The Definition of Prejudice by A. Miller
In Arthur Miller’s 1945 novel Focus, there are many prejudicial attitudes that manifest themselves throughout the action; Miller clearly takes a stance that all of these anti-Semitic views are irrational. The setting of the novel is in mid-1940’s Brooklyn. The main character, Lawrence Newman, works in an office and oversees the secretaries in the office essentially. He is praised by his boss, and everything seems to be going well for Newman until he buys a pair of glasses that seem stereotypically Jewish. Once Newman starts wearing these glasses, his whole world is turned upside down. Newman is anti-Semitic at the beginning of this novel, but this stance changes later on because of all the hardships he endures. Miller says that he thinks the reason people are anti-Semitic is because “they feel in themselves, a not-belonging” (Intro X), and Newman seems to fit this category until the end, when he sheds his cultural fears.
When Newman is first introduced in the novel, he is single, living with his mother, and has no real friends to speak of which leaves him very alone with only his thoughts. These thoughts leave him with nothing to do other than question his inadequacy. Newman worries about every little mistake that can be made throughout the day until he almost has breakdowns. He had an incident when riding the train and now when he gets on he says, “his face grew pinker at the memory of that moment. His blood began to pump rapidly” and this shows that he is scared of everything in life. This is understandable though because he has no one to talk over things with. He could tell his mother, but she is growing old, and he should not bother her with these kinds of problems. Instead, Newman is forced to deal with his inadequacies in other forms like taking out anger on other cultural groups. Newman eventually meets a girl that he comes to like as more than a friend and she helps him break through some of his anti-Semitism, but he still is unable to figure it all out. When Newman first meets Gertrude Hart, she is looking for a job at his first place of work. Newman thinks that she looks Jewish because of the way she dresses, and so does his boss. Newman does not hire her solely on the fact that she sort of dresses like a Jewish person might and she sounds educated like a Jewish person might. Gertrude notices that this is why she is not being hired, and she even says to Newman that “They ought to hang yiz!” (34) because she thinks he is Jewish while still passing judgment onto her.
When they meet again, Newman is the one looking for a job, and she is the one who has a job. Fortunately, she forgives Newman, and they start going out on dates. Newman and Gertrude eventually move in together and get married, and he finally has someone to help with his loneliness. In reality, though, Newman is so worried about being the perfect husband that he becomes even more stressed and left to deal with his thoughts while everyone around him is starting to think he is Jewish. He does have some moments of clarity because during his time with Gertrude he starts to also talk to Finkelstein and figure some things out. Newman still really believes though that Finkelstein is a lower class than he because of certain stereotypes. Yet once Newman creates a real bond with Finkelstein he is able to truly overcome his anti-Semitism. The neighbors start to turn over his trash cans and they also kick Newman out of the Christian Front meeting that his friend Fred told him he should come to. When the Christian Front group tries to attack Newman and Gertrude, Mr. Finkelstein saves them with the baseball bats, and Newman starts to feel a bond with Finkelstein. Even Gertrude ran away to Fred while Newman was getting attacked and she seemed to be in no hurry to save the men. The realization comes to Newman after the fight when he thinks to himself “nothing strange came to him, it was a human, ordinary room” (212) that Finkelstein lives in. This shows Newman accepts that Jewish people are just as normal as he is and he is ready to help Finkelstein and himself by going to the police station and reporting the incident to the cops. Newman finally finds someone who he feels a deep down connection with and because of this he is able to shed his anti-Semitic views once and for all. Arthur Miller clearly builds Newman’s character to help show how prejudice can be formed and also overcome.
Throughout most of the novel Newman is very anti-Semitic and he has a very stereotypical attitude towards all Jewish people. Once he is labeled as Jewish by his friends and colleagues Newman starts to see everything in a new light. Newman starts out as a very lonely man who questions his every thought and he also has no one to talk to his problems about. This is what creates most of his problems because. as Miller states in his introduction to the novel. the loneliness creates Newman’s prejudice. Newman forms a bond and friendship with Finkelstein, and his whole life and his views are completely changed after he does so. This bond of friendship gives him some insight to the real Jewish community and also gives Newman someone in which he can confide in. In the end Newman winds up helping the Jewish community by reporting the attack on him even though he is offered other ways out by Fred. Newman made this decision because he knew he had a real friend in Finkelstein and he had to help both of them. The fellowship between Newman and Finkelstein helped Newman overcome his anti-Semitism and lead a more fulfilling life.
Criticism and Deconstruction in the Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s American masterpiece Death of a Salesman, first presented on the stage in New York City in 1949, represents a successful literary attempt at blending the themes of social and personal tragedy within the same dramatic framework. Yet the story of Willy Loman is also one of false values sustained by almost every publicity agency in the national life of the United States. Thus, Willy Loman accepts at face value the over-publicized ideals of material success and blatant optimism, and therein lies his own personal tragedy. His downfall and final defeat illustrate not only the failure of a man but also the failure of a way of life, being a door-to-door salesman. Miller’s ability to project this story of his tragic, lower middle-class hero into the common experience of so many Americans, who sustain themselves and their families with illusions and ignore realities, makes Death of a Salesman one of the most significant plays in American theater within the last fifty years.
