Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

Death of a Salesman Final Paper


All through Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” the protagonists’ and antagonists’ paths intersect with the American Dream. Understanding the complicated relationships between Willy, Biff, and Linda Loman requires going beyond the literary medium and investigating the social, psychological, and historical factors that influenced their goals. Miller’s thoughts on the American Dream, in opposition to the prevailing social mores of the time, weave a complex web of character motivations. In this character study, we explore the minds of people in the middle of the twentieth century who were trying to achieve the American Dream amidst generational changes, nagging dreams, and other obstacles.

Section 1: Unveiling the American Dream:

In order to understand the people’s plights in “Death of a Salesman,” it is necessary to analyze the American Dream historically and contextually. The viewpoint of Arthur Miller on this illusive ambition serves as a prism through which the inner struggles and driving forces of the characters are revealed. Miller shapes the play’s thematic landscape with insights that differ from conventional understandings of the American Dream as well as those that match with them in his interviews and essays. Miller’s viewpoint, as compiled from multiple sources, aligns with the disenchantment and shifting societal dynamics of the post-WWII age. An insightful dissertation by Yosua Gunawan titled “Characterisation and Power Relation in Death of a Salesman” (Gunawan, 24) elucidates how Miller skilfully situates the characters within the historical power systems. As a result, we can see how societal expectations impact the characters’ problems.

Subsection 1.1: Miller’s Vision of the American Dream

An examination of Arthur Miller’s ideas about the American Dream, as presented in interviews, articles, and other sources, sheds light on the themes that underpin “Death of a Salesman.” In an interview that Handy Yosua Gunawan recorded, Miller voiced his belief that the American Dream had become a warped drive for financial success, frequently neglecting one’s own happiness and true fulfillment (Gunawan, 26). Miller writes about the dehumanizing effects of conforming to a restricted definition of success in his article, which echoes this sentiment (Gunawan, 29). Miller offers an alternative viewpoint that challenges the dominant ideas of the period following WWII. During this time, the ideals of the nuclear family, suburban stability, and monetary wealth were commonly seen as part of the American Dream. Willy Loman is portrayed by Stephen Marino in “The Arthur Miller Journal” (90) as a symbol of the victims of an impossible quest for achievement, highlighting Miller’s rejection of this conventional wisdom. The sociological elements examined in Mahboobeh Rosrami’s research on power interactions (Rosrami et al., 58) further highlight Miller’s departure from conventional wisdom. Miller exposes the power disparities in society and the toll they impose on individuals through his characters, who question the socioeconomic systems that determine the American Dream.

Miller consciously chose to portray a modern tragedy, departing from the cheerful tones that defined standard American Dream narratives of the period, as Qingxia Wei’s analysis in “The Analysis of Death of a Salesman from the Perspective of Modern Tragedy” (Wei, 329) reveals. As a result, Miller’s perspective challenges the status quo by exploring the shadowy and multi-faceted sides of the American Dream. The sources provide a critical lens through which to view the characters’ motivations and conflicts in “Death of a Salesman.” Miller’s departure from traditional definitions of the American Dream highlights the play’s aim to question and criticize societal expectations of success and happiness.

1.2 Exploration or Subversion?

In his complex play “Death of a Salesman,” Arthur Miller delves into the American Dream and how it shapes and distorts people’s expectations while also subverting them. Direct quotes from the play show Miller’s thematic aims, which are a complicated story that questions traditional ideas and explores the psychological effects of society’s expectations.

Miller personifies, via Willy Loman, the conflict between the classic ideals of the American Dream and the brutal truth that they are impossible to achieve. Willy’s cries of anguish in Act II, “I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!” highlight the futile attempt to stand out in a society that treats people like commodities. According to Handy Yosua Gunawan’s analysis of power dynamics and character dynamics, this claim subtly undermines the homogenizing tendencies linked to the American Dream (Gunawan, 24).

