American Lit 9/9 – Masculinity and the American Dream

Today we read pages 41 to 60 of Death of a Salesman. For homework, consider it a “second draft” of you answers to those two questions from class:

1) How does masculinity (in however you define it) play a role in the American Dream/American Way of Life of today and in the past?

2) Where do we see masculinity and emasculation in this section of Death of Salesman? How does masculinity (or lack thereof) impact the attainability of the American Dream in the play?

***As always, use quotes and line numbers in your responses

8 thoughts on “American Lit 9/9 – Masculinity and the American Dream

  1. (1). Masculinity plays a role in the American Dream/American Way of Life of today and in the past because a mans thought of the American Dream/American Way of Life has never changed throughout history. It has always been for the man to marry a beautiful women and make her his wife, with him having a very successful job, buying their dream home (the white picket fence) to start a family in. Always have the same stereotypical two beautiful children consisting of a son and a daughter or two sons, making their flawless family. Strong, brave, fit family. The traditional thought of a mans American way of life.
    (2). we see masculinity and emasculation in this section of Death of Salesman when Willy is sitting in the kitchen having illusions of his masculinity American Way of Life with his family. He visions seeing his two sons Biff and Happy coming in as young men with varsity jackets and footballs looking like beautiful strong men. Masculinity impacts the attainability of the American Dream in the play because Willy’s illusions are blinding him from seeing the actual reality of the world because it doesn’t go hand and hand with his belief of the American Dream “BERNARD, rushing in: The watchman’s chasing Biff! WILLY angrily: He’s not stealing anything!” He’s become in denial with things we believes aren’t right. Now Willy’s condition has forced Linda, Biff, Happy to face the hard reality. “Linda:–The lights blew out, and I went down the cellar. An behind the fuse box–it happened to fall out–was a length of rubber pipe–just short.” Now that leaves the family with a father/husband ill and suicidal. Willy’s family is far from the American Dream and its effecting Willy on a large scale.


  2. 1. Back then men had to provide for their family while their wives just stayed home and raised the kids. Men had a lot of pride and so they felt like if they lost their job or didn’t have enough money to take care of their family they had to improvise. This meant that they had to do whatever it took to come home and continue living the American Dream. The way men thought of as the American Dream back then meant that they had to have a nice house, new car, a beautiful wife, and intelligent and beautiful children. A percentage of men now do not see this as the American Dream. A lot of men think that having a lot of ladies and making a lot of money is the new way of living life. Others of course, still follow the “original” way of the American Dream.

    2. Willy from the Death of a Salesman was so used to providing everything for his family that when he started losing his sanity, he didn’t know what to do. So instead, he would ask his neighbor for money every week. Although Willy was having an affair, he believed he was living the American Dream. He had a wife, two kids, a beautiful home and a new Chevrolet. This part of the play showed masculinity but it was quickly changed by the problems that Willy was going through. He had lost a lot of pride because he could not afford to keep everything perfect like how he used to. This is what most likely made him go crazy. This is what led Willy to attempt suicide.


  3. 1. Masculinity plays a role in the American Dream/American Way of Life of today and in the past because we tend to see the norm of our society of having the man of the family to be more dominant and have more power and control. The American Way of Life defines how men had to live their life because they had to go to work and earn money to support his family while the women had to stay home and clean the house. Today, not much has changed because we still see that if a man showed any feminine aspect, others would consider him as “not manly”. And even though women could now work today in our society, the man can’t show that the women is a higher rank than the husband in the household.

    2. In Death of a Salesman, we see masculinity when this section mentioned things like handling tools, money, pride, and family. These were what men had to focus on to have a masculine aspect. For example, on page 44, Willy said “A man who can’t handle tools is not a man”. Then on page 54, Linda said “Biff, a man is not a bird, to come and go with the springtime”. In Linda’s case, she is a women that acknowledges the fact that a man has to have that masculinity. Linda is telling Biff that he needs the quality of being a man because she knows that is the American Way of Life. Willy showed his emasculation when we see him struggling to achieve wealth for his family. Willy would go to Charley and borrow money from him to pay the bills and this showed how unsuccessful Willy was towards to what he wanted to accomplish which was the American Dream.


  4. 1) Masculinity in the American Dream is potrayed as a strong and “manly man”. Men have to be emotionally stunted. It is better to have little to no emotions, otherwise it would seem too, “feminine,” and being even remotely feminine was/is considered unmanly. Men have to be the laborers. The entire foundation of the American Dream is only considered plausible if a men plays his cards right.
    2) Masculinity definitely plays a major role in this play. It is shown in Willy’s constant “episodes” of what life was like/what life could have been. In the beginning when he’s thinking about his sons being perfect, it’s a clear repersentstion of what the American Dream is. They play sports, they pick up girls. They are the kind of guys that the other kids are envious of. Then his wife comes into the picture and completely distorts his image. She brings in the real facts, and shows that he isn’t actually living the American Dream, emasculating him


  5. 1. In the time of ‘Death of a Salesman’ a mans role was head of the household. As such he had to provide for himself, his wife, and, stereotypically, his two children. He had to have the nice car, the nice house, the outstanding family, and a well-paying job. Without all these he wasn’t to be seen as living the American Dream. Today the american dream is to have constant movement upward on the social ladder. Staying in one place too long isn’t enough progress and is seen as inadequate. We need to stay up to date on technology, and music, and news. To constantly be with the times and the trends.

