“Death of a Salesman” written by Arthur Mille Essay
“Death of a Salesman” written by Arthur Miller is about a man named Willy who has wife and children. He came to America chasing the “American Dream” in search of fortune, respect and happiness. He had high dreams for his children as well but like with most parents he was disappointed by the truth. His failures became too great for him and in the end committed suicide. Through the cultural perspective it is clear to see the differences between those who were born in America and those who come here trying to catch the “American Dream” Although many critics see Death of a Salesman, first published in 1949, as a socio-psychological observation on the American family system or as a subversive description of free enterprise and religious convictions, playwright Arthur Miller claims that he wrote the play (in two Acts and the Requiem) in a very uncomplicated way.
Miller argues that art must strive for equilibrium with truth. It is not a political bias pretending to be art because it includes the whole gamut of life. Without doubt, art holds kernels of the author’s values but it must surpass the author’s predisposition to attain its total figure as art” (Edwards).
Miller’s drama can be compared to his real life in some ways. “New York-born Arthur Miller’s father, Isidore Miller, was a garment-maker, wrecked in the great depression. The abrupt change in fate had an intense impact on Miller. The family shifted to a small house in Brooklyn, thought to be the type of Brooklyn home depicted in Death of a Salesman” (Galvin). “This desire to move on, to metamorphose – or perhaps it is a talent for being contemporary – was given me as life’s inevitable and rightful condition”, he wrote in Timebends: A life (Kirasto).
The play was developed from common life – a plain-frame house filled with children who would leave on adulthood and outsiders would occupy the house” (Kirasto). Death of a Salesman depicts the story of Willy Lomman, an aging salesman, with his share of fantasies, disappointment and torments, his family relationships, making him a tragic hero. Miller says, “It is time that we, who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time-the heart and spirit of the average man” (Ferris).
The basic philosophy in Death of a Salesman is that any common man can have as awful a plunge as a king in a tragedy” (Tripod) and this has elements taken from the story of Miller’s father’s financial ruin. Miller says he got ideas from Greek tragedians, mostly from Sophocles -“I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing-his sense of personal dignity” (Miller). He writes, “From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his ‘rightful’ position in his society” (Ferris).
Willy Loman, the protagonist of the drama, is the symbol of a ordinary man whose suicide at the end is obviously meant as a sign of his victory over situations. It is an feat of love, meant to trade in his house. Willy, the worn out, romantic man has dreams of a magnificent opportunity for his sons that does not really match with truth, but he still holds on to his expectations. To Willy, death is the only solution (revision). Miller thinks the common man “as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (revision). The techniques Miller uses add to Willy’s ‘topsy-turvy’ psychological state.
By employing flashback and daydreams, Miller helps the audience to delve into emotional state of Willy Loman and evokes a feeling of compassion for him. He applies many images and recurring beliefs during the play to give the audience an impression of what Willy and his circumstances are. The emphasis on good looks is a recurring motif. Willy considers that good looks makes one flourishing but his conviction is proven wrong by the accomplishment of Bernard and Charley, the achiever father and his famous lawyer son who, according to Willy, are not good-looking.
Other images are arrears, the “boxed-in” mood of Willy, the notion that his life flowing away from him as stated in the line, “The woods are burning,” and Ben’s, the dead elder brother of Willy, a merciless entrepreneur, rich and daring, whom Willy thinks to be his role model and “daydreams” of him, achievement and the traits that caused his triumph (Tripod). “To heighten the puzzled and bewildered state of Willy’s mind, the details of the play’s surroundings are meticulously avoided. There are no borders between Boston and New York or between past and present for that matter.
Typically, stories are told in sequences and actions take place coherently. But when life faces a jerk out from that cool order, experiences may appear to mix together, upsetting the consistent run of “reality. ” Willy has suffered such a shake. As he attempts to assess and rationalize his life, his past starts sharing his present. As he speaks to Charley, he also talks to Ben, when he sits in the restaurant with Happy and Biff, he also in Boston tricking on Linda and analyzing the doubt and disappointment in Biff’s eyes. Willy looks at his life as an entirety.
The order of time and space does not concern him” (Edwards). “The plot of the play also develops in an artistic than in a coherent form. It is sort of a “stream of consciousness” to remake the past experiences of the hero in the present context. Willy revisits the past to show that, for him, family is very important. In the flashbacks, Willy gives his sons a punching bag and overlooks Biff’s theft, indulges them and one of his sons, Happy, does not approve of the idea that they should part ways for a business trip. The muddling of the sequential order also depicts the degree of Willy’s disenchantment.