Analyzing Miller’s intentional decision to construct a tragic person in Willy Loman, Stephen Marino of “The Arthur Miller Journal” (88) highlights the investigation of the negative consequences of having false expectations. Miller is doing more than just challenging the American Dream; he is shedding light on the psychological toll it takes by removing its veneer.

Additionally, Miller’s investigation of how social structures impact individual expectations is bolstered by the power relations research of the different authors. The characters, particularly Willy, have internal struggles that are influenced by outside forces, revealing the complex relationship between individual goals and societal expectations.

The American Dream is a deeply held illusion, as shown in a quote from the play, where Willy says, “I am building something with this firm, Ben, and if a man is building something, he must be on the right track, mustn’t he?” (Act II). According to Qingxia Wei, Miller’s investigation into the terrible results of having too high aspirations is bolstered by her observations on contemporary tragedy (Wei, 330). These lines show that Miller’s approach in “Death of a Salesman” is essentially one of investigation and subversion. While exploring the complexities of how the romanticized American Dream influences and distorts the ambitions of people like Willy Loman, he aims it.

Chapter 2: The American Dream and Its Characters:

Section 2.1: A Dream Delayed—Willy Loman

The hero of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” Willy Loman, represents the archetypal American Dream aspirant, and the play mirrors Miller’s more prominent themes through Loman’s changing perception of success. The quest for material wealth and the desire to leave a lasting legacy is central to Willy’s American Dream, which is first motivated by the traditional notions of societal approval and financial success. However, this Dream goes through a moving transformation as the play progresses.

Willy bases his idea of the American Dream in the first scenes on material achievements. The disappointment he feels stems from the fact that his dreams are at odds with the ideals propagated by the American Dream. The power relations study of Handy Yosua Gunawan provides insight into Willy’s battles inside a stratified social system (Gunawan, 26). “A man is not a bird, to come and go with the springtime” (Act II), a moving sentence that captures Willy’s internal struggle, is used to describe his desperate attempts to conform to conventional expectations.

Willy experiences more and more intense inner turmoil as the play unfolds. In “The Arthur Miller Journal” (88), Stephen Marino analyzes “Death of a Salesman” and stresses how terrible Willy is. It is becoming more and more obvious that society’s expectations and unreachable objectives are taking a psychological toll. The mental anguish caused by the gap between Willy’s aspirations and his actual life is further brought to light by Yuhan Liu and Mingxia Gao’s theories of the circumstances surrounding Willy’s demise.

Rosrami et al. (58) help to explain how Willy’s sense of self-worth is affected by societal expectations. As Willy deals with the emotional fallout of his dogged pursuit, the story of the American Dream takes on a sad tone, representing the impact of peer pressure on people’s mental health. Our comprehension of Willy’s inner struggles is enhanced by incorporating ideas from Qingxia Wei’s view on contemporary tragedy (Wei, 330). The devastating result of society’s expectations and individual fantasies, the drama examines the psychological ramifications of an unreachable American Dream through Willy. The psychological complexities of striving for success in a culture that frequently sets unrealistic standards are revealed in “Death of a Salesman” through Willy Loman’s journey, which essentially reflects the more extensive examination of the American Dream.

Chapter 2.2: Biff Loman—A Pioneer:

In “Death of a Salesman,” Biff, the son of Willy Loman, offers a welcome contrast to his father by illuminating the subtleties of the American Dream. Biff’s interpretation of the Dream, which deviates greatly from Willy’s materialistic ideals, offers a comprehensive analysis of personal goals in opposition to social standards. Biff’s American Dream is first shaped by Willy’s values, which place a strong emphasis on conventional success. Still, as the play moves on with Biff’s metamorphosis, these ideas are put to the test. Unlike Willy, Biff begins to question the traditional definition of success after leaving his corporate career in favor of a simpler, more authentic existence. This contrast illustrates the inner struggle that Biff experiences as he tries to satisfy both society’s expectations and his desires for happiness.

