Arthur Miller expressed several ideas and themes Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller used these various themes to deliver an ironic attack on the capitalism of America. These themes include fantasy versus reality, the misleading idea of the American Dream, and denial.
The misleading idea of the American Dream destroyed Willys life. When one thinks of the American Dream, images of a successful come to mind. Apparently, Willy also believed this idea of success. However, Willys son Biff disagreed. At Willys funeral, Biff says, He had the wrong dreams. The American Dream made Willy think that gaining belongings mattered above all else. In addition, Willys display of greed when he saw Howards new tape recorder confirmed his obsessions with gaining belongings. He thought that the reason for Howards happiness came from his possessions. A person cannot thrive on materiality alone without some type of emotional connection to define their life. Willy thought that money would make him happy however, he learned the hard way that he was incorrect. Willys belief of the American Dream disregarded Religion, and therefore Willy ignored it.
Willy and Linda could not separate fantasy from reality, and this stopped them from leading a happy life. Willy constantly believed that Biff succeeded immensely in life, even though he flunked math and now worked on a farm. Willy blamed Biffs failing grade on Bernard and Biffs teacher, even though the blame rested on Biff alone. Willys wife and children constantly lied to make Willy and they seem more successful. This demonstrates how rapped up Willy became. He also had hallucinations of his brother Ben who had died. Ben ultimately gave Willy the idea of killing himself so his family could collect 20,000 dollars from life insurance. Willy ended up giving into his hallucination and actually killed himself. However, his family did not receive the 20,000 dollars because life insurance doesnt cover suicide. In addition, none of Willys many friends attended his funeral, just Charley. Before the funeral, thought of him as well liked and well connected. Biff understood that being successful doesnt necessarily mean being rich. Working on the farm made Biff happy and he felt successful even though he wasnt rich.
Willy denied many things throughout this book. The most prominent was willy denying the fact that he got fired. Also Willy constantly denied that he received money from Charley. He went on living his every day life lying to his family about his job. Willy thought that the only thing important in life was money. Willys denial also spread to his family. Biff constantly denied the reality that he didnt have a job and was in jail for stealing. He continued making up stories to make his father think that he achieved success. In addition, as much as Willy thought he understood business, he never knew how businesses became distinguished by power. When Howard fired him, he shouted angrily, You cant eat the orange and throw the peel away- a man is not a piece of fruit. This shows that he doesnt know much about business. Businesses constantly look for the newest and best thing and Willy just didnt understand that. He felt that he deserved a job because he worked there for a long time and did a good job however thats just not how businesses thrive.
Arthur Miller used Death of a Salesman to display his criticisms of American capitalism. The most prominent themes in the drama are the myth of the American Dream, illusion versus reality, and denial.