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Discuss the importance of dreams in the play ‘Death of A Salesman’

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The play, ‘Death of a Salesman’, uses Willy Loman’s frequent day dreams to give the audience insight into his mind. Viewing the hallucinations allows the audience to see important events in the Loman families past and also provides justification for the actions of the characters in the ‘real time’ of the play. Willy’s fantasies are crucial to the development and structure of the play. This essay will outline the importance of dreams within ‘Death of a Salesman’ focusing in particular on the prominent theme of the American Dream.

“Death of a Salesman” strongly presents some of the ideology of the American Dream. Willy Loman himself strongly believes that to achieve complete satisfaction in life, a man must be popular, successful and affluent. Throughout the play, Willy constantly talks of owning his ‘own business’. Willy feels that he is an inadequate person if he is not ‘well liked’ or able to afford expensive material possessions like a luxurious refrigerator or a ‘chevvy’. Willy’s obsession with owning material goods is very much linked to the theme of the American Dream mirroring a capitalist society. Within a capitalist society, only a few members are allowed to be successful. This reflects the reality of the American Dream where the minority has prospered and are happily living the American Dream whereas the rest of society lurches through life feeling miserable and inadequate. This feeling of failure is reflected in the actions and dialogue of Willy Loman. Willy feels that he needs the material possessions, popularity and money to prove himself a worthy member of American society. Without it he feels like a failure.

The American Dream as an important theme in the play also explains all of the male members of the Loman family’s pressure to succeed. All the Loman men desperately strive to achieve success in areas which would never make them totally happy. Willy Loman shows a need to have excellence in all aspects of his life. This desperation is shown in his constant over-exaggeration of his and his son’s achievements and skills. Willy is constantly contradicting himself throughout “Death of a Salesman”. For example, during one of Willy’s frequent flashbacks he returns home to his eager wife and talks of his ‘five hundred gross in Providence and seven hundred gross in Boston’, he later contradicts himself when questioned repeatedly about his sales. In the end he admits his actual ‘two hundred gross on the whole trip’. Willy exaggerates his figures in this particular part of the play to fulfil his self given role as a successful salesman.

The hopes and dreams of the members in the Loman family are all generally similar. Male members of the Loman family wish to become successful in their jobs and live a comfortable lifestyle. In the present time of ?Death of a Salesman? Biff and Happy share a dream of going into business together as ‘The Loman brothers’. They believe that they will be able to create a ‘million dollar’ business and their money worries will have disappeared. Willy’s dreams are for himself to earn two hundred dollars a week, repay his mortgage and see his sons become successful salesmen. He is again disillusioning himself. Biff is going to try and get some money from Bill Oliver but already Willy is boating of Biff ?working on a very big deal’. At the end of the play, Biff says that Willy ‘had the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong’. I think this statement implies that Biff thought his father had chosen a career that was very unsuited to him. It entails that Willy had set his self-expectations too high and would have only been able to be a mediocre salesman his whole life. In the play, Happy, like his father is also disillusioned by the life they pretended to lead instead of the harsh reality that they actually exist in.

The dreams or flashback in the play are represented by music cutting in or a change in lighting. This is a way of separating the ?real time? events of the play from the past memories remembered in the play. Willy spends a lot of his time reliving the past in ‘Death of a Salesman’. I think that this may be to escape the reality he is faced with as he sees himself as a failure and is contemplating suicide. Willy Loman lives by the ideals that success equals popularity and money and that these three combined will make him happy again. The flashbacks in ‘Death of a Salesman’ are the only happiness we see Willy Loman feel so he constantly reminisces about past events so he may go back to a time when he was happy. These events however may be somewhat exaggerated by Willy’s distorted view of the world and its events. Willy may be remembering only the happy pieces of the memories or he may be completely imaging them so he can create for himself a place where he was once proud of the man he was and felt happy and secure in just being himself instead of his constant battle for success.

In conclusion, Willy Loman sees himself as having the potential to become as successful as he would wish to be but he is always denied of the chances to prove his worthiness as a successful salesman. Dreams are important in the play as they seem to be the world that Willy Loman is now living in. His life has become so unbearable for him. I think that Miller is trying to say that a society which solely bases itself on hopes and ambitions that are beyond the reach of the vast majority of its members is using them. I think he is trying to say that the American Dream is a way of getting the lower members of society to work hard their entire life, striving for a dream that is promised to them but always seems to be just out of their reach. I think that Miller is saying that the dream can eventually take over lives and destroy the grasp of reality that those who has envisaged the dream once had.

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