Stephen Marino sheds light on the themes of “Death of a Salesman” (Marino 87) by analyzing Biff’s battle with societal expectations. The conflict between Biff’s inner yearning for true satisfaction and the societal demands to adhere to conventional ideas of achievement becomes apparent. A decisive moment in Act II occurs when Biff realizes, “I am not a leader of men, Willy, and neither are you. You were never anything more than a hard-working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them!” This insight captures his inner turmoil and his decision to leave his father’s goal behind. To better understand Biff’s revolutionary actions, it would be helpful to combine the findings of sociological studies that have explored generational disparities in attitudes toward achievement. The impact of social institutions on individual ambitions is investigated in the work of power relations scholars (Rosrami et al., 62). One generational reaction to the shifting social and cultural climate is Biff’s denial of the traditional American Dream. To further enhance our comprehension of Biff’s character, we might look at generational attitudes toward achievement via the lens of sociological perspectives. To put Biff’s struggle into perspective, this study is in line with more extensive sociological conversations on how success and fulfillment change between generations.

Chapter 2.3: Linda Loman’s Quiet Goals:

In “Death of a Salesman,” Linda Loman’s influence on Willy Loman’s goal towards the American Dream is significant yet underappreciated. Her persona sheds light on how social conventions shaped women’s duties in the middle of the twentieth century and the hidden hopes that often went hand in hand with those roles. The play shows Linda’s dedication to the conventional values of success and pleasure through her unfaltering support for Willy. Through an analysis of power dynamics, Handy Yosua Gunawan illuminates Linda’s character dynamics and highlights her contribution to preserving household peace in the face of adversity (Gunawan., 24). The social expectations that women should be the rock of the family unit are on full display in Linda’s passive acceptance of Willy.

Nevertheless, Linda’s quiet ambitions are influenced by societal conventions that shape her conception of success and happiness. “The Arthur Miller Journal” (90) by Stephen Marino analyses how Linda’s devotion to Willy’s desire exemplifies how women face social pressure to put family happiness ahead of their happiness. “Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person,” Linda says with a tragic statement that echoes the feeling investigated by Yuhan Liu and Mingxia Gao in their analysis of Willy’s death (Liu and Gao 34). In their analysis of power dynamics, the research examines the play’s dramatic language, which reveals Linda’s hidden tensions and wants (Rosrami et al., 65). Linda represents all women in her effort to meet society’s expectations while also pursuing her dreams.


Arthur Miller expertly analyses the American Dream in “Death of a Salesman” by examining it via Linda Loman, Willy Loman, and Biff Loman, respectively. The drama goes beyond subversion and becomes a moving examination of human nature as their desires become entangled with society’s expectations. Miller’s departure from conventional wisdom exposes the cost of unreachable ideals while also questioning accepted social standards. The story captures the more significant social dynamics of mid-century America via the struggles and unspoken dreams of its people. As an investigation of the American Dream and its impact on individuals that transcends generations, “Death of a Salesman” reflects on the complexity of the Dream and continues to resonate with audiences today.

Works Cited

Gunawan, Handy Yosua. CHARACTERISATION AND POWER RELATION IN DEATH OF A SALESMAN BY ARTHUR MILLER. Diss. Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia, 2019.

Liu, Yuhan, and Mingxia Gao. “The Analysis of the Causes of Willy’s Death in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” Review of Educational Theory 4.2 (2021): 32-35.

Marino, Stephen. “Death of a Salesman.” The Arthur Miller Journal 18.1 (2023): 85–90.

Rosrami, Mahboobeh, Mahmoud Reza Ghorban Sabbagh, and Rajabali Askarzadeh Torghabeh. “A Study of Power Relation: A Critical Analysis of the Dramatic Language of Death of a Salesman.” Journal of Linguistics & Khorasan Dialects 10.18 (2018): 55-78.

WEI, Qingxia. “The Analysis of Death of a Salesman from the Perspective of Modern Tragedy.” US-China Foreign Language 17.7 (2019): 328–331.


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics