Arthur Miller’s The Death of the Salesman is a great tragic play which is mistaken as a critique of the American Dream by many critics. However, the play does not harshly criticize the concept of American Dream; it rather clarifies what does the concept actually mean.
The American dream is a national belief of the United States, it implies that America is a land of opportunity and in this land, anyone can achieve prosperity and success by hard work and determination. However, in the play, it is clear that the protagonist does not understand the concept. His misunderstanding of the idea caused him a tragic end.
The protagonist of the play is Willy Loman, a salesman in his 60s. His principle of life is to be liked by people. For him, any American can achieve success and wealth if he is well liked by people. His vision of American dream is quite wrong, as he believes that mere charisma can bag his prosperity and success. In his pursuit of happiness, he neglects that he is good with his hands and tools. He chases the wrong dream where he believes that he can attain anything by his charismatic personality. His misconception costs him and his children the inevitable failure. He imbues his wrong concept in his boys as well. He believes that his son Biff can easily achieve success, as he is the very handsome and famous. Ironically, Biff ends up being a drifter and a ranch-hand.
On the other hand, the play portrays the lives of Lowman’s neighbor Charlie and his son. Charlie is a successful businessman with no charismatic personality. Charlie’s son, who was disliked by Loman because of his non-attractive personality, also becomes a successful lawyer by his determination and dedication to his studies.
The clear contrast between these two neighbors wrongs those critics who believe that this play is a critique of the American Dream. The success of Charlie and his son shows that American dream is achievable by great determination, hard work, and innovation. Willy was also chasing the same dream but he took the wrong path and met his failure and consequently his tragic end. The good personality is not the only way to achieve success; struggle and hard work are necessary elements to achieve it. Loman was a hard worker but he prioritized personality over hard work. If he would have valued his carpentry ability and dexterity with tools then he might have lived a happy life.