The character of Willy Loman, the themes of social and personal tragedy, and the overall commonality found within Miller’s play are prime territories for further exploration through the use of psychological criticism and literary deconstruction. In the realm of psychology, Willy Loman’s accomplishments and sources of pleasure appear to be simple and straight-forward, yet they do provide an excellent psychological foundation on his life, due to his leading a very average existence as a traveling salesman which he believes will enable him and his family to attain wealth and comfort. For twenty-five years, Willy has been working to pay off the mortgage on his modest home, and once that is accomplished, he will attain a sense of freedom, or the “American Dream”. This goal, in light of the economic/social conditions that existed at the time in which the play is set, presents a perfect picture of his ultimate aim in life, clearly outlined by dollar signs and a sense of ownership, two key points to personal success as far as Willy is concerned.
Psychologically, the key aspect which leads to Willy’s depression is his inability to face reality in the present. His life, it seems, is lived in the past and the future, and his declaration “You wait, kid, before it’s all over we’re gonna get a little place out in the country” (Miller 57) symbolizes his constant dwelling on some rather impractical dreams. As a salesman, Willy travels from state to state, staying in cheap motels while on the road peddling his goods. This increases the importance of his house because it is not only a place of habitation but a representation of fleeting stability, a concrete necessity that cannot be taken away once the last payment has been made. While discussing his sons with his wife, Willy boasts “And they’ll get married, and come for a weekend…” (Miller 62) which symbolizes his pride in his ownership of the house. Through all this, Willy has remained constant and vigilant, maintaining his unwavering belief that he is truly living the “American Dream.”
In addition, the competition that Willy encounters in his day-to-day selling activities is too tough for his modest talents, and the path he has chosen denies his true being at every step. He idolizes the “dream” beyond the truth in himself and becomes a romantic, a shadowy non-entity whose only happiness lies in looking forward to miracles, since reality constantly mocks him. His real ability for manual work outside of being a salesman seems trivial to him, for he tells his son Biff in Act II “Even your grandfather was more than a carpenter” (Miller 36). From this self-denial, Willy loses the sense of his own thought; he is a stranger to his own soul; he no longer knows what he thinks either of his sons or his automobile; he cannot tell who are his true friends; he is forever in a state of enthusiastic or depressed bewilderment.
As far as deconstruction is concerned, Death of a Salesman is a wide open expanse that can be dissected from many viewpoints. First of all, as Miller excavates the various layers of Willy Loman’s life, the reader becomes aware of the hollowness of his dreams and the extent to which his illusions protect him from being overwhelmed with guilt and regret. From this perspective, Willy’s innermost feelings and emotions related to his job as a salesman and his position as a family man could be deconstructed in order to reveal his true motivations. Secondly, Willy continues to profess his faith in the honor of his profession. This raises a pertinent question concerning Ben, Willy’s brother – is his life a credible alternative to the one Willy lives, or does Willy view it as only another version of the “American dream”?
Just as Willy refuses to acknowledge the consequences of not going to Alaska with Ben, so he refuses to accept the consequences of his affair with the unidentified woman in Boston. If Willy views his son Biff as he truly is, then Willy will have to admit to himself that Biff’s discovery of the affair might have undermined the inflated self-image Willy encouraged in Biff. Willy tells Biff that “I won’t take the rap for this, you hear? (Miller, 103), even as Biff insists that he does not blame his father for his own failures. As an area for deconstruction, this scenario raises many other questions associated with the true character of Willy Loman and how it relates to those around him.
Of course, the deepest insight into Willy Loman occurs when Charley asks “Willy, when are you going to grow up?” (Miller, 68), but this can also be applied to Charlie himself, for he states that “My salvation is that I never took any interest in anything” (Miller, 74), which shows that both characters are children at heart, for without desire, there is no reason to fear disappointment.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. 50th Anniversary Edition. Preface by Arthur Miller. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.
Broken Dream – The Deception of Willy Loman
“The jagged edges of a shattered dream.” Do you find that the play leaves you with such an impression?
Death of a Salesman tells the story of a man confronting failure in the success-driven society of America and shows the tragic trajectory which eventually leads to his suicide. Willy Loman is a symbolic icon of the failing America; he represents those that have striven for success but, in struggling to do so, have instead achieved failure in its most bitter form. Arthur Miller’s tragic drama is a probing portrait of the typical American psyche portraying an extreme craving for success and superior status in a world otherwise fruitless. To some extent, therefore, Death of Salesman is concerned with the ‘jagged edges of a shattered dream’ but on another more tragic and bitter level, it also evokes the decline of a man into lunacy and the subsequent effect this has on those around him, particularly his family.
Miller amalgamates the archetypal tragic hero with the mundane American citizen. The result is the anti-hero, Willy Loman. He is a simple salesman who constantly aspires to become ‘great’. Nevertheless, Willy has a waning career as a salesman and is an aging man who considers himself to be a failure but is incapable of consciously admitting it. As a result, the drama of the play lies not so much in its events, but in Willy’s deluded perception and recollection of them as the audience gradually witness the tragic demise of a helpless man.
