The American Dream America has long been known as a land of opportunity. Out of that thinking comes the “American Dream,” the idea that anyone can ultimately achieve success, even if he or she began with nothing.
Discussion Question Respond to these questions in your notebooks: • How is the American Dream characteristic of American ideals and philosophy? • What material things do you associate with the Dream? What ideals (abstract concepts) do you associate with it? • What are the differences between the materialistic and idealistic values associated with the Dream?
Introduction to Death of a Salesman Higgins/Kovacs
Arthur Miller • Born in 1915 in Manhattan to Jewish immigrants, who came to America looking for opportunity • Family moved to Brooklyn in 1928 after the failure of his father’s business • As a young adult, Miller witnessed firsthand the hardships of the Great Depression, seeing once-wealthy citizens reduced to poverty and menial labor • Attended the University of Michigan, where he won several awards for playwriting • Achieved tremendous success on Broadway with 1947’s All My Sons, …Salesman (1949), and later The Crucible (1953)
Death of a Salesman • Produced in 1949 • Enjoyed a lengthy run on Broadway (742 performances) and won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award • The play is still performed today because of its remarkable examination of what is truthful and what is illusory about the American Dream, and thus, in the lives of millions of Americans.
Death of a Salesman Through the main character, Willy Loman, Miller examines “the myth of the American Dream” and the shallow promise of happiness through material wealth.
Key Thematic Concepts • Appearance vs. Reality • The “Myth” of the American Dream • Individual vs. Society • Individual vs. Self • Parental Expectations • Popularity and Success
Literary Devices • Characterization • Realism • Reminiscences and Dream Sequences • Setting: 1949 – New York City and Boston • Symbolism
Trivia Mr. Higgins saw the current production of Death of a Salesman on Broadway. Ask him about it, feign (that means “fake”) interest, and earn bonus points!