American literature is littered with dreamers. Characters whose aspirations are matched only by their spectacular failures color the entire landscape. It all stands to reason, when you think about it. This is, after all, the land of the American Dream.
What I find fascinating, though, is the fact that many of these characters fail not because their dreams have been shattered but because they seem unable to grasp the concept of acceptance. Willy Loman is a prime example of such a character.
The focus of Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman, Loman is a man who has lived and breathed the American dream, only to see his professional, home and economic life crumble before him. It's a tragic situation, but not one Loman can't escape from.
Loman's family is loving, after all. What's more, his neighbor, Charley, not only lends him money, but offers him a solid job. In other words, stability is just over the horizon. All Loman has to do is accept what's before him. Sadly, however, the man proves incapable or unwilling to step out of the ruins of his dream scape.
Jay Gatsby is another character who refuses to take hold of the reality of his situation. Wealthy beyond measure, the hero of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby still ends up seeing himself a failure. Why? Because he can't accept that the girl of his dreams once (briefly) loved another man. Like Loman, Gatsby is the victim of his own shortcomings more than he is the victim of life's cruelty.
In the end we're all capable of seeing ourselves as failures. In some cases we might even be right in doing so. More often than not, though, each of us possesses the ability to make the best of bad situations. By accepting things we truly cannot change, we may even be blessed enough to re-evaluate what a failure really is.
Tragedy is best left on the page, after all.