People believe they can achieve the American Dream by working hard. They imagine their “perfect life” by having a good job, a beautiful house, thriving children, and plenty of money. Everyone wants to be in charge of his or her destiny, to be successful and wealthy. Also, Arthur Miller’s main character Willy Loman is not an exclusion. Willy is the average salesman, who frantically believes in the American dream and has blind faith in a capitalistic system. Willy Loman worked all his life, but his American dream was never realized. Arthur Miller criticizes the American dream, the moral principles and ethical values dictated by the capitalistic society. He shows us how the average worker can be just exploited by the capitalistic system and then cruelly dispensed when making no more profit.
The author points to us how the American dream blinds Willy Loman. When Willy speaks to his wife Linda about their son Biff, first he says “Biff is a lazy bum!” However, then he starts dreaming again: “Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world, a young man with such personal attractiveness gets lost. And such a hard worker.” Willy is confused about how such an attractive young man cannot find a job, especially in such a great country like America. Willy truly believes that a man who is attractive, charismatic and “well-liked” will succeed in fulfilling his dreams. That is what exactly he teaches to his sons and expects them to be more successful than he is and follow his beliefs. In Willy’s flashbacks, when he talks to his sons about having his own business, he says it will be “Bigger than Uncle Charley! Because Charley is not- liked. He’s liked, but he’s not- well liked.” Willy’s optimism does not let him see that these features are not enough to be wealthy and his sons’ success cannot be guaranteed. By the example of Willy’s character, Miller shows us the moral principles of capitalistic society, where people define their value only in terms of financial success. At the end of Willy’s career, he still struggles against his failure and pushes his son Biff to follow his illusions. However, Biff accepts his mediocracy: “Pop! I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you! …I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been.” But Willy cannot admit that his life is just an ordinary life of an ordinary salesman because the capitalistic system promised him the realization of the American dream. Consequently, he concludes that “After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.” Willy’s suicide is the last attempt for him to become a successful man who can provide for his family at least by getting the insurance payment. By Willy’s death, Miller illustrates that a man can be valued at the amount of money he is worth. Capitalistic society turned humans into profit-making machines, and if a machine does not work properly, it has no worth.
Miller affirms that some characters were lucky to achieve their American dreams. For example, Willy’s brother Ben was lucky to find diamonds in the African jungle. “The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich! The world is an oyster, but you don’t crack it open on a mattress!” Analyzing this quote, we notice that Ben makes some effort, he travels to the jungle to find his American dream. However, Willy decides that he can “open that oyster sitting on the mattress.” He was impressed by Dave Singleman’s career:
…he’d drummed merchandise in thirty-one state. And old Dave, he’d go up to his room…put on his green velvet slippers…and pick up his phone and call the buyers, and without even leaving his room, at the age of eighty-four, he made his living. And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want.
To make money without leaving his home – that is what captivates Willy. The idea of becoming wealthy and respected without much effort. Miller suggests that Willy at the very beginning of his career has the wrong conception of how to fulfill his American dream. Instead of joining his brother, where he probably could find himself in gardening, Willy buys into a version of the American Dream, which he believes, bring him money and success effortlessly and quickly. Willy’s dream is so strong that he puts financial success ahead of his personal career preferences. Thus, Miller shows that capitalism leads to the destruction of moral values. People define their life by material wealth, not by what they are good at and are drawn to.
In the final analysis, we can see that Miller’ critiques the capitalistic system, in which people must compete for existence and where no one would appreciate them for their good qualities. Miller demonstrates, on the example of Willy Loman, what happens to people who don’t succeed in the American system. It is a cruel system, that throw away its employees when they are no more useful. Moreover, Willy’s whole family has to pay for his American dream, that a man can achieve success just by being attractive and “well liked.” In overall, it is unfair to subject people to impossible realities of life, which will end up crushing them in the end.