Within the tragic play, Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman destroys himself trying to achieve a dream. Yet, the dream that destroys Willy is not one that he has chosen. Willy Loman does not choose this destructive dream because he does not know himself, Willy Loman does not choose a dream at all, one is forced upon him by society.
Willy Loman spends the expanse of the play trying to achieve wealth, fame, and the like of others. These ideas epitomize the American Dream, to become a successful, well-liked businessman. Willy’s true dream, however, was very different from this. Throughout the play you can see evidence that Willy feels trapped by this dream that he feels obligated to fulfill. Society has dictated to Willy that the American Dream is “the” dream, and no other dream is acceptable. Because of this dictation, Willy abandons his true dream of living on his own, in the country, where he can support himself by farming, and living from the land. The proof of Willy’s true dream appears in short scattered bits. “God, timberland! Me and my boys in those great outdoors! Yes, Yes! Linda, Linda!” he cries exuberantly at the idea of moving away from the city. By the idea is quickly killed by the society surrounding him. “You wait, kid, before it’s all over we’re gonna get a little place out in the country, and I’ll raise some vegetables, a couple of chickens…” once again, society surrounding Willy crushes this dream, his true dream, forcing it back into the subconscious of Willy’s mind, where it remains for the duration of the play, only surfacing at a few times, when the dream that Willy is trying to fulfill becomes so horrible that he remembers that he had another dream, or when the false dream is looking as if it might be coming to a close, and he will be able to move on to take on his real dream.
In the climax of the play, when Willy realizes that he is loved by his sons, a slight awakening occurs in Willy’s mind. He begin to understand that his true dream, of living in the country, is identical to that of his beloved son, Biff. Biff has never been able to follow his dream because of his father pushing him into the false dream of being a businessman.
Entrapment in A Country Love Story
Entrapment in A Country Love Story
May and Daniel, in Jean Stafford’s “A Country Love Story,” epitomize the essential differences between men and women. Once apparently a happily married couple, May and Daniel exhibit their engendered differences after Daniel falls ill. While Daniel becomes more reclusive, May longs to reestablish the intimacy that they once had. Daniel’s self-consumed and overbearing attitudes will not allow for such a relationship, though. The growing tension between them reflects the traditional sexual politics in their culture. As a result, May struggles to free herself from not only her husband, but also from the patriarchal code that entraps her.
This patriarchal code in which May is caught is portrayed throughout the story. First, May is cast into a stereotypical and generalized female role. While Daniel begins his own work as he recuperates from his illness, May does “nothing more than cook three meals and walk a little [. . .] and pet the cats and wait for Daniel to come down [. . .] to talk to her” (415-16). When she is not going about her daily tasks of cooking, cleaning, and shopping, May sleeps for hours at a time like a cat. Furthermore, her occasional conversations with other women over tea are quite the stereotypical female chats: gossip concerning other women.
May also fulfills the stereotypical role of a dutiful, submissive, and even weak woman. Her engendered name seems evidence of this, acting as a constant reminder to her that she is an inferior being. Like a child who must ask “may I?” to obtain permission, May also seeks to gain permission from her husband to live a happy life. Also like a child, May tends to yield to her “superiors'” desires. When the doctor …
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…els “her lover’s presence protecting her” (422). In her attempt to get away from Daniel, May uses the “safety” of another man.
In the end, however, May finally comes to the realization that she has failed in her pursuit of happiness and self-reliance. Notably, she feels like a trapped bird, like the ones she and Daniel have talked about earlier in the story. Although May wants to be set free, she is tragically aware of the patriarchal privileging of her culture a privileging that will not let her go. So, as the story closes, May sits in an abandoned sleigh (an image suggesting the uselessness that she feels) and wonders how she is going to “live the rest of her life” (425).
Stafford, Jean. “A Country Love Story.” 1953. Short Story Masterpieces. Ed. Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine. New York: Dell, 1958. 411-25.