Living The American Dream: Historical Perspective


The development of the American dream in the thirteen colonies’ establishment is impossible to ignore. This vision by hard workers who believe in courage, passion, and determination was precise. By the development of this framework, a quality life and standards appeared.

This American dream was declined later in the events of World War and the great depression. After these results, there was an immediate need for economic prosperity.

Due to its impacts, people diverted from traditional work ethics and desired easy money approach. Two authors have explained this quest for the American dream in their plays.

The American Dream and Characterization of Two Plays

Arthur Miller presented the ‘death of a salesman,’ and Lorraine Hansberry provided, ‘A Raisin in the sun.’ These two plays presented Willy Lomen and Walter Lee Younger, as victims for their quest of the American dream.

This stands for the dream illusion that is reflected from their vision, and unbelievable approach confronted them with failure. That was the main reason they have lost their true identity.

Walter and Willy’s illusion about the American dream is viewed as addicted gamblers who liked to spend most of their time in casinos. The characters presented by these plays reflect that they were victimized due to the wrong perception of the American dream.

The portrayal and depiction of the American dream by the two plays are a bit different, and it caters to the standards of life, prevailing circumstances, and development of American drama.

The Portrayal of the American Dream

In the twentieth century, the role of development moved with the side of a nation’s prosperity. The dramatization in the twentieth century represented drama and melodrama plays. These were famous in public, and playwrights did not focus on high-quality plays. In that period, the focus was given to the American drama, and that continued to adopt the position of realism.

This was the primary form of expression of drama, and the experimentation attained an exciting way. Due to the expression of realism, the objectively and impartially was incorporated in those plays.

This representation of true life and general expressions concentrated on the life of middle-class family and reality perception, without taking into consideration the imagination of high Class and standards.  Arthur Miller worked on that same notion.

Miller explored the troubles of life that persist in reality and the combined influence of realistic characters. On the other hand, Hansberry, in her play, reflected how that American dream is pursued in real life. The characters of both plays reflect the experiences of families, with the analytical eye.

This relates with the struggle in life to attain a particular level of satisfaction. The occasional triumphs and characters pitfalls have been expressed through plays that are in accordance to pursue the American dream.

The role of both plays is to reflect an underscored penchant for the attainment of economic prosperity and critique on the personal gains’ attainment.

To Americans, the own individual country with free gains was a big dream, and attainment of equal rights was inherent. This notion is further associated with satisfaction and happiness in life.

To be rich is the essence of the American dream, and this aspect is being displayed in both plays. No matter what, but the characters in these both plays is to get satisfaction and happiness from life by whatever means.

Both plays discuss the desire to be rich in context to get wealth, and this desire is related to the downfall.

Comparison and Contrast of Two Plays

In the plays of writers, though there is a difference in display, characterization, and language, the main essence revolves around the quest of the American dream.

In ‘Death of Salesman,’ Willey Loman is depicted as a failed salesman who is 63 and desired to be well-liked to get a successful life. He was at the end of his career and places his all the hopes to his son, named Biff.

He was a high school footballer with strong popularity, and due to this reason, Willy believed that he would be successful in America.

In ‘A Raisin in the sun,’ Walter Younger has portrayed the efforts of a father for his family during all his life. They were African Americans and lived in Chicago.

Lena was a character in this play, as a wife, with two young children, and all of them have the American dream.

Adoption of American culture was a part of the dream to these youngsters, and Lee wanted to make his children successful businessmen.

By the use of insurance money, they wanted to pursue their dream. Hansberry, in this play, demonstrated the concept of younger, as her own family.

As she was a girl and her family resided in Chicago, with the white neighborhood. Her life was based on women’s rights activists and civil rights.

Therefore, in the play, their depiction of characters is similar to her life experience, and all the African Americans are still Americans, and they too can have the same American dream as others have.

Based on these facts and character displays by both writers, it is clear that there is a prevalence of the American dream in all the characters.

How to succeed in America is the dream for all, and both plays treat similar themes, figures, and situations of struggles.

These struggles have been set at the same time as in American history. Miler and Hansberry interpreted in both plays, American experiences, for the fulfillment of the American dream.

The portrayal of characters, Loman, and Younger, reflect the pursuance of the dream through their family and life experiences.

In the play, ‘Death of Salesman,’ main characters, i.e., Loman, Linda, Biff, Happy, Charley, and Bernard, and Ben.

The situation shows that how everyone is engaged in his/her life, to pursue happiness, and satisfy their own dreams.

