Comparing And Contrasting Essay On Death

Compare and Contrast: The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman

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Four motifs run through both F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. All of these are related to one encompassing theme common to both works – the pursuit of the American Dream.

To own a house and a car, to be successful in life, and above all to become financially wealthy and independent – that was the heart of the dream. All of these rewards will come to those willing to work and sacrifice enough for it.

Jay Gatsby’s and Willy Loman’s respective pursuits of the American dream, however, belie this ideal. Jay Gatsby seemed to have it all: a Gothic mansion, Rolls-Royce, extravagant parties every weekend, and a seemingly infinite number of friends.

However, the way Jay attained this goal was by becoming a bootlegger (Fitzgerald, 67) and a totally different person: “…he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end (Fitzgerald, 105).”

Willy, on the other hand, was always in debt. Despite the massive obstacles that kept blocking him from attaining the American dream, he still stuck to his guns.

His idea of the American dream, however, is already a diminutive version of the real thing. When he relates his dream of opening a bigger store than Charley, he sincerely believes that he will definitely succeed “because Charley is not-liked. He’s liked, but he’s not-well liked (Miller, 1069).” Eventually, Willy’s notion backfires on him, leaving him desolate for not achieving the dream he was so fixed upon.

With the failure of both these characters to actually achieve the real American dream of happiness from security, their lives are eventually wasted. In the end, both Jay and Willy qualify as tragic characters, implying that despite not being “mean and evil” men, there is a flaw in their characters that led them to doom.

For Jay, the flaw is in his utter idealism. Daisy becomes the paragon of everything that he hopes to be – rich, powerful, and beautiful. His dreams proved to be too big for him and the foundation upon which he builds it is weak. On the other hand, Willy’s flaw is his inability to accept his family and their unconditional love for him.

He believes that as he cannot attain the dream, he is not worthy of their love and acceptance. Despite overwhelming evidence showing him their love, Willy refuses to accept it, pushing him into depression.

Another idea common to both is infidelity. Luring Daisy shows the dark side of Gatsby – he had no moral scruples when it came to chasing his goals. Lacking conscience, Gatsby paves the way for his downfall by initiating an affair with Daisy. In the end, the idealization he has vested upon Daisy turns on him: Daisy was not the glamorized girl he had in his imagination.

For Willy, the affair with The Woman boosted his frail ego. This was especially important for Willy, who sincerely believed that being likeable and attractive would lead to his success as a salesman. However, Biff catches Willy with his father, which eventually destroys all chances he has in going to college. Because of his infidelity, Willy not only destroys his son’s future but also exhibits the grave consequences the American Dream has on its chasers.

As with all tragic characters, dying becomes a resolution in their downfalls. For both Gatsby and Loman, death comes is the inevitable result of chasing the distorted American dream. Gatsby meets his fate in the hands of George Wilson, who is misled by Tom Buchanan into thinking that Gatsby killed his wife Myrtle.

Gatsby’s death eerily echoes his prodigal nature – his dead body was found in the pool he has never once used throughout the summer (Fitzgerald, 168). For Willy Loman, suicide out of despair cut short his life. His suicide was prompted by his tenacious and illusory view on the American – “Can you imagine that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket (Miller, 1098)?” – referring to the payout from the insurance company upon his death. To his death, Willy still believes that wealth will change Biff and urge him to pursue the American Dream that was denied him.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. London: Penguin Popular Classics, 1994.

Miller, Arthur. “Death of a Salesman.” A Treasury of the Theatre. Ed. John Gassner. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. 1063-1099.

Compare and Contrast: The Great Gatsby and Death of a Salesman

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The two brothers, Happy and Biff, are alike in that they are both deceitful, unfulfilled, selfish, and caught in a cycle of mediocrity. They are different in that Biff displayed greater potential, reached a lower low, and has an epiphany at the end of the play.

Happy and Biff have both been caught in a web of lies and deception since childhood. As Biff states, "We never told the truth for ten minutes in this...

The two brothers, Happy and Biff, are alike in that they are both deceitful, unfulfilled, selfish, and caught in a cycle of mediocrity. They are different in that Biff displayed greater potential, reached a lower low, and has an epiphany at the end of the play.

Happy and Biff have both been caught in a web of lies and deception since childhood. As Biff states, "We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house!" Both boys deceive their father about their prospects and lie to him about Biff's appointment with Bill Oliver. They are also selfish, which they display in many ways, but most obviously when they leave their father alone in the restaurant and go off with their dates. Despite their braggadocio, neither boy has achieved much in life. Biff says to his father, "I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you!" Certainly this also applies to Happy, who has a lower position in his company than he pretends to have.

Despite these similarities, Biff distinguishes himself from Happy. During his high school days, Biff had real talent as a football player and could have gone to college on a football scholarship. Happy never amassed a wall of trophies as Biff did. But Biff ended up sinking to greater depths than Happy, even spending three months in jail in Kansas City for stealing a suit. By the end of the play, Biff has learned to look honestly at himself and at his family. After stealing the pen from Oliver's office, he realizes, "... all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am." By looking at himself and his prospects honestly, he is able to begin forging a new and better future. Happy, however, remains deluded even in the Requiem, remaining tied to his father's failed dreams, vowing, "I'm gonna win it for him." 

Willy Loman's two sons are alike in many ways, but Biff stands out as a deeper character who changes as a result of what he goes through while Happy remains static.

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