It also reveals the emotional disruptions and connections between different characters of the play (revision), In Death of a Salesman, Miller utilizes many characters to compare the disparity between achievement and failure inside the system. Willy’s fantasies outsize his capability while Linda is more realistic. Biff and Happy go after their father’s erroneous beliefs while Ben is the only member of the family who used to have all the traits that success needs for. The play is uncertain in its approach to the selling -success reverie, but does not indeed denounce it. ‘It is reasonable to ask what Miller is up to.
And the response is that he has made a baffled play because he has been reluctant or not capable to place himself to a definite place with regard to American culture’ (Linderholm). In an interview in the Humanities magazine, William R. Ferris who thinks that besides being a personal tragedy, Death of a Salesman is also a “commentary on society” and asked Miller whether “one person’s story can transcend itself and speak to all of us? ” In reply Miller said, that the “intensification of a work generally leads in the direction of society if it is indeed intense enough” (Ferris).
People interpret Willy’s suicide in different ways, some think of it as an act of weakness and others as Willy being a victim of the American Dream . In Act II, Willy, after being fired by his employer breaks the news to Biff saying: Willy: I’m not interested in stories about the past or any crap of that kind because the woods are burning, boys, you understand? There’s a big blaze going on all around. I was fired today. BIFF (shocked): How could you be? WILLY: I was fired, and I’m looking for a little good news to tell your mother, because the woman has waited and the woman has suffered.
The gist of it is that I haven’t got a story left in my head, Biff. So don’t give me a lecture about facts and aspects. I am not interested. Now what’ve you got so say to me? (Miller, Act II). This clearly depicts Willy as a confused “American Dreamer”, a person who would like to carry on his mission of triumph and success following Ben’s advice that the “The jungle is dark, but full of diamonds” and who would like to give his suicide the hue of a swap and thereby matching the concept of fall essential to a Greek tragic hero.
Reality is revealed in the skinny layers of Willy Loman’s American Dream; a dream developed on a life of weak options and fake values. Even though the characters are not of aristocrats nor have gallant traits, many of the factors in Death of a Salesman satisfy the standards of a Greek tragedy. The Loman’s have impractical thoughts about success. To Willy, achievement is not culture or tough work, but rather “who you know and the smile on your face”.
Furthermore, Willy mocks Bernard for his academic success, asserting that his sons, Biff and Happy, will go more in the big business because “the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked, and you will never want”. Willy worships two men: his brother, the cruel and the unscrupulous Ben and an 84-year-old salesman who could “pick a phone in twenty or thirty cities and be remembered and loved, and finally honored by hundred of mourners at his funeral.
Linda supports Willy to demand unfair raises, and close her eyes to the truth that Willy scrounges money to run the family expenses. For Biff, the concept of accomplishment is an undemanding loan from an ex- boss; for Happy, achievement is getting a raise by pass the time for “the merchandise manager to die. ” Predictably, the Loman’s out of reach idea about victory is one of the reasons for their ruin. The Loman family also does not have the aptitude to make the essential and appropriate preferences to track the American Dream.
Even though Willy is expert in his profession and considers that “a man who can’t handle tools is disgusting,” he prefers a career as a salesman, founded on the unreal image of his father who dumped another significant reason in the Loman’s ruin is their deficiency in trustworthy values. Thievery, infidelity and deception are the basis of their values. Besides the relation between a character’s collapse and the character’s “harmartias”, acknowledgment of a person’s flaw and the revelation accompanying that is a vital constituent of tragedy.
In the requiem of the play, Biff had a quick look of the self revelation, although Willy, Linda, and Hap never found out the truth about themselves. Biff becomes conscious that Willy had the incorrect dreams. While he finds the truth about his father, Biff could make a resolution about his own destiny founded on a sensible consideration of his skills. Briefly speaking, Death of a Salesman is a new type of tragedy that very much highlights the corruption of the American Dream (Linderholm).
In conclusion, through the cultural perspective Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” shows its audience how immigrants see the America Dream. People who were born in the United States take for granted all the opportunities America has to offer, but those who come to this country for a chance to live see it differently. Like Willy, they see America has a way to make it big and get respect. However, when these people feel they failed it is a bigger disappointment and at times unbearable. That is a big difference between American citizens who were born in this country and those who come here for a chance at the American Dream.