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Death Of Salesman

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Death Of Salesman Essay, Research Paper

Death of a Salesman and The Price

When people accept an ideal to live by it can be a glorious and

noble thing unless they become so obsessed with the the ideal that it

becomes a yolk and they are unable to realize their dream. This is

especially true for two characters in Arthur Miller’s plays Death of a

Salesman and The Price. In these two plays Miller portays two

lower-middle class men , Willie Loman and Victor Franz, respectivelly,

who each live by an ideal that ultimately is self-defeating. Willie

lived to pursue the American dream rather than living the American

dream and Victor lived to serve and be decent rather than living a

noble and decent life. They pursed their ideal rather than living it

and thus they are unable to succeed.

Willie Loman, in Death of a Salesman,, has lived his life in

pursuit of the American dream. Traditionally the American dream

meant oppurtunity and freedom for all, and Willie believed that.

However, hard work could not earn him everything that he wanted or

thoght he deserved. Willy judged himsel and those arround him by theit

material accumulation, as is demanded by capitalism and the protestant

work ethic. The ethic demands accumulation and work as signs of favor

in the eyes of god. Thus in order to please god and himself he had to

accumulate wealth and objects. The consumer oriented society in which

Willy lives will not allow him to live the American Dream. Willy is

fascinated by accumulating things. His desire fior goods makes him

want objects that he neither needed nor could afford. Willy thinks

that he needs to buy his wife a new refrigerator and new stockings

even though she is content with what they have. As he tries to live

the American dream he venerates those who have been successful at

doing so, like Thomas Edison, B.F. Goodrich, and Ben, his succesful

brother. Furetheremore he punished those who did not work towards that

ideal or accomplish it ,such as Biff, his son, and most importantly

himself. The extreme to which he followed the dream brought him to

disallusionment and lose sense of reality. Willy created a reality for

himself where he “knocked ‘em cold in Providence,” and “slaughtered

‘em in Boston.”(p.33) The ultimate result of his disallusionment is

his suicide. It is ironic that he dies for his ideals although they

are misconstrued.

The problem with Willy’s ideals which ultimately kills him is

that he has lost sight of achieving the true goal of the American

Dream, happiness and freedom, and the dream took control of him. He

struggled to achieve something that he could not; he did not have the

talent to be a salesman. He became so obsessed with living the dream

that he was unable to be content with his talents in carpentry and

with his family. There is also a manner in which he pusues the Dream.

He is a salesman, a profession that is associated with trickery and

illusion. He could not pusue a noble dream by doing something that is

based in deceit. His quest was cursed from the start and the fact that

he lived the quest and not the dream made it worse.

Similarly in Miller’s The Price the main character is a man who

tries to life for an ideal and not the ideal . In The Price Victor

becomes so obsessed with sacrificing for others that he ultimately

fails to please himself . By not achieving for himself he hurts

those he is trying to help, his family. Victor devoted his life to

serving others at an early age. When he was younger he went to the

police academy, a profession that is marked by self- sacrifice for

others. Furtheremore he put his brother through medical school even

though Victor had more potential in the field. While his brother

Walter was in school Victor cared for their aging father at a great

expense to Victor econimically and emotionally. During the time period

portrayed by the play Victor is still selfless as he constantly calls

tries to make arrangements to include his brother in the business deal

to sell off their families estate. Although Walter does not return

Victor’s numerous phone calls Victor still refuses to rake the whole

amount of money for himself although no one would blame him for doing

so. He has a greater need for that money and deserves it, for all his

earlier sacrifices for Walter’s sake, but he will not take it. With

all that sacrifice one would assume that Victor’s family would be

pleased however his sacrifices hurt them greatly. Those that he was

sacrificing most are hurt most in the end. That is to say that his

inability to please himself and to struggle to achieve his goals hurts

his family. His wife Esther becomes disgusted by his inability to

achieve and his not pusuing medicine caused him to remain a part of

the lower- middle working class. Just as Willy does, Victor too,

adopts a quest for himself however, he pursues that quest to the point

that he loses sight of his original goal – to please others, and ends

up hurting them.

Both men have decent and noble intentions however, they both live

to fulfill those intentions rather than living and fulfilling the

intentions. As a result they both fail to accomplish what they had

intended, hurt the ones they love, and themselves. Willy’s obsession

with acquiring wealth and being a salesman made it impossible for him

to do so. Victor’s insistence on helping others made it impossibe for

him to provide the life his wife wanted and deserved . Both men failed

because the became so involved in living by impossible standards that

they could never reach them and failure has harsh penaltis in both


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