The American Dream, Abandonment and Betrayal in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Last Updated: 20 Apr 2023
Pages: 5 Views: 27

Many short stories and novels have more than one major theme associated with them to keep the reader interested, and them wanting for more. In the play "Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller has several major themes that run throughout the play that makes it very interesting but only three stood out the most. The three great major themes that stood out the most would be The American Dream, abandonment, and betrayal. These three themes also affected Willy the most in the play, and were mainly why he killed himself.

The American Dream is a dream that all have to accomplish somewhere, or sometime in their lives, and also was a dream of Willy's that was almost complete. The American Dream is nothing but just a person that owns a house, a car, has tons of money, a family and yes works a great job. In Willy's eyes The American Dream is "to be well liked" (pg.33), and he always tells his sons a well-liked person will do the best in the business world. Willy has always compared his sons with Bernard, and told them Bernard will never be as successful as them. In reality Bernard is far more successful than both Biff and Happy, and was not well liked in his high school years. Willy has gone really old and still wants to have a house, car, and a great job, but his salary is too low that his expenses are not being paid.

Moreover to provide the American dream Willy starts to ask Charley (Bernard's father) for money. "Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. But he is a human being" (pg.56) this quote explains that Willy is too old to work and now it's time for his sons to step of and provide the American dream. Willy spends all of his adult life working for a sales company, the company fires Willy when he proves to be unprofitable. Willy confronts Howard, his boss, and says "You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away-a man is not a piece of fruit" (pg.82).

Order custom essay The American Dream, Abandonment and Betrayal in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller with free plagiarism report

feat icon 450+ experts on 30 subjects feat icon Starting from 3 hours delivery
Get Essay Help

Here, Willy feels that Howard has gone back on his father's word by forgetting him in his golden years, throwing away the peel after eating the orange. In this case taking all of Willy's money and now that he's no use firing him. After all to accomplish the American dream is hard work and can have a man go crazy, like Willy that still is trying to achieve it with no job.

Willy with no job and is left alone to take care of a lot with no support of his sons can only lead to abandonment. Willy from the beginning of the book has been abandoned by his father, and later by his son Biff. Willy is just a nice person who wants to be well liked and known, but abandonment would not just leave his fate. Willy loses himself in a warped vision of the American Dream. Likely a result of these early experiences, Willy develops a fear of abandonment, which makes him want his family to conform to the American Dream. "Did Biff say anything after I went this morning? You shouldn't of criticized him. You mustn't lose your temper with him" (pg.15) this quote explains to us that Willy and Biff do not get together. An incident had changed Biff and Willy's relationship forever where Biff never gave Willy the respect he should have earned.

Biff had left home and only returned to see his mother once in a while, and every time he showed up he would get into a fight with Willy of some sort. After Biff left Willy, he has never been stabled and has always been trying to kill himself. Also he is stuck in the past thinking of the young biff he loved. "When he was suppose to graduate, and the math teacher flunked him. All he had to do was go to summer school and make up that subject. Did you tell him not to go to summer school?" (pg.93) this quote is said by Bernard to Willy showing that Biff not only abandoned his father, but he also abandoned his career. Biff is left confused after the incident and has broken into pieces and does not know what to do.

Moreover Linda is also abandoned for many reasons because now she has a son that barley comes home to her, and even if he does he causes a fight. Where Willy is slowly dying in his past memories, and does not really have feelings for Linda anymore. "Don't you care if he lives or dies? Go away from me." (pg.123) here we see that Linda knows the family isn't going to be one again so she tries to kick Biff out, and is trying to live the last precious moments with her husband. Though Willy is a very modern man, he lives a very tragic life.

Abandonment can have a person very crazy and can bring up thoughts like betrayal that can only affect him or the whole family. As the chief betrayer himself, Willy is preoccupied by the fear of betrayal. "Get out of here! Go back go back. This is Miss Francis, Biff, she's a buyer. They are painting her room. Go back Miss Francis go back" (pg.119) this is a quote that explains the incident that had occurred between Biff and Willy that broke their relationship. Willy was having an affair with another woman and when Biff caught it, he was so mad that he never wanted to see Willy again. This secret only stayed between Willy and Biff, and he never told anybody else including his mom. Willy on the other hand thought there was nothing wrong with the affair and wanted Biff to act normal. "

After he came that month and he took those sneakers- remember those sneakers with university of Virginia printed on them? He was so proud that he wore them every day. And took them down the cellar, and burned them up in the furnace" (pg.94). This quote shows that Willy thinks of Biff as his golden boy, the son who will further bring the American Dream closer. However, when Biff decides he will not continue with his father's diluted goals, Willy takes it as a betrayal. He fails to see why Biff would reject him. In like manner, Biff considers his father as betraying him with false aspirations and a selfish nature.

Another way Willy feels he is betrayed is when Howard, his boss fires him and tells him take a rest. "I don't want you to represent us. I've been meaning to tell you that for a long time now." (pg.83). Willy is now really hurt because Howard's father and he were great friends, and he has also named Howard when he was first born. Howard was like another son to him. Willy is really broken up and tends to kill himself because of what has happened to him, and knows his family can live off his insurance money.

"Death of a Salesman” therefore is a play in which we see a number of central and major themes being developed but with the aid of Arthur Miller's skills, themes such as The American Dream, abandonment, and betrayal stand out the most from all. The American Dream is everyone's dream that can have a man go crazy, where abandonment can have a man go mad. Also betrayal is a horrible thing to do at any circumstances, and karma is there to return the favour. After all this play was just about another family just trying to live there life, as any other ordinary family.

Cite this Page

The American Dream, Abandonment and Betrayal in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. (2023, Apr 20). Retrieved from

Don't let plagiarism ruin your grade

Run a free check or have your essay done for you

plagiarism ruin image

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Save time and let our verified experts help you.

Hire writer