In creating Willy Loman, Miller presents the audience with a tragic figure of human proportions. Miller characterises the ordinary man (the ‘low man’) and ennobles his achievements. Willy’s son, Biff, calls his father a ‘prince’, evoking a possible comparison with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, prince of Denmark.. Thus, the play appeals greatly to the audience because it elevates an ordinary American to heroic status. Death of a Salesman seems to conform to the ‘tragic’ tradition that there is an anti-hero whose state of hamartia causes him to suffer. The audience is compelled to genuinely sympathise with Willy’s demise largely because he is an ordinary man who is subject to the same temptations as the rest of us.
Miller uses many characters to contrast the difference between success and failure in the American system. Willy Loman is a deluded salesman whose vivid imagination is far greater than his sales ability. Linda, Willy’s wife, honorably stands by her husband even in the absence of fundamental realism. To some extent she acknowledges Willy’s aspirations but, naively, she also accepts them. Consequently, Linda is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this dysfunctional family and their inability to face reality. In restraining Willy from his quest for wealth in the Alaska, the ‘New Continent’, ironically the only realm where the “dream” can be fulfilled, Linda destroys any hope the family has of achieving ‘greatness’. Even so, Linda symbolically embodies the play’s ultimate value: love. In her innocent love of Willy, Linda accepts her husband’s falsehood, his dream, but, in her admiration of his dream, she is lethal. Linda encourages Willy and, in doing so, allows her sons, Biff and Happy, to follow their father’s fallacious direction in life.
Willy’s close friend Charlie on the other hand, despite his seemingly ordinary lifestyle, enjoys far better success compared to the Lomans. Charlie differs to his friend considerably: he is financially secure whereas Willy can barely afford to pay the next gas bill. Similarly, Charlie never indoctrinated his son, Bernard, with the same enthusiasm as Willy. Subsequently, Charlie stands for different beliefs to Willy and, ironically, ends up far more successful. He is a voice of reason for his friend but is only useful if Willy follows his advice. Instead, Willy’s proud and stubborn nature ensures that he will never accept Charlie’s many generous job proposals. The Dream, as Willy perceives it, is still within grasp of the Lomans thus an ordinary job would not fulfil the true expectations Willy holds of either himself or Biff. Ironically, these job proposals are the one gate left open to Willy and his hopes of becoming ‘great’.
According to Biff, his friend, the ‘anemic’ Bernard, is not ‘well liked’. However not ‘well liked’ he may be, Bernard, through constant persistence, has grown up to be an eminent lawyer. He appears to be proof enough of the “system’s” effectiveness and affirms the proposition that success is achieved through persistent application of one’s talents.
Whilst everyone around Willy experiences success and wealth, the Lomans themselves struggle financially. The play romanticises the pioneering dream but never makes it genuinely available to Willy and his family. Willy reveres success. He wants to be successful, to be “great”, but his dream is never fulfilled. Indeed, he feels the only way he can actually fulfil his dream is to commit suicide so that his family may subsequently live off his life insurance.
It seems Willy’s dead brother, Ben, is the only member of the Loman family who has ever achieved something “great” when he proclaims, ‘-when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich.’ Ben is idealised by Willy since he fulfilled the genuine American Dream: to start out with nothing and eventually become rich through effort and hard work. Ironically, this wealth is achieved outside America suggesting that there is little left available for the ordinary individual within the country’s own boundaries. Instead, one must look elsewhere for true “greatness”, underlining the fact that, for the majority, the much sought after American Dream’ is a myth. The play is ambiguous in its attitude toward the business-success dream, but certainly does not rebuke it openly. Nevertheless, when Charlie declares, ‘Nobody dast blame this man’, Miller hints at the responsibility of the state influenced ‘Everyone should have a dream’ campaign behind Willy’s death, suggesting that the salesman was driven too far, pressurising himself into suicide. Miller also seems to judge America in hinting that there is far greater success to be found outside of its land. Indeed, it seems there is a lot of room for failure (and ruin) as well as ‘greatness’ in America. Hence, Willy is a foolish and ineffectual man for whom we feel pity.
Willy detaches himself from reality, living in a life of idealism and dreams that never materialise. One example of Willy’s deluded perception of reality lies in his constant disgruntlement with the American car industry. In truth, Willy has always scorned his cars. Even in the 1930s when, according to Willy, the Chevy was at its prime, the Chevy is still insulted by its owner! These, and other such instances in the play, evoke a prime flaw in Willy’s character: he is never, fully content with what he possesses at present. Instead, he lives in a deluded world where imagination and past experiences collude and, frequently, appear as far more desirable eras. As a result, Willy continually finds aspects of his life ‘remarkable’ but never actually realises that as a salesman and a father, he is a failure. This lack of understanding eventually leads to his tragic death; a death he could not escape for he brought it on himself.In killing himself, Willy finally becomes a man of purpose and reason. He had been trying to make a gift that would crown all those striving years; in this instant, all those lies he told, all those dreams and vivid exaggerations would now be given form and point. In American Society the only option open to Willy as such was to be a salesman. Tragically, he eventually feels he must, symbolically, trade his own life for his family’s wellbeing whereby they will hopefully experience a life of greatness without, ironically, himself present.
Death of a Salesman has a form that allows for the simultaneity of past and present, enabling the events in Willy’s life to proceed from the fragmented logic of his own experiences. Thus, while Miller ensures that the audience experience Willy’s perception of reality, it also recognises it as objectively real. Indeed, Miller’s juxtaposition of incidents from Willy’s internal and external experience brings the audience to sympathise with Willy. Consequently, the audience is able to share the nightmare experience of the protagonist and eventually deduce their own opinions of the death of a salesman.