The themes of the play are based on illusion, American dream, reality, and abandonment. The period when this play was written, the economy was experiencing a social shift.

The era of financial prosperity and the business boom was a dream for middle-class families to improve their lives and style. Willy wished as a salesman that he will live in a luxury house as he has worked hard.

But with the passage of time, Willy considered himself as a failed person in various domains of life. This was mainly due to the switching of business conditions and the uncertainty of his circumstances.

Contrarily, in, ‘a raisin of the sun,’ Lena Younger is depicted as a woman who has struggled throughout her life and faithful to her husband.

Despite her own strengths’ and power in the family, her husband had her own right to respect.

These characters display the strength regarding American society and how it has dwelled determination in a woman, for the aspect of self-worth. The element of feminism is depicted from the play by Hansberry, and she has addressed this issue like racism and the form of American capitalism.

The possibilities of wealth have been shown in the play. It is evident from the character of Willy that he wanted a change that he perceived is due to like well or attributable to an imposing personality.

This relates to the business appearance in the economic world and the creation of personal interest. Walter Younger wanted support from his family for the pursuance of his dream.

The character of his wife, Linda, was to nurture a hurting family in those specific times when Willy’s wrong attempts to guide the family were failed in a miserable manner. She offered substantial support to the family as well as to Younger.

The cool-headed woman and clear vision woman made efforts to keep family united as she also had seen tough times.

The circumstances in their neighborhood, based on racism, provided them inequality sensation and that due to their ethnicity, the value of homes nearby would decline.

The depiction of issues such as race and feminism in plays attains a different form. However, the main theme was the quest for the American dream.

With this particular aspect, both plays address different issues. The money Walter wanted to invest in a liquor store was of the insurance part, which was also framed by his family for different purposes.

Walter appeared more and more confused during the whole play due to a lack of fulfillment of his play and dissatisfaction with life.

He wished for more, but his wife elaborates to him that he has all that everyone wants, i.e., family, wife, and a job. The dream of Walter to be rich drives the insanity brink.

On the other hand, the idea behind Miller, a salesman, who wanted to be rich as a traveling salesman, seemed frustrated for not achieving what he wanted.

A Tragic Flaw

This frustration tends to be turned in failure, and he confronts tragic flaw. He bore good intentions, but he always focused on the fulfillment of the American dream but never on reality.

This illusion vs. reality framework is the theme of ‘Death of Salesman.’ He never focused on reality and worked ethics on how to work to achieve prosperity and success.

He purely believed in the American dream and wished a great success due to the acquisition of comforts offered by modern life in America. He became the victim of his dream due to this desire and was not successful.

His approach towards life, the attempt of borrowing money from Charley, by saying the family that it is his pay, etc. were wrongdoings that he faced later.

The themes of both plays by depicting the hard realities of life and efforts are true. Moreover, the American dream is freedom, which anyone can desire, but it is based on some ground realities, not on illusion.

The concept of African American and struggle in their life elevates the idea of racism that is prevalent in America.

Everyone in both plays believed that materialism is happiness, and to attain wealth for their happiness is everything they need. No one thought that having family support is the biggest deal to be successful in life.

The family issue presented by Miller, i.e., infidelity of Willy, deprived him of the respect and love of his son Biff. It was the reason his son never listens and trust him, and this caused the failure of Willy.

The abilities and characters portrayed by Miller reflect that self-image and dreams are different things that people should know. The participation in different activities that comes in a clash with family is harmful. Willy was involved in pretensions and lies, and his dream of becoming successful collided with reality.

This failure resulted in abnormal behavior, confusion, and depression. Since his dream did not come true, he committed suicide, and by this notion, he intended to maintain his illusion that he sacrifice for the dream. By this act, he intended to take over the control of his shame and guilt in front of his son, Biff.

The main theme in both plays is illusion vs. reality that has not been perceived by the characters as they were involved in following their American dream due to a firm belief in economic prosperity.

The dream of popularity and well-liked by Willy had put him in trouble, and it crashed the image of reality.


The American dream is about business and economic prosperity that the nation needs. These two plays were written in the same context to provide the public with a clear understanding of prevailing issues in this society.

It is true that the attainment of wealth helps people to get a successful life and what they desire, but the means to acquire wealth is defined, and they are based on the ethical framework.

The characters, language, setting, description, and role in the play by Miller and by Hansberry, drive an approach towards reality.

It sets the issues based on reality and middle-class families. This is a turning point in American drama and shows the conflicts in people’s perception. In these plays, the expressionism and realism are combined to reflect the societal approach.+


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