A Shattered Dream in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman tells the story of a man confronting failure in the success-driven society of America and shows the tragic path, which eventually leads to Willy Loman's suicide.
Death of a Salesman?is?a search for identity, [Willy?s] attempt to be a man according to the frontier tradition in which he was raised, and a failure to achieve that identity because in  and in [Brooklyn] that identity cannot be achieved. (Gross 321)
Willy is a symbolic icon of the failing American; he represents those that have striven for success in society, but, in struggling to do so, have instead achieved failure in the most bitter form.
Perhaps what is wrong with the society is not that it has implanted the wrong values in [Willy], values which finally do not lead to success anyway, but that it has lost touch with values which should never be relegated only to the personal sphere or the family unit. (Lawrence 57)
In Arthur Miller?s Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman, the protagonist, pursues a false perception of the American Dream. Arthur Miller establishes Willy Loman as a traveling salesman in his sixties, a dreamer of success, and a troubled man. Willy is not a successful man, but clings to his dreams and ideals. ?[Arthur Miller] did not realize either how few would be impressed by the fact that [Willy] is actually a very brave spirit who cannot settle for half but must pursue his dream of himself to the end? (Hayman 55-56). Willy reminisces about the neighborhood years ago. His past recurs through the play in vivid scenes. Each time he returns from an episode in the past, Willy discovers new information that throws light on his troubled past. Willy portrays a strong and dedicated man, who has little energy to support himself and his family. Throughout the play, he is habitually weary and often shows signs of dementia by contradicting himself and showing memory loss. ?There are no flashbacks in this play but only a mobile concurrency of past and present, and this, again, because in his desperation to justify his life Willy Loman has destroyed the boundaries between now and then? (Hayman 38). Willy sometimes brings his illusions to the present, especially when he calls upon his dead brother, Ben.
Perhaps the chief virtue of the play is the attention that Miller makes us pay to [Willy] and his problem, for the man represents the lower middle class, the fifty-dollars-a-week-plus-commission citizen, whose dream is to live to a ripe old age doing a great volume of business over the telephone. (Clurman, Drama 308)
A major theme of the play illustrates the lost opportunities that Willy faces. Even Willy?s last name, Loman, suggests that Willy is a ?low man? on the totem pole (Hayman 38). The Wagner Company has recently stopped Willy?s salary and pays him only commission on the sales he makes, as if he were a beginner. Willy is eventually fired from the Wagner?s...