Miller said of Death of a Salesman that it was ‘a slippery play to categorize because nobody in it stops to make a speech objectively stating the great issues which I believe it embodies’. Subsequently, no single character acts as Miller’s mouthpiece, nor does any one speech offer a direct reflection of his opinions. And, although there are no genuine soliloquies in the play, Miller’s juxtaposition of events from the anti-hero’s past and present enable the playwright to illustrate Willy’s insanity with similar effectiveness. Consequently, this expressionistic device allows the audience to genuinely symphathise with Willy’s jaded state of mind and allow them to eventually deduce their own opinion of Willy’s character.
Death of a Salesman may also be interpreted as an allegorical representation of America. Willy’s garden can be perceived as a microcosm of American society as tower blocks continued to be raised around him. This suggests that, for the ‘ordinary’ person, the literally ‘Lo-man’ in comparison to the skyscrapers, life has become overshadowed at the cost of capitalism. The audience is left with the image of the garden that will never grow; the ordinary person has been left behind and even rejected by wealthy capitalists. With everyone succeeding except Willy, Miller also suggests that there is far more success outside America. Indeed, there are nothing but fruitless hopes and ‘shattered dreams’ to be found within the nation. And, in one last vain effort, Willy attempts to ‘grow’ something for his family in his buying of seeds to plant in the garden. Nevertheless, even Willy has come to realise that his life is a failure when he declares, Oh, I’d better hurry-Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground.’
Nevertheless, it seems that Miller’s intention in writing about the death of a salesman, a seemingly mundane occurrence in twentieth-century society, was to express the playwright’s own vision of American Society and the nature of individuality. Death of a Salesman may be interpreted as being solely a play about the failing America and the ‘jagged edges of a shattered dream’ but it does, nevertheless, engage Miller’s belief that ‘the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy as kings are’.
Blame Distribution Among The Characters Of The Crucible By Arthur Miller
Abigail Williams deserves 55% of the blame because instead of accepting responsibility for her actions, she lied and let innocent people die. The symbol that I gave Abigail was a snake, because she’s deceiving and manipulative. While being accused by Betty for her actions in the woods, she threatens her by saying “I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!” (Act I). This portrays on the audience Abigail’s narcissistic and fearful personality, because of how she only cares to protect herself. As well as this, she will go to any length to do so. Abigail is in love with John and expects the same because she claims “You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet! John, pity me, pity me!” (Act II). She was lustful of John Proctor and jealous Elizabeth Proctor. She did whatever she could to get with John and get Elizabeth out of the way. That is what began the hysteria of this play.
Danforth deserves 15% of blame because he would always question John and Mary’s word and trust Abigail’s. Danforth gets the symbol of an uneven scale because he values his reputation more than he values the truth. Danforth shows how he really feels about the witch trials he says, “there is fear in the country because there a moving plot to topple Christ in the country” (Act III). Danforth believes that the people of court are people of God. He believes that they are all doing the right thing by putting people on trial for witchcraft. He believes that people are either for the court or against it. When 91 people said that the people blamed of witchcraft were innocent, he wanted to question them too instead of questioning Abigail or the girls about if their claims are true. He believes that witchcraft is there in the town, and it’s his job to get rid of it. When Giles says that his wife was innocent in court, Danforth exclaims, “do you take it upon yourself to determine what this court shall believe and what it shall set aside?” (Act III). Danforth believes that Giles isn’t on his side, he won’t listen to him. He doesn’t let people stand up for what they believe in. Instead of putting Abigail and the other girls on trial, he questions the people who are trying to prove themselves innocent. Danforth cares more about what people would think of him than doing the right thing for the town and for the court. Danforth deserves blame because if he listened to Proctor, Giles and the others, many of the people executed would have been saved.
John Proctor deserves 15% of the blame because Abigail started calling Elizabeth a witch because of a “promise” made by John during his relationship with her; even though Abigail has the majority of the blame, it is John who unknowingly encourages her in the witch trials. John gets the Yin-Yang symbol because even when he is trying to do good, there is still a bad part always in it. When Elizabeth is accused of witchcraft, she says “there is a promise made in any bed, ” and she thinks that Abigail wants that promise to come true now (Act II). Elizabeth realized Abigail was lustful of John and was jealous of Elizabeth’s position in his life. She did what she had to do to get rid of Elizabeth and get with John. If he was honest about his relationship with her from the start, he could’ve avoided the witch trials drama, which started from that. Instead of trying to end the witch trials with the truth, he tries save his dignity and reputation by hiding it; that ended up giving the town an even larger punishment. After months of try to hide his relationship with Abigail, he finally tells the court, “she thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly”.
John gave up on trying to reveal Abigail’s real motive without ruining his name, and he finally confesses the truth. He knew that the witch trials started because Abigail was mad that he ended their affair and chose Elizabeth instead of her. Even though he knew the truth, he wanted to save his reputation in Salem so he did not tell the truth until it was too late. Unfortunately, instead of Abigail being exposed, Proctor’s relationship is shown to the entire town and he is called a witch. John deserves a little part of the blame because if he told the truth about his relationship, the whole witchcraft hysteria would have happened on a much smaller scale or not at all.
