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Theater Exam: American Dream and Family Legacy Essay

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Updated: May 28th, 2021

American Dream

American Dream is a radical formula that became more popular than capitalism and democracy. Even though it was associated with religion at first, it became a categorical imperative over time. American Dream is a viral concept that took over the world and extended far beyond the United States (Samuel 113). Nowadays, everybody knows the concept of American Dream. This transformed the global economy and motivated writers from all over the world to address the notion of American Dream.

To start the discussion on the concept of American Dream, I would like to focus on Willy, the main character of the Death of a Salesman. According to him, the American Dream is an ability to become prosperous due to never-ending charisma. To Willy, personality matters the most, and he believes that it is the key to success, not innovation or hard work. One of his goals is to make sure that his sons are popular and admired by their peers (Miller 28). Miller describes how Biff, one of Willy’s sons, made fun of his teacher and Willy was only interested in finding out if the kids liked it (28).

Evidently, Willy’s view of the American Dream did not have a chance to advance. Regardless of Biff’s popularity in school, the latter was not able to get it together. Instead, he turned into a vagabond that did not have a definite goal in life (Miller 49). Moreover, Willy hindered his own career because his sales ability disappeared and never came back after that. A perfect example is Willy’s attempt to apply a charismatic approach to asking the boss for a raise that ends with Willy being fired.

Another major argument defining the American Dream can be based on Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. In this play, the author underlines the importance of dreams and describes them as one of the key factors that drive each member of the Younger family. For example, Mama wants a good home to let her children grow up in a place without rats (Hansberry 61). Walter, her husband, wants to become a businessman and get over poverty that inundates his family. Walter’s sister, Beneatha, dreams about becoming a doctor. All of them want to live the American Dream because they are tired of living in poverty and being helpless.

Based on the plays, it can be concluded that American Dream provides fresh possibilities only to those who work hard and do not rely on the mere power of their personality (Zorn 221). A dream should always be there to bring happiness to those who work hard in an attempt to become successful. Living the American Dream is to be unrestricted in terms of religion, politics, and oppression. Opening yourself and your family to new possibilities is what makes the American Dream so desirable. Even though it is not easy, it is still possible.

Family Legacy

When defining a legacy, one may address it as something either material or non-material that was left behind by a person that passed away. Nonetheless, it may be more about sharing the things that one has learned throughout their life. This leaves values over valuables because legacy is never defined by material wealth only. Therefore, a legacy is something meaningful that a person leaves to their family and followers. This contribution should serve a great cause at all times.

For instance, there are the salesmen in Glengarry Glen Ross. Their legacy is their way of talking to each other. This is reflected in the idea that words mean a lot to them and being a “man” is more than age and gender. The example shown in Glengarry Glen Ross revolves around the idea that manhood has to be earned. In order to develop the concept of legacy, Mamet includes a quote saying: “A man’s his job” (61). This means that one’s wits may be the main source of legacy for the main characters of the play. Another example is Williamson’s attitude because Mamet showcases him as not a man at all because he simply passes the orders coming from the top management (34).

Yet another idea that can be found in Mamet’s play is that the ability to speak persuasively may also serve as a legacy. Roma, for example, is a rather smooth talker that effortlessly lies to almost everyone in order to close the deal (Mamet 83). The legacy of his business success relies on these dishonesties. On the other hand, there is Levene that cannot use his talking ability for good. From his first line, Mamet shows us that this character is not able to leave a legacy of an outstanding salesman (2).

Another example of a (family) legacy can be found in Miller’s Death of a Salesman. It is a rather typical situation where the father wants his children to be like him. Regardless, this does not end well because all of them fail (Heyen 97). While Glengarry Glen Ross and Death of a Salesman do not have a lot in common, their view on imposing one’s values on other people is practically the same. From these two plays, one may learn that letting other people drag behind may be the biggest mistake ever.

The key idea behind a legacy is to preserve the uniqueness of one’s contribution to this world. It is obvious that one should always take responsibility for their actions and leave a legacy that would be valuable. Ensuring that this gift is not imposed but disseminated is a critical task that many people cannot perform properly and the two plays mentioned above are a vivid example of this. It is needed to outlast your physical life and not to lose everything while trying to jump above one’s head.

Works Cited

Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun: A Drama in Three Acts. Random House, 1959.

Heyen, William. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and the American Dream. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1975.

Mamet, David. Glengarry Glen Ross. Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2014.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman: Revised Edition. Penguin, 1996.

Samuel, Lawrence R. The American Dream: A Cultural History. Syracuse University Press, 2012.

Zorn, Theodore E. “Willy Loman’s lesson: Teaching identity management with Death of a Salesman.” Communication Education, vol. 40, no. 2, 1991, pp. 219-224.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Theater Exam: American Dream and Family Legacy'. 28 May.

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