The American Dream in Death of a Salesman
The American Dream in “Death of a Salesman”
For Willy and Linda, life’s accomplishments and sources of pleasure are simple. This statement gives an excellent judgment of their lives because they lead very average lives for the time, and any depth is ignored on their part. This little scene exemplifies this point by showing a focus in their lives, being the mortgage on the house. For twenty-five years Willy and Linda have been working to pay off their mortgage, and once they do that, they will attain a sense of freedom, or the “American Dream“. That dream, especially pertinent at that time of growth in the United States, presents a perfect representation of their goal. This goal is clearly outlined by dollar signs and a sense of ownership, two key points to personal success.
The key thing which leads to Willy and Linda’s depressions, is their inability to face reality in the present. Their lives are lived in the future, and even in this scene as Willy states; “You wait, kid, before it’s all over we’re gonna get a little place out in the country.”(p.72), we see his ability to constantly speak of unpractical dreams. Their last payment on the mortgage gives closure to this life filled only with dreams, and will allow them to realize some of their idealistic thoughts. Their entire lives have been concentrated on this house, their one meaningful possession, therefore this last payment is an accomplishment beyond any other.
Willy is a salesman, always traveling from state to state staying in motels away from home. This increases the importance of a house to him because it is not only a place of habitation but a representation of stability in his life. It is a concrete item which cannot be taken away from Willy once he has made the last payment. While discussing his sons with Linda, he states; ” And they’ll get married, and come for a weekend…”. He shows the same pride for his ownership of the house as he did for Biff during his football years. The house is the center of Willy‘s being, and now that he almost has it, he can see that it has been his life’s work. He is a character who remains content only by trying to believe that he is living the “American Dream“, and pride of his most valued possession is all he has to hold onto.
Although, at this point in his life, Willy Loman is beginning to notice where all of this dreaming has led him. He will now have his own house, but throughout their discussion as Linda is listing off all of the other payments that must be made, we begin to wonder what will be in this house. Arthur Miller uses these things, the refrigerator, the stockings, and the car as symbols representing Willy‘s life. Everything is winding down, and although this scene indicates an upwards curve in the lives of the Lomans, any curve could only last until it was quickly exhausted. As well, Willy has done quite a few things in order to achieve this goal, an affair, a life away from his family, and all of this has sent him on a crash course. All of this is proof that living out this “American Dream“, will never be a reality, unless we live in reality.