Parris deserved 15% of the blame because even though he didn’t accused anyone of witchcraft, he always said that Proctor was against the church and court and wishes to overthrow it so that no one would believe what he was trying to say. I gave him the symbol of badge/medal of valor which shows high rank which he desperately wanted to sustain. When Parris finds out about the witchcraft being done by Abigail and the girls, he asks Abigail to tell him the truth by saying, “Abigail, I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character”. After he saw the girls dancing in the forest, he realized that witchcraft could have came in his own house. He was worried about the danger to his reputation as the Reverend if people found out that his daughter and niece could be the ones in contact with the devil. From the start, he thought that something was not right about the witch trials, but instead of worrying about the girls, he was more worried about his reputation. When Proctor or anyone else said something about the girls lying, he immediately said, “beware this man, Your Excellency, this man is mischief… they’ve come to overthrow the church, sir” because he was scared his reputation would be ruined. Parris was honorable in town, but he saw everyone as either for the church or against the church. He thinks that everyone either belongs to God or the Devil. Since the court is conducting the witch trials, anyone who goes against the trials, like Proctor or Giles, is the court’s enemy. Parris believes that the court does God’s work, so anyone going against the court is going against God. If Parris’ first priority wasn’t his reputation and he admitted to what he saw in the forest, then innocent people in the town could have been proven innocent.
Mary Warren deserved 5% of the blame because even though she was a big part of the witch trials, she had the opportunity to prove that the witchcraft was all a lie, but she fell bad to Abigail’s side. I gave her the symbol of Pinocchio because she lied in court. When Mary was part of the court, she gave her proof for hanging Goody Osborn, and when Proctor asked for the proof, she said, “I told you the proof. It’s hard proof, hard as rock, the judges said”. In Proctor’s eyes, this proof was not considered justice. In this scene, the court made its decision without any real evidence. Mary is more caught up in the excitement and respect she gets as part of the court that the need for the truth to come out. At this point, Mary is so caught up in all the witchcraft, that she too believes that it is really true, and what the court is doing is true justice; she just listens to whatever the judges tell her and she believes it. When Mary is finally given a chance to prove that witchcraft was a lie, Danforth asked her to prove it by fainting again in court, but she said, “I cannot faint now… I have no sense of it now”. She promised John she would tell the truth and prove that Abigail was a fraud, but she turned against the Proctors and went back to Abigail. Even though, for a moment, she was strong, Mary was again showing the weakness that she showed at the beginning of the play. She had many chances in court to convince Danforth that Abigail was lying, but instead she accused John of forcing her to tell the town that the witchcraft was a lie. If Mary had used her position in court to prove the truth about Abigail and the witch trials, then she could have saved the people who were falsely accused, and she could have gotten Abigail the punishment she deserved.
Analysis Of Willy Loman’s Views On Success In Contrast To My Views
The image of success is a broad definition that can differ greatly from person to person. In a school environment, a teacher may define success as having good grades and doing well in classes, while a student may define success as being attractive and having many friends. In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the protagonist Willy Loman has a skewed and narrow-minded image of success. He defines it as deriving solely from being well-liked, being wealthy, and being attractive, while completely ignoring all the other reasons as to how one could become successful.
First, like Willy, I believe that being well-liked can definitely lead to success, especially if your job or career requires that quality. This applies especially to Willy because as a salesman, he needs to be charismatic in order to do well at his job. Willy even mentions the importance he grants to being well-liked when talking to his brother Ben about how he was bringing up his sons, Biff and Happy, to be “rugged” and “well-liked” so they could both be certainly successful. However, I disagree with Willy on his notion that being well-liked is all one needs to be successful, as well as his idea that success has nothing to do with hard work or smarts because it is simply not true. While it can be helpful to be well-liked in order to gain important contacts, it isn’t the only thing that should matter to a person seeking success, especially since hard work can play a huge part as well. In contrast, Willy believes that the only way to get ahead in life is to be well-liked and create “personal interest”, telling Biff and Happy that even if Bernard is getting the “best marks in school”, he won’t be as successful as them in the business world because he is simply “liked”, and not “well-liked” in the same way Biff and Happy are. Willy links success solely to popularity, which is a flaw that displays the contrast between my views on success compared to Willy’s; I believe that success is defined by hard work in combination with being well-liked, while Willy defines success as deriving solely from being well-liked.
Furthermore, Willy believes wealth and riches are the sole contributors to one’s success, causing him to completely ignore how important one’s happiness is to their success as well. For instance, the only sentence Willy always remembers his brother Ben saying is how rich he had become after walking out of the jungle, which shows how much importance Willy places on wealth as it is the quality he automatically gravitates towards whenever thinking about why Ben was successful. In contrast, my personal philosophy on success has nothing to do with wealth and everything to do with happiness. If one is truly happy in doing their job/career, they will most likely succeed at it, regardless of how much money they make from it. Being passionate about what you do is what leads to success, which is shown especially in Biff’s job situation. While he isn’t making much money by working at the ranch, he is happy and succeeds at doing it, explaining why he isn’t always throwing temper tantrums like his father. On the contrary, if one hates their job, they will most likely do poorly at it and feel unsuccessful, which could lead to extreme guilt and anger. This is shown in Willy’s situation, as he didn’t choose his job because he was happy with doing it, but instead chose it under the impression that he would become rich and consequently become successful. This shows the contrast between Willy’s personal definition of success and my own, in which he believes success derives solely from making money, while I believe that happiness plays a huge role in one’s success as well.
