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    playwrites

      The System

      and the American Dream

      *DEATH OF A SALESMAN*

      page4..Craig M. Garrison

      Likewise, Charlie is also Willy's opposite in many ways in the play. Charlie stands for different beliefs and ends up quite successful. Charlie tries to help Willy as well… However, Willy will not listen to Charlie's advice. For instance, Charlie warned Willy not to let his kids steal from a nearby construction site and that the night watchman would eventually catch them. Willy said, "I got a couple of fearless characters," and Charlie said, "The jails are full of fearless characters." Charlie is always being the voice of reason but Willy is too stubborn to listen to him. R. H. Gardner states, "Willy's refusal, from the standpoint of dramatic significance, seems less a product of his insanity than of his lifelong feeling of competition with Charlie. Acceptance would have been tantamount to admitting that Charlie's philosophy had proved to be the right one, and Willy simply isn't big enough a man to make such an admission" (Gardner p.320). In other words, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. Charlie tries to lead Willy to the fountain of knowledge but Willy refuses to take in this precious liquid.

      Furthermore, there is the anemic Bernard—at least that is what Willy calls him. Bernard I Charlie's son, and Biff and Happy's schoolmate. R. H. Gardner states, "A physically unattractive, spectacles-wearing lad, Bernard's chief claim to fame rests upon the fact that he is the boy who furnishes Biff, the school hero, with the right answers at exam time. In exchange for this privilege, Biff lets Bernard carry his shoulder pads into the locker room at game time and, in other small ways, bask in the glory—which is all the glory Bernard can aspire to, since, as Biff explains to his tickled father, Bernard is not "well liked." It is, therefore, interesting to note that not well liked though he may be, Bernard, through persistent application of his native intelligence, grows up to be an eminent lawyer who, the day Biff and Willy are finally forced to face the unpleasant fats of their lives, embarks for Washington to plead a case before the Supreme Court. That Mr. Miller chose to contrast Willy's and Biff's failures with an obvious example of how one can succeed in this country makes it difficult to interpret the play as an attack upon the American system, either as constituted or as popularly imagined. Bernard is, in fact, living proof of the system's effectiveness, an affirmation of the proposition that persitent application of one's talents, small though they may be, pays off. And this, after all, is the substance of the American Dream" (Gardner p.320).


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