Arthur Millers tragic play, Death of a Salesman, is a true, yet unfortunate play that depicts what life was like in the 1950s. While the play examines both family and social conflicts, it is most effective exposing the conflicts that arise in society, all while chasing the American Dream.
During the 1950s, ways of life were drastically changing. Many people migrated from rural areas to living in the city as a result of the rapid increase in industry and manufacturing. With all the industrious changes, Americans experienced drastic changes in the way they both lived and worked. Miller illustrates the effect of these changes through the main character, Willy Loman. Prior to all the changes that society encountered, Willy had a comfortable job as a salesman, where he was able to be friendly with all his customers and rely on good first impressions for success. With the changes in society however, his job no longer had security and was all about success and no longer about simply being friendly or making good impressions on people. Willy Loman is a representation of a large part of the society. He embodies all those who long to reach their goal of achieving the American Dream and base much of their lives on acquiring success and money. Unfortunately for Willy, and much of American society who long for the same thing, he held himself to a standard that was just simply out of his reach. Finally, after forty years of chasing and pursuing the American Dream, he comes to the realization that his dream has failed him. Willy Lomans desire to be successful affected both him and his family in many ways. It controlled the majority of his life, caused conflict within his family, and affected his sense of his own worth. Although Willy never actually achieved the success that he so desperately craved, his persistent effort, and the way he chased his dream with such passion in order to satisfy both his desire as well as make his family happy and provide for those he loved, gives him a heroic quality.
Millers play is an extremely accurate portrayal of society and the problems that often come with wealth and success in American culture. With Willys main focus and goal in life being to achieve the American Dream, he, like most others in society, got caught up in the chase and began to ignore what really mattered; his family.
The play expresses the detrimental effects of the pressures that society places on individuals. Will Loman chased a dream for the majority of his life but finally realized that he would never achieve the American Dream. He, in one last attempt to provide for his sons and secure his personal dignity, takes his own life.
While Millers play is a tragic, depressing story, it is a truthful reflection of society and life in the 1950s. Miller successfully portrays real life struggles and conflicts that were common to members of society.