Finally, Willy’s belief that attractiveness will lead to guaranteed success contrasts with my personal definition of success. Thinking that success derives solely from being attractive is a shallow and narrow-minded viewpoint, which shows a clear definition of Willy’s character as he displays the importance he grants to attractiveness throughout the play. This is shown especially whenever Willy talks about his sons, often going as far as thanking Almighty God that Biff and Happy are “built like Adonises” and like other attractive Gods because, in his mind, this means that his sons are guaranteed to be successful. This is a flawed way of looking at success because one shouldn’t rely solely on their looks to get by in the world; success must be derived from other qualities as well, such as skills or talents, in order to live a truly accomplished life. At one point in the play, Willy even becomes confused as to how someone as attractive as Biff could feel so lost and unfulfilled in his life, displaying how strongly he believes that success derives solely from attractiveness, his refusal to believe anything else, as well as showing the contrast between Willy’s personal definition of success and my own.
In conclusion, Willy Loman’s image of success is skewed and narrow-minded to me, as he completely ignores many other reasons as to how one could become successful. Despite agreeing with his opinion that being well-liked can lead to success, he also defines success as deriving solely from being wealthy and attractive, while in contrast, I believe that success is defined not only by hard work, but by happiness as well.
Capitalism And The American Dream In Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman
America has long been known as the land of opportunity and the idea of the American Dream is rather appealing to most. Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, addresses the ongoing conflicts within one family. However, he also uses the play to offer an indictment on the American capitalist system, and in it he exposes the potentially harmful and destructive myth built around the American Dream and the struggles to obtain it.
The setting in the story takes place in Boston, and New York City. In the beginning of the play the setting is described as a typical American household with a kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and over the bed, a silver authentic trophy stands. The description of Willy Loman’s home is used to illustrate the American capitalist dream of home ownership. In particular, the “silver authentic trophy” is symbolic of the competition within American capitalism.
However, the setting description also includes “a solid vault of apartment houses around the small, fragile seeming home” and “towering angular shapes behind it, surround it on all sides”. Willy’s home is surrounded by tall apartment buildings, he is trapped both literally and metaphorically. Miller uses the Lowman home to symbolize the tension between society and the individual, on the quest to fulfill the American Dream.
In the drama, Arthur Miller attempts to criticizes capitalism and societal values, which is seen in Willy Loman’s flashbacks with his children, Biff and Happy. Biff, Willy’s eldest son, holds out the football he stole and says, “Did you see the new football I got?”, and states that he “borrowed it from the locker room”. However, to readers the tone of this scene does not feel serious, because he laughs it off with Biff. In doing so, Biff subconsciously learns that it is okay to steal for his own personal gain.
The scene is significant because readers become aware of the parallel between the scene and capitalism, where people become tempted into immoral actions without having any regards for others. Later, in the restaurant, after Biffs visit to Bill Oliver, Biff nervously tells Happy “I-Hap, I took his fountain pen” readers are made aware of Biff’s constant stealing. He then goes on to say, “I don’t know. I just wanted to take something, I don’t know”. The repeated words “I don’t know”, suggest that Biff felt nervous and unsure of himself.
Biff’s difficulties explaining his actions to Happy suggest that stealing has become a subconscious impulse, which suggest that he is unable to stop himself from committing immoral-actions for financial gains. Miller uses this scene to questions whether or not money outweighs moral virtues in a capitalist society and criticizes societal values. Throughout the drama, sixty-three year old Willy Loman struggles to face the realities of new and aggressive modern society. Arthur Miller, Miller chooses to make his main character, Willy, a salesman, which is a symbol of capitalism.
In the second act of the drama, in his desperate meeting with Howard, Willy tells him the joy of being a salesman is being “remembered and loved and helped by so many different people”. He then goes on to say when the old remember salesman died “hundreds of salesman and buyers were at his funeral. Things were sad on a lotta trains for months after that”. Here, the word “and” is repeated, which suggest that Willy’s list of benefits is endless. This creates the idea that the life of a salesman is perfect.
This perfect deception of a salesman is later brought up when Willy tells Ben about his idea of committing suicide. He says “Ben, that funeral will be massive! They’ll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire!”. However this image of Willy’s ideal salesman is later contrasted with a bleak image of the actual funeral after Willy’s suicide. Linda asks “Why didn’t any come? and “But where all the people he knew? Maybe they blamed him”.
Therefore, the contrast between Willy’s ideal image of a salesman’s life and the depressing truth suggest that the many components of a capitalist society are over-romanticized. Charley responds to Linda by saying “Naa. It’s a rough World, Linda. They wouldn’t blame him. Charley suggest that the relationships formed in business are shallow and that the state of business relationships depend upon status of the businesses involved. Ironically, one of Willy’s reasons for committing suicide is seen after Biff cries for him. Willy contemplates suicide and asks Ben “Can you image that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket?”.
