The Death of Salesman and Fences depict the struggles that ordinary families undergo in the American society. In Death of a Salesman, the main character Willy Loman is a husband, father, and salesman that lives in the fantasy of the American dream. Willy is stressed about his failures to achieve success and is now worried that the same may be happening to his children. He sees the failure of his two sons, Happy and Biff as his failures. Fences has an almost similar story but from an African American perspective. In Fences, the main character is Troy who is a father, husband and garbage collector turned garbage truck driver. Troy had long given up on life after failing to make it to the Major League because of his skin color and age. Comparison of Death of a Salesman and Fences reveals similar financial struggles while at the same time they have different emotional struggles.
Loman's family is struggling to make ends meet. Willy has been demoted from a salaried employee to a commission employee. That means he will be making less money than he used to. His son Happy is the one doing slightly better because he has a job and lives in his apartment with his family. Biff, however, keeps changing jobs. Biff's situation worries Willy. Willy thinks that his family's failure to achieve the American dream is due to the increased population instead of his distorted vision of the American dream. In ACT I of the play by Miller, Willy says," There's more people! That's what's ruining this country! The competition is maddening!" (9). The American dream is the idea that the government should be capable of protecting everyone's opportunity to pursue successCITATION Ama18 \p par.1 \l 1033 (Amadeo par.1). Willy believes in that dream and the fact that they haven't achieved it is because of the population. In Fences, the reader sees Troy's family undergo the same financial struggles, but unlike Willy, Troy is under no illusion of his situation. He is among the first generation of black people to be born and raised from slavery. Troy knows they are poor but is under no illusion of living a better life. Instead, he tries to enjoy every moment as it comes.
There are contrasting emotional struggles between Death of a Salesman and Fences. Troy is an African American that was raised in violence. Although his father managed to provide for his family, he was significantly deficient in other sectors of parenthood. Troy left his father's house to establish his manhood, and since then Troy has had a few successes such as playing in Negro League of baseball. Over time he has developed a big ego of himself. He believes he can conquer death as he describes his past experiences with death. In the play by Wilson, Troy says," Death ain't nothing but a fastball on the outside corner. And you know what I'll do
to that!" (14). Troy said those words after his wife told him that drinking too much might kill him. He responded using those words in which he was taunting death by comparing it to a fastball. Like a good baseball player, he would conquer death the way he overcame 'fastball on the outside corner.' He keeps portraying the same image of immortality through the play. The truth is that he is scared of death and he is afraid it might reveal his weaknesses. He doesn't want to acknowledge the presence of death because it may force him to think about his accomplishments which he has nothing to show for.
Troy's situation is different from that of Willy who instead of running away from death is running towards it. In the play by Miller, Linda says to Buff," He's been trying to kill himself," (41). In the quote, Linda tells her son Buff how Willy had survived a car crash earlier, and she is convinced that her husband is trying to commit suicide. His psychological situation is deteriorating because of stress related to work and family. Unlike Troy, Willy sees his life as a joke and one where he holds little control over the future. Unlike Troy, however, Willy isn't afraid of death and sees it as a solution to his problems and those of his family. He eventually commits suicide to get his family to take the insurance money and live a better life.
The Death of a Salesman and Fences have some differences and similarities in regards to the struggles that the characters go through. There are similarities in the struggles that the two families go through because they are unable to achieve the American dream. On the one hand, Willy is a salesman whose children have not met financial stability. On the other side, Troy is a garbage truck driver who lives for the paydays. There are also differences in regards to emotional struggles that the two characters go through. Troy is afraid of death, and he compares it to a fastball at a corner, while Willy longs for death because he sees it as the solution to his problems.
Works CitedAmadeo, Kimberly. What Is the American Dream? The History That Made It Possible. 1 November 2018. Website. 26 November 2018. <https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-the-american-dream-quotes-and-history-3306009>.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Viking Press, 1949. PDF
Wilson, August. Fences, Samuel French, Inc.,1985, pp. Print.1-145.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Essay:
What financial hardships are highlighted in both "Death of a Salesman" and "Fences?"
Answer: Willy Loman and his family in "Death of a Salesman" struggle financially; Willy was demoted while his son Biff often changes jobs. Troy's family in "Fences" also encounter financial struggles but are aware of them and seek contentment through present experiences.
How does Willy Loman perceive the American dream in "Death of a Salesman"?
Answer: Willy Loman believes strongly in this ideal but has seen his family struggle against increased population pressure to achieve it, leaving him distressed at their inability to achieve it and worrying that this may also happen with their children.
How Does Troy View Death From Fences?
Answer: On the surface, Troy from "Fences" seems fearless toward death and believes he can conquer it; he likens its approach to an opposing fastball while mocking its presence - though, in reality, he fears death will reveal any weaknesses or lack of accomplishments that exist within himself and those close to him.
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