"I don't say he's a great man. Willie Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person."
Attention, attention must finally be paid... So sounds out Arthur Miller's cry to observe that every individual, every human being must have attention paid to them. It is a tragic irony that it seems impossible for the limited human love and kindness to engage with all people, for there is always something that turns us away. In the case of this drama, the slowly grinding wheels of a tiredness created through the every pressing need to possess more and more.Death of a Salesman
is often called the dark drama of the American Dream. In many ways this is true, as Miller recreates a world where human wants are turned on their head into 'human needs'. As part of my research for travelling to the States myself, I've been reading up on the concept of the American Dream in novels and theoretical articles. It seems that as I've read an interesting proposition has sprung up: can any author when writing about America escape the whirlpool of literature that is the American Dream? I doubt that any author can, for in writing a play about multiple failures - the failures of family, success, love and ultimately the many failures of relationships - Miller wrote a play that has come to be known as a play about the failure of the American Dream in its many formats. Yet, this failure is one which seems to me to be connected to all humans everywhere, in how our drives towards false dreams will only end in failure.
Ultimately I believe Miller's story is one which is about success and visionary dreams as much as it is about failure. As Biff says at the end of Willy Loman, "He never knew who he was." Miller seems to have created a work which analyses and observes that chasing after false dreams never brings satisfaction. It is a theme as old as time, seen in such writings as those of Solomon in Ecclesiastes when he states that 'Everything is meaningless.' And certainly everything is meaningless when you base your identity solely in your set dream. For if your dream fails it becomes a failure of yourself as an individual. The ultimate warning of Miller's play is to seek satisfaction in yourself as an individual and not to chase after what you are not: not to be complacent but to be satisfied.