Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Death of a Salesman and The American Dream (Problematize)

The American Dream is essentially defined as an idea which suggests that all people can succeed through hard work, and that all people have the potential to live happy, successful lives. It is an opportunity for all people to feel important regardless of social status, race, ethnicity, etc. It is rooted in the idea that "all men are created equal" as stated by the Declaration of Independence. This idea of the American Dream has evolved over time, but ultimately began before our parents were born. Although it hit popularity during the 19th and 20th century, the concept of the American Dream still somewhat exists today.
In Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman, he depicts a perfect portrayal of a man’s continuous hope that he will ultimately achieve this idea. Willy Loman is a man of older age with two sons named Biff and Happy. Willy has spent his whole life putting Biff on a pedestal believing that one day Biff will be a great man, he will not only be liked but he will be "well-liked." Throughout the story Willy is trapped by memories of the past and cannot overcome them even up to his death. Despite Biff’s assurance that he will never be as great as his father hopes, Willy enforce the idea of the American Dream onto Biff’s average life.
Willy Loman is also a man who highly values money. It is important for him as man of the house to provide for his family even when he cannot. When Willy’s attention is not focused on Biff, he realizes the lack of success and fortune that he had in his own life. Willy tried so hard his whole life to be wealthy; he was never at home with his family, he always tried to live the life of a salesman. Not only did Willy die a poor man, he died an unhappy man. At the end of the book only four people attended his funeral: Biff, Happy, Linda, and Charley. Willy Loman could not impact those around him; he could not help others because he could not help himself.
This concept of the American Dream can easily be applied to religion because there is such a strong emphasis on money in the story. 1 Timothy 6:10 gives a warning against the use of money saying,For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” We see this passage lived out in Willy Loman’s life as he is continuously overcome with disappointment, frustration, and anger when he realizes that his life is meaningless.
How does this apply to us today? We may not directly focus on the idea of the American Dream but it still exists among us. It would be easy to assume that it is in fact more dangerous to us today than it was during Willy Loman’s time. The cost of living is so high that the emphasis is put back on money and the importance of it in our lives. Money is such a necessity in our lives today that it is almost idolized; we spend more time making money than we do focusing on our faith. Christians and non-Christians are both guilty of this desire to be successful. The difference is, in our God, anything is possible. We can fight the battle against the American Dream...and win.

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