions about him. Willy has sustained himself all his life with illusions that have no basis in the reality of his own life. Biff tries to make Willy understand the difference between reality and illusions explaining that both...

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Death of A Salesman and the Fading American Dream. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:14, August 09, 2020, from