Death of a Salesman and True West can be compared in terms of their visions of the American dream. Both of these plays focus on characters that spend their lives pursuing this dream and fail at happiness as a result.
In Death of a Salesman Willie Loman is a tragic man who is so obsessed with trying to live up to an ideal that he has become disillusioned and has developed a loose sense of reality. He tries so hard to be ‘successful’ and ‘well-liked’ that this passion overrides his ability to recognize his true talents in carpentry. To Willie, carpentry does not satisfy the ideals of the American Dream. Instead, he spends his lifetime attempting to become a skilled salesman, only to find in the end that he has been a failure. Perhaps had Willie accepted his talents he could have achieved happiness through his success and then truly have lived the American Dream.
True West also focuses on the dysfunction of the American Dream. Austin has been successful and appears at first to be living in this ideal. Austin possesses a prestigious career, two children, a suburban home, and a nice car. However, upon closer inspection, we find that Austin is not satisfied with his role in society. On the contrary, he is quite unhappy at living the typical American lifestyle and would prefer to walk in his brother’s shoes, living a carefree life in the desert.
Lee also suffers from an inner tug-of-war. In the first act of the play he wishes to be able to live the American Dream, wishes to have been raised in this ideal. He is jealous of his brother and his prestigious position. However, later on he realizes how hard it is to try to live in that ideal, and how unhappy it makes a person.