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The Nightmare Within the American Dream

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The Nightmare within the American Dream

It is often perceived that the American Dream simply involves the pursuit of success and prosperity. Idealistically, the American Dream is very orderly and simple-success comes to those who work hard enough for it. However, within the American Dream lies the real nightmare: the search for identity, the struggle to make a living, and the sacrifices that must come with it. The Glass Menagerie and Death of a Salesman reveal two characters that experience this nightmare. Both Tom Wingfield and Biff Loman must make sacrifices to appease their families, yet the achievement of the American Dream truly depends on their family's riddance.

In The Glass Menagerie, Tom Wingfield, an aspiring poet, sacrifices his freedom to stay with his mother and sister because they depend on his wages. Tom considers his life to be a cage, having to work a job he doesn't love and living in a hostile environment he hates. Tom, however, manages to escape from his confinement by going to "late night movies" and "magic shows" (although he comes home drunk at times). His relationship with his mother only makes his discomfort grow. Amanda, his mother, is a very loving and caring figure, but her constant nagging and bickering make it more difficult for Tom stay sane in their oppressive and depressing apartment. Seeing that he longs an escape to freedom, Amanda makes Tom an offer: if he finds his sister, Laura, a husband, he is free to leave. This is the physical conflict that Tom has, but it also shows his struggle with identity. Tom identifies with his father. He understands why his father left the family and he also yearns to do the same. However, he stays with his family because he truthfully cares about them. Even in the end of the play, when he leaves, he cannot rid himself of the guilt that his conscience plays on him.

The physical conflict for Biff Loman in Death of a Salesman is the strained relationship between him and his father. The relationship with Biff and his father, Willy, was not always tense and complicated. In fact, Biff and Willy used to be extremely close before the time that Biff left high school. However, when Biff found out that his father was having an affair with another woman, Biff resented him. However, even fifteen years later, he still tries his best to please his father. This is the reason why he ventures to Bill Oliver office and try to reason with Oliver into giving him a business job. Truly, Biff does not like business or sales, but in order to please his mother and father, he waits countless hours for a meeting he did not receive. This shows Biff's struggle with identity. He does not identify with his father's passion for business, yet his constant need of approval from Willy is the driving force for him to pursue a business career. Biff's identity was built up from birth: he is the one that must do everything

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