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Death of a Salesman and The Price


When people accept an ideal to live by it can be a glorious and 
noble thing unless they become so obsessed with the the ideal that it 
becomes a yolk and they are unable to realize their dream. This is 
especially true for two characters in Arthur Miller's plays Death of a 
Salesman and The Price. In these two plays Miller portays two 
lower-middle class men , Willie Loman and Victor Franz, respectivelly, 
who each live by an ideal that ultimately is self-defeating. Willie 
lived to pursue the American dream rather than living the American 
dream and Victor lived to serve and be decent rather than living a 
noble and decent life. They pursed their ideal rather than living it 
and thus they are unable to succeed. 

 Willie Loman, in Death of a Salesman,, has lived his life in 
pursuit of the American dream. Traditionally the American dream
meant oppurtunity and freedom for all, and Willie believed that. 
However, hard work could not earn him everything that he wanted or 
thoght he deserved. Willy judged himsel and those arround him by theit 
material accumulation, as is demanded by capitalism and the protestant 
work ethic. The ethic demands accumulation and work as signs of favor 
in the eyes of god. Thus in order to please god and himself he had to 
accumulate wealth and objects. The consumer oriented society in which 
Willy lives will not allow him to live the American Dream. Willy is 
fascinated by accumulating things. His desire fior goods makes him 
want objects that he neither needed nor could afford. Willy thinks 
that he needs to buy his wife a new refrigerator and new stockings
even though she is content with what they have. As he tries to live 
the American dream he venerates those who have been successful at 
doing so, like Thomas Edison, B.F. Goodrich, and Ben, his succesful 
brother. Furetheremore he punished those who did not work towards that 
ideal or accomplish it ,such as Biff, his son, and most importantly 
himself. The extreme to which he followed the dream brought him to 
disallusionment and lose sense of reality. Willy created a reality for 
himself where he "knocked 'em cold in Providence," and "slaughtered 
'em in Boston."(p.33) The ultimate result of his disallusionment is 
his suicide. It is ironic that he dies for his ideals although they 
are misconstrued. 

 The problem with Willy's ideals which ultimately kills him is 
that he has lost sight of achieving the true goal of the American
Dream, happiness and freedom, and the dream took control of him. He 
struggled to achieve something that he could not; he did not have the 
talent to be a salesman. He became so obsessed with living the dream 
that he was unable to be content with his talents in carpentry and 
with his family. There is also a manner in which he pusues the Dream. 
He is a salesman, a profession that is associated with trickery and 
illusion. He could not pusue a noble dream by doing something that is 
based in deceit. His quest was cursed from the start and the fact that 
he lived the quest and not the dream made it worse. 

 Similarly in Miller's The Price the main character is a man who 
tries to life for an ideal and not the ideal . In The Price Victor
becomes so obsessed with sacrificing for others that he ultimately 
fails to please himself . By not achieving for himself he hurts
those he is trying to help, his family. Victor devoted his life to 
serving others at an early age. When he was younger he went to the 
police academy, a profession that is marked by self- sacrifice for 
others. Furtheremore he put his brother through medical school even 
though Victor had more potential in the field. While his brother 
Walter was in school Victor cared for their aging father at a great 
expense to Victor econimically and emotionally. During the time period 
portrayed by the play Victor is still selfless as he constantly calls 
tries to make arrangements to include his brother in the business deal 
to sell off their families estate. Although Walter does not return 
Victor's numerous phone calls Victor still refuses to rake the whole 
amount of money for himself although no one would blame him for doing 
so. He has a greater need for that money and deserves it, for all his
earlier sacrifices for Walter's sake, but he will not take it. With 
all that sacrifice one would assume that Victor's family would be
pleased however his sacrifices hurt them greatly. Those that he was 
sacrificing most are hurt most in the end. That is to say that his 
inability to please himself and to struggle to achieve his goals hurts 
his family. His wife Esther becomes disgusted by his inability to 
achieve and his not pusuing medicine caused him to remain a part of 
the lower- middle working class. Just as Willy does, Victor too, 
adopts a quest for himself however, he pursues that quest to the point 
that he loses sight of his original goal - to please others, and ends 
up hurting them. 

 Both men have decent and noble intentions however, they both live 
to fulfill those intentions rather than living and fulfilling the
intentions. As a result they both fail to accomplish what they had 
intended, hurt the ones they love, and themselves. Willy's obsession 
with acquiring wealth and being a salesman made it impossible for him 
to do so. Victor's insistence on helping others made it impossibe for 
him to provide the life his wife wanted and deserved . Both men failed 
because the became so involved in living by impossible standards that 
they could never reach them and failure has harsh penaltis in both 



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