Readers become aware the Willy partly commits suicide for financial reasons. Arthur Miller criticizes the capitalist attitude when Willy comes to the resolution that financial prosperity is worth more than his own life. He also goes on to say “Imagine? When the mail comes he’ll be ahead of Bernard again! Again, Miller portrays the capitalistic idea that having more money than someone makes you better than them. Therefore, Miller takes a disapproving stance towards capitalism. The sense of helplessness in the face of the power of society suggests that society will make the financial decision of the fate of the individual. Yet, even though Miller criticizes capitalism, he does not tell readers any clear suggestions for correcting the problems of capitalism.
Indeed, Arthur Miller suggests that these problems are difficult to correct and are deeply rooted in society, as seen when Howard shows his recording device to Willy. Willy hears Howard’s son saying “It’s nine o’ clock, Bulova watch time. So I have to go to sleep”. Most readers would know that Bulova is a watch company.
Helge Normann Nilsen, Arthur of the critical essay “Marxism and the Early Plays of Arthur Miller” writes, “The capitalist also control most of the culture life of society and the media, spreading their conservative political views. No institution or aspect of society can escape this influence”. Therefore, the fact that Howard’s son has memorized part of a watch commercial shows that the advertising found in capitalist society is very persuasive, and even young members of society have been affected by it. In doing so, Miller suggest that capitalism problems are hard to correct because they are so deeply rooted in society.
Miller’s Death of a Salesman is about the life and troubles of an elderly salesman. However, upon further examination, readers realize that the dramas was written with the intentions of enlightening readers about critical issues in society.
- Miller, Arthur. “Death of a Salesman.” Literature and Its Writers: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama. 6th edition. edited by Charters, Ann and Samuel Charters. Bedford, 2013. pp. 1427-1498.
- Nilsen, Helge Normann. “Marxism and the Early Plays of Arthur Miller”. Literature and Its Writers: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry and Drama. 6th edition. edited by Charters, Ann and Samuel Charters. Bedford, 2013. pp. 1502-1506.
The Critique Of American Patriarchal Society In ‘Death Of A Salesman’
Drama can be referred to as a form of written literature that is intended for performance and often has the ability to examine human issues and behaviour in a specific social context. A play that conforms to this is Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’. Published and set during this time, it follows the story of Willy Loman, an aging salesman from Brooklyn dissatisfied with his life, in relentless pursuit of financial prosperity and success while facing other troubling aspects of his life; his deteriorating relationship with his eldest son, provoked by his infidelity which all result in fluctuations of his emotional state and ultimately, his downfall. As women were forced out of their wartime occupations and into more domestic roles many women felt disenfranchised with the late 1940’s being identified as the pinnacle of gender inequality as women were disparage and portrayed as “purely domestic creatures’. It is values as such that are represented in the patriarchal society portrayed in Miller’s tragedy. This essay will analyze how the play explores the values of a conventional American patriarchal society post World War II and offers the idea that these values are flawed, by exposing their prejudiced nature through illustrating the injustices faced by women who adhere to the social norms, the toxicity of dominant masculine ideals and implies that men who objectify women struggle with internal conflict. It does so through the employment of different generic conventions.
Miller’s play serves as a critique to these ethics as it proposes that although the traditional gender norms were adhered to by many women, the role undertaken by these women limit them from flourishing. Miller emphasises the restrictions placed on subservient women as he contrasts Linda’s fidelity, goodness and care for her husband with his treatment of her. Early in Act one, Willy claims, “you’re my foundation and my support, Linda’ which is ironic as his betrayal is exposed through the visual stage play of, ‘the laughter of a woman’, he had an affair with. Although Linda embodied the dutiful wife, Willy’s actions held all of her efforts as objects of ridicule and she didn’t have the support and admiration of her husband, which in a time as such was important as having a male trusted male figure ensured her stability in society Willy’s. The sense of inequity is also evoked by Linda’s internal conflict of her inability to confront him about his suicide attempts, through questioning herself, ‘How can I insult him in that way?’. Her monologue offers an image of herself as someone who conforms to many expectations of her time as a wife; subservient, but scenes like this emphasises her perceived lack of agency to change things, her inability to control her world because of those roles themselves. This makes us sympathise for Linda and reverts back to the broader argument of patriarchal norms hurting women as she hasn’t been treated with the respect she shows her husband. Later in the requiem, we learn that Linda is in distress from Willy’s death, not only through dialogue but the stage directions ‘the flute begins’ as she ‘sobs quietly’. Willy believes that his suicide will resolve the disorder in his life whereas in reality, he denies Linda of a debt free husband and because of this, another image of a woman rendered powerless or suffering because of the actions of the men around her is made and once again as her sobs show her grief. Her grief is again emphasised with the symbolic aspect of the flute as it is a reminder of the path Willy could have chosen, which also creates a sense of remorse. Within most of Linda’s interactions, Miller’s tragedy portrays the prejudice they are subject to and inability to flourish although they remain obedient and respectful to traditional gender roles.
