The Fall of Alger's Success Myth in Arthur Miller's Play

AuthorMarsela Turku
PositionAleksander Moisiu University Durrës, Albania
IIPCCL Publishing, Tirana-Albania
Academic Journal of Business, Administration, Law and Social Sciences Vol. 1 No. 3
November 2015
ISSN 2410-3918
Acces online at
The Fall of Alger’s Success Myth in Arthur Miller’s Play
Dr. Marsela Turku
Aleksander Moisiu University Durrës, Albania
Alger’s theory supported the idea that the key to success lies in the character. His heroes rise
to the top by being devout (but not pious). They are likeable chaps with a ready quip and a
vigorous sense of humour. Alger’s belief that all people are equal in God’s eye, implied that
opportunities offered to people are equal, thus their success lies inside their personality, their
personal magnetism, their virtues, their gifts. Therefore it is only our character that seals our
success or failure. This theory not only prevailed before the twentieth century, but also was a
model that many people believed and created their way of living. Arthur Miller in his play
Death of a Salesman examines the fall of Alger’s success myth in modern society through the
main character. Willy’s restless and uneasy psychological aspect is the main aspect where
Miller based this tragedy. In this paper we will focus in the Alger ’s myth theory, its influence
in the play and the tragedy it provokes by not changing the attitude.
Keywords: myth, Alger’s theory, failure, American dream.
According to Max Weber, the myth of success has its roots in the seventeenth-century
bourgeois England and later this idea entered America by being referred to as the
“land of opportunity.” This land offered unlimited and equal opportunities for
everyman who tried his luck and in a short period of time the successful man become
the idol, the one to be followed and admired. This ready-made formula offered and
nourished by a considerable number of important writers, philosophers and politicians
of the time indoctrinated the American people with the myth of success and the
people who could achieve it. The Americans believed that material success was to be
taken as a sign of God’s blessing and reward of the virtue.
The clergyman whose name is mostly linked with the myth of success is probably
Horatio Alger. Between 1868 and 1926 his books sold ten millions of copies.
He developed a formula for his dream of success that Lynn defines as:
Like many simple formulations which nevertheless convey a heavy intellectual and emotional
change to vast numbers of people, the Alger hero represents a triumphant combination- and
the reduction to the lowest common denominator –of the most widely accepted concepts in the
nineteenth-century American society. The belief in the potential greatness of the common
man, the glorification of the common man, the glorification of individual effort and
accomplishment, the equation of the pursuit of money with the pursuit of happiness and of
business success with spiritual grace: simply to mention these concepts is to comprehend the
brilliance of Alger’s synthesis (1955: 6-7)
Alger’s theory supported the idea that the key to success lies in the character. His

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