How is America Represented in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller?
“He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back—that’s an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you’re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory (Miller requiem).” Nothing describes the American philosophy of life better than this quotation written in the requiem part at the end of the play. America is depicted as a country of people who have to dream of something. Otherwise, if they do not dream, this will not be their territory, their America. The main character in the play – Willy Loman is representative for the whole American society – “white collar” worker, obsessed by his intellectual limitation and highly deluded. Miller presented America who is struggling with its constant dreaming and yearnings for the soul’s “way out there in the blue (Miller requiem).” Miller tried to convey the idea that dreaming is required by all Americans, even if this means self-deception. “God Almighty, he’ll be great yet. A star like that, magnificent, can never really fade away (Miller Act I).” America and its citizens are standing at the edge of eternity with all their day-dreaming and romanticized ideals, which sometimes border with naivety.
Miller had chosen the salesman as his prototype character to picture the empty advertising American society. The people living in this world of salesmanship are self-mesmerized individuals, characters who do not carry significant image of substance. America is full with frantic people and Willy is one of them. He is tormented that he had fallen to achieve what he was dreaming for day in, day out. He tells Linda: “In the greatest country in the world a young man with such – personal attractiveness, gets lost (Miller Act I).” The peculiar product of American society is the consumer culture. And Willy as the embodiment of America believes that the only way to success is to be liked. America is a world of “public relations”, synonym for deceit and fraud. America is a place of hypocritical salesmen, yet “attention must be paid” to them (Miller Act I).” Arthur Miller refers to America as a tragedy of misunderstood ideals and fallen and lost capable people. Because the norm in America is to win by one’s attractive appearance, Willy becomes too focused on the outside features, than in the inside development. Thus, Willy Loman becomes the quintessentially lost American dreamer. “How the hell did I ever get the idea I was a salesman there? I even believed myself that I’d been a salesman for him! And then he gave me one look and — I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been! (Miller Act II).” This is the painful truth. Not only that your dreams made you deluded, but they are instilled by you through the American society.
Willy is gradually moving towards his demise. Suicide seems to be the only act to express his grace. In the scene on the heath he confesses: “I’ve got nobody to talk to (Miller Act II).” In his career as a salesman he had to talk to people, to his family to persuade them. The paradox is that Willy realizes that he can not talk to anybody. Nobody listens. This is America, a country of dreamers, where they prefer to listen to their own delusions. Sad Willy concludes at the end that in America: After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive (Miller Act II).” Most strikingly, Arthur Miller’s observations are correct even today, as America nowadays in most of its outcomes is describes as consumer society. The symbol of America is the salesman who in his attempts to be “best liked” comes to the realization that: “He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong (Miller requiem).”
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. 1949