The Tension Between Fantasy and Reality

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Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman” reflects on the importance and meaning that is tied to the American dream of prosperity. The majority of people have immigrated to America in search of what they perceive to be the American dream. The majority believe that having this achievement entails living in the country with their families and owning a nice house whilst there. In reality, the majority of people who have moved to America have done so in order to achieve prosperity in whatever way they can (mostly by looking for well-paying jobs), achieve financial stability, and live happily with their families. In this play, Arthur Miller uses the character known as Willy Loman to act at the role of a salesman (Miller 1058). The man, who has now grown old have dreamt about success, but has not been able to achieve it. He is actually the kind of person that most people refer to as a tragic hero.

Despite working very hard, the old man has not been able to become successful. Similarly, his sons too have failed to achieve success just like their father. The play shows Loman as starting to get in touch in reality as age continues to catch up with him. For so long, the man has dreamt of becoming a very successful salesman. He has had fantasies of how he would be like when he achieves success (Lawrence 546). However, as age gets the better part of him, he has started to realize that he may never become as successful as he has always wished and dreamt. In other words, the man starts to accept the fact that he might never live the American dream he has so long been craving for. He starts to become frustrated at the wake of this realization. In his frustrations, he no longer sees the worth of life. He thinks he would be of more value if he was dead as compared to when he is alive and ends up committing suicide. At the time of his death, Loman was not able to attain the reality of his life. He lived in the world of fantasy all through to his last breath.

Throughout this play, Arthur Miller shows that the man Willy Loman has been living in conflicts and the primary cause of his conflict is his inability to differentiate between illusion and reality. Willy has been living in a different life from what he really is. In other words, he has created his own world in his imaginations which is completely different from the world he is actually living in (Bloom 14). Together with his family, Willy is living in a world of fantasy. He and his sons see themselves as very great and successful men in the world of business (Jacobson 253). They feel that they have what it takes to become successful business people and make it in the world of free enterprise. However, the reality is that both of them are not in a position to achieve this reality due to the effect of illusion on their ability to reason objectively and make the right decisions in their careers. The world of fantasy has blurred their ability to make logical moves that could help them become the successful men they have wished to be. In this regard, they will have to deal with the illusion in order to make in business (Lawrence 547). Unfortunately, they fail to come to terms with this realization. As such, they have made no efforts to deal with the illusion. Consequently, they have continued to work hard without seeing the fruits of their efforts.

Arthur Miller shows that the most prominent illusion that Willy Loman has been having is that popularity and attractiveness are the primary ingredients of success. He thinks that being popular and having personal attractiveness will bring him success. Loman is a popular man in the area where he lives and in his line of work. However, he has failed to realize that success entails more than just being popular. As a matter of fact, Loman does not realize that anyone could be popular but for various reason including bad ones. He has gone on to teach his sons that success depends on popularity and personal attractiveness (Jacobson 250). In turn, his children have fallen into this world of fantasy and they have grown believing what their father taught them about success. They have also worked hard to achieve success but their foundation of work hard and their priorities have been misplaced. They have been looking for success in the wrong places.

In his life as a salesman, Loman has been trying to emulate a man he met when he was a young boy. The man named Dave Singleman was a very attractive and popular salesman. He was successful in his work. Singleman was living the American dream (Hart 46). For his living, he simply stayed in a hotel and would only make calls to buyers and they would come at the hotel. He would make great sales without much struggle. When he died, his burial was attended by the great salesmen as well as buyers from all over the country. He is a man who had led a successful life as a salesman. Loman wanted to be as successful as Singleman, a man who was well- liked by many people. Loma worked hard to be well- liked as well. He felt that this will lead him to the success that Singleman had achieved (Miller 1090). As a matter of fact, he has even been making up lies about his success and his life so that people could like him to an extent that at times he would believe his own lies and consequently living a false life.

At some point in the play, Loman is narrating to his relatives about how he is liked by many people in nearly all towns across the country. He tells them about how important he is in the New England and that he is held with a high esteem by all the people he is coming across. Although he is lying, he believes in this lie and sees himself as the man who is liked and one who is very vital in the country. Later on, he tells Linda, one of his relatives that people do not actually know him and that they have been laughing at him behind his back (Miller 1106). This is an illustration of how desperate Loman is to feel liked. He is living in the fantasy of a well-liked man and one who is very important in the country and across all towns. As a result of this fantasy, he has not been able to work his way up to be the liked man he really wants to be as he already feels in his mind that he is liked (Diamond, 108). He is lying to himself that he liked yet he is not. This could actually be referred to as a psychological blind spot. The man is not willing to accept the fact that he is not successful and he is not liked. He fears this realization and for that reason, he lives in denial.

The feeling that he is well-liked makes him to be intensely paranoid. He does not see, and can actually not see the reality that he needs to change his way of working and start from the ground to work his way up. In other words, for him to become a successful business man as he has always wished, the first step would be to accept the fact that he is not as liked as Singleman. Ones he comes into terms with this realization, he will then work towards making himself liked. He will make the right decisions that would help them to become a liked business man. He will be able to think logically without his thoughts being clouded by the fantasy thoughts that he has been experiencing (Diamond, 109). That way he would be able to become liked and in the end he would achieve his dreams of becoming a great man. To the contrary, Loman does not come to terms with this reality throughout the play and he dies a poor man who always though he is rich and great. He has even passed this thought to his sons and they are also living in the world of fantasy.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 2007. Internet resource.

Diamond, Catherine. “Theatre Journal.” Theatre Journal, vol. 45, no. 1, 1993, pp. 108–110

Hart, Jonathan L. Interpreting Cultures: Literature, Religion, and the Human Sciences. , 2006. Internet resource.

Jacobson, Irving. “Family Dreams in Death of a Salesman.” American Literature, vol. 47, no. 2, 1975, pp. 247–258

Lawrence, Stephen A. “The Right Dream in Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” College English, vol. 25, no. 7, 1964, pp. 547–549

Miller, Arthur. “Death of A Salesman.” Brytewave, 1949, pp. 1057-1120

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