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Literature & Language
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English (U.S.)
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The Falsity of The American Dream (Essay Sample)

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Some critics argue that Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a tragedy of the common man—a point of view to which Miller contributed in the essay he published along with the play, called “Tragedy and the Common Man,” which you are asked to read along with the play. In his essay, Miller challenged the Aristotelian concept of the hero being “highly placed,” calling it “archaic.” Miller argued the “very same mental processes” are to be found in the “lowly,” in particular, “the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in the world.” Certainly, in Miller’s protagonist, Willie Loman, note the play on words—low man—the audience watches and listens to Willie’s fears of being “nobody” opposite his desire to be “well liked.” As Miller asserts, the audience witnesses Willie experience “the fateful wound from which the inevitable events spiral,” the “wound of indignity, and its dominant force is indignation.” “Tragedy,” Miller argues, is the “consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly.” Compare Miller’s point of view with that of David Mamet, who argues that Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a “great American domestic tragedy.” Mamet asserts the play is a tragedy because we recognize in the play’s characters “our own dilemmas” and we are “freed, at the end” not because the dramatist has “arrived at a solution,” but because the dramatist “has reconciled us to the notion that there is no solution—that it is the human lot to try and fail, and that no one is immune from self-deception.” Mamet argues that Miller’s play asks us to set aside “the delusion that we are powerful and wise,” and that we leave the play better off. You are asked in your graded writing assignment for this module to analyze what you see as a major theme in Miller’s Death of a Salesman, especially as you witness the protagonist become overwhelmed by guilt and isolated from his family, a conflict that only escalates as Willie Loman re-experiences more and more painful memories from the past combined with more and more disappointments in his present life. First, re-read Miller’s Acts I & II of Death of a Salesman. Use the module notes and assigned readings to further guide your analysis of the play’s theme. Clearly, the play grapples with the theme of self-awareness and family values (think “Barn Burning”) and what it means to pursue the “American Dream” among other possible themes. You also should review the two (2) New York Times articles related to Miller’s play and its themes, so ensure you review all of the following for this assignment: •Death of a Salesman. Miller, Arthur (1949) Death of a Salesman. ACTS I & II. Retrieved from http://www.pelister.org/literature/ArthurMiller/Miller_Salesman.pdf . •“Attention Must Be Paid.” Mamet, David (February 13, 2005). Attention Must Be Paid. [Op-Ed Contributor]. New York Times. NY: NY. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/13/opinion/13Mamet.html . •Tragedy and the Common Man. Miller, Arthur (February 27, 1949). Tragedy and the Common Man. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/11/12/specials/miller-common.html . Write an essay of no fewer than 500 words maximum analyzing what you see as the primary theme of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and assert why you think “attention must be paid.”

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Content:
Theme: The Falsity of The American Dream
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The Falsity of The American Dream in Death of Salesman play
The primary theme in the play Death of Salesman by Arthur Miller is essentially the falsity The American Dream. In the play, Arthur Miller actually does not mention the sales product of the play’s protagonist – Willy Loman who is poor. Viewers never know what Willy Loman is selling, and this could possibly be because this poor salesperson symbolizes everyman. By avoiding to specify the product, viewers are free to think of Willy Loman as a seller of anything, perhaps paper products, auto equipment, or even building supplies (Harcourt, 2009). A member of the audience may imagine a profession related with her/his own, and the author then succeeds in connecting with the audience. Death of a Salesman criticizes The American Dream, which is the dominant theme. Loman believes with his whole heart in what he regards as the promise of the American Dream – that a personally attractive and well-liked person in business would deservedly and unquestionably obtain the material comforts provided by contemporary American Life. Strangely, Loman’s obsession with the superficial traits ...
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