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
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
Death of a Salesman
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
• Achieved tremendous success on
Broadway with 1947’s All My Sons,
…Salesman (1949), and later The Crucible
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
• 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
Reminiscences and Dream Sequences
Setting: 1949 – New York City and
• Symbolism
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!
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