    2. Masculinity runs rampant in Willy’s delusions of the past. He remembers his boys as they were: Strapping young lads who could have their way with the ladies and were incredible athletes/students. They were his ideal sons. But he allows himself to stay in this delusion so as to keep himself shielded from the almost crippling reality. He isn’t able to face reality head-on. The fact that his bills are piling up, his wages aren’t enough, his sons aren’t what he had hoped for, and that his wife can do stuff around the house on her own might even be an issue for him. Cowering behind the thin veil of his delusions is the ultimate emasculation as he’s proving outright that he is incapable of being “man” enough to recognize that his life is slowly moving down the drain if he can’t fix it, but he neither knows nor is capable of doing so.


  6. 2)In the time period of the book gender roles was an important part of American way of living. One way, would be threw the idea of the “masculine”, “providing” male figure/father. In the book the father Willy, believes that him and his sons should be providing for themselves and generations to come. Willy is always on Biff case on have a job that will be able to provide for the family, “Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such — personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff — he’s not lazy “(Miller 8). However in present day I wouldn’t say that people still believe that, men should be the main provides. However, the culture believes that we should be able to provide a foundation for ourselves and who we want to provide for.
    Another was that masculinity is touched upon in this book would be how Willy always finds the need to interrupt people, as if he has more importance.

    1)In the American Dream(or at least the dream that I am thinking about) there are many variations according to the standard of living during the associated time period. In the past America and the Western cultures believed males were seen as the provides while, women were nurtures and caters for the family. And masculinity wasn’t really measured by one aspect but a whole bunch of ideas that connect to the idea, of what it means to be “a man”.


  7. 1.The masculinity aurora is what makes America the way it is. There is masculinity dating back to the 1700’s; America was built on conquering and over powering. That is how the United States was able to become the power house it is today. Franklin D. Roosevelt drove the United State to be this big, tough entity of a country. That descended to citizen’s everyday lives. We all strive to be the best, the toughest, the smartest, the greatest. In the past, America has constantly try to dominate the world (not in the means of world domination) but by domination of the sciences, the economics, the standard of living and the military power. The States were colonized and through that, it shows masculinity. As the years go on, the United States STILL colonize countries, we can analyze that masculinity is in our culture as a whole. Socially, there have always been the strive to be a strong leader, a strong whatever domestically. There was this notion that masculinity is what will save the family. The orderliness and structure is what holds the family together. Many times that duty is instilled into the highest male figure of the family. When the family is falling a part, the masculinity of the man will diminish. Masculinity and femininity was not this static thing in the ancient world (fun fact). The Greeks did not see masculinity to be strong and femininity to be weak, also a boy was NOT determined to be masculine man and a girl was NOT determine to be a feminine woman when she grows. We can see that once a man loses his masculinity, in past and present, they tend to be lost of themselves as they do not know what to make of their life. Masculinity in America is what makes up the social latter. The more masculine someone is, the more reliable a person will seem to be. That person will be seen as a great leader versus someone who is more feminine. That is just how our society work, as humans we try to have power, to have control, it is in our innate nature.
    2. In “Death of a Salesman”, masculinity is shown through being successful. When willy was having trouble financially, the author was emasculating Willy, more of not being able to fully provide for his family. In terms of Willy’s brother, his brother showed dominance and that was praised. When Ben had his life together and making big bucks, he’s praised and seem to be in CONTROL of his life. Compare that to Willy, Willy feels lesser of a man since he is struggling financially. Both Happy and Biff are praised when they fight (?). When one of Willy’s sons fought with Ben, it was praised to be strong and dominate. Willy’s struggle to grasp the American Dreams shows how the American Dream is not that attainable. When that Dream is not met, it breaks a man.


  8. 1. Masculinity’s role in the American dream/way of life has changed throughout the years. The traditional American dream for a man was to marry a beautiful women, have a good paying job, a nice car, a big home, and two children, preferably sons. A man would want sons because they could get better jobs back then and carry on the family name. A man wants his son the be strong, brave, handsome, masculine traits that will make him popular in school. Also, a man wanted his son to be a star at sports because that would get him scholarships and make him successful. Leading to today, that American way of life has shifted into a new dream now that more things are accepted. For example, there are more to being successful than sports using your masculinity. It isn’t seen as emasculate to be intelligent, including now that women are seen as capable to be successful, masculinity’s role in the American dream is fading.

    2. In Death of a Salesman, we see masculinity being portrayed as something required to be successful or closer to reaching the American Dream. We see Willy bash Bernard for being scrawny and studious. Willy finds it emasculate and will not lead him to success. He believes that Biff doesn’t need to study to be successful. Willy also bashes Charley for not knowing how to use tools, which is a masculine skill. Willy believes masculinity will lead you closer to attaining the american dream. Even though Biff was masculine, he was never successful, and while Bernard and Charley were emasculate, they were successful. Seeing that masculinity doesn’t necessarily lead to success, Willy has lost faith in his son and is going crazy, his view of the American way of life is not what he wanted, and it leads to him attempting to end his life.


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