Patriarchal society also operated on customary masculine ideals which the play exposes as toxic and having the ability to oppress those unable to live up to them. The poem encourages us to sympathise with Willy Loman as he feels humiliated when working on commission because a ‘man’ earns a living. We learn that eventually, Willy is unable to maintain his facade of success as he constantly doubts himself by asking Ben, ‘am I right?’, in his delirious state. These symbolic objects and the dialogue between the two characters unveils Willy’s inability to fulfil society’s ideas of a successful man, which in a capitalist society, equated to being financially stable and economically able to support his family, contribute to his tragic downfall as he buckles under the pressure of these ideals due to his fear of being judged, not only revealing the elusive nature of these archetypes but also the its harmful impact. Loman’s misguided notions of success that generates a fraudulent and dejected existence is further accentuated by his relationship with Biff. Through the dramatic aspect of tension, we learn that Biffs lost his sense of identity, procured through his proclamation targeted at Willy, ‘I know who I am! Why can’t I say that’ as he’s on the verge of ‘attacking his father’. The pressures of a feigned desire fuelled by deluded projections of hegemonic masculinity from Willy eventually triggers Biffs implosion. Biffs breakdown, critical of Willy, is expressed in a criminative manner and creates a sense of resentment towards Willy as he is the principal cause of Biff’s loss of individualism, revealing the harm that unrealistic standards of masculinity can generate. Willy’s relationship with Happy isn’t as significant in comparison to Biff, yet Happy is subject to the corollary of their relationship; he goes to certain lengths in order to attain Willy’s approval which is constantly on Biff. Happy’s desire to gain his father’s attention and please him, goes as far as promises of him ‘getting married’. The constant repetition of this acts as comedic relief and is ironic as we know that Happy is a philanderer who compulsively sleeps with women married to successful men due to his ‘overdeveloped sense of competition’. His promiscuity unmasks that he’s (and other men in his position from an American patriarchal society) incompetence to succeed prompts them to seek other methods of gaining power over the men they envy (because of their superior positions in society), some of which are unethical, overall highlighting the feature of unrealistic masculine values as having the potential to corrupt the minds of people. ‘’Death of a Salesman’ largely focuses on the male members of the Loman family, who are members of the middle class, yet seem to suffer due to their inability to satisfy the standard of masculinity at the time to express the perniciousness of these standards.
In addition to the potentially cataclysmic nature of masculine archetypes, a traditional patriarchal society encourages the objection of women, however the play implies that men who take advantage of this usually struggle with inner conflict. As act one progresses, readers are given an insight into Willy and Linda’s relationship through the symbolism of stockings. In their marriage, Linda allows him a level of authority that he does not enjoy in his personal life and this is proven as she submits to his orders, ‘I won’t have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out’. The stockings are symbolic of the rift in their relationship caused by Willy’s infidelity and it is clear that Willy is unappreciative of the effort that Linda puts in to mend their relationship and doesn’t care of the outcome. He treats Linda as if she is a toy and isn’t considerate of her feelings, however it is also reflective of Willy’s state; he is overridden with guilt and mistreats Linda to uplift himself. Loman’s discord with femininity is also reflected in his son’s behaviour as shown in their dialogue earlier in Act one, where Happy updates Biffs about his life and states, ‘It’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I’m lonely’. By including women in his list of accomplishments, he regards them as tools and prizes to be won, rendering them as inanimate objects however he still isn’t satisfied and is indignant about the fact that he is lonely. This reverts back to the broader argument of the Miller’s play implying that men who objectified women experienced their own struggles. The play moves on from characters who exemplify these implications to a character who’s an exception. Through dramatic aspect of conflict, readers become aware of Biff’s respectful nature in the midst of an argument between him and Willy as he constantly defends Linda by reprimanding Willy, telling him to ‘stop yelling at her!’. Biff stands up for his mother, knowing she is unable to do so herself because of her role in society and seems to be the only male who considers Linda’s feelings and worth as he treats her as an equal member of the family. Although Biff struggles with his sense of identity throughout the play, it concludes with Biff gaining his individualism after Willy’s death, by declaring, ‘I know who I am’. The 1940 play depicts a society which encourages the subjugation and objectification of women however, in response to this, it implies that those who follow through oppressing women battle with an internal conflict.
As seen from the essay, Death of a Salesman exposes the principles undertaken society governed by men as defective and enforces this idea through portraying injustices experienced by women who follow through with gender norms, destructive nature of masculine ideals and the suggestion that men who subject women to objectification struggle with internal conflicts as a means of deflection. It does so through employing certain generic conventions such as tension and comedic relief. The play unexpectedly serves as a critique to patriarchy as it was written by a man who conformed to the patriarchal male stereotypes, however this could be representative of a change in social structures and beliefs with the rebirth of feminism fuelled by the war.
Analysis Of Whether Willy Loman Is A Tragic Hero In Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman
Throughout history, literature and the way people interpret literature has changed dramatically. Different genres of plays including romance, action, and even heartbreaking tragedies that touch the reader’s heart have been shared for thousands of years. One of the most popular genres would be tragedies. A tragedy, as described by Aristotle, is a story that follows a protagonist who, over time, causes his own downfall because of his tragic flaws. However, times have changed and the way that critics interpret tragic pieces may differ than the way we used to back in the day. One of the most debated literary pieces is the play Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller. There is a constant debate regarding the main character, Willy Loman, and whether or not he should or shouldn’t be considered a tragic figure.
Willy Loman shouldn’t be considered a tragic figure because he does not have the characteristics and the right qualifications. Tragedies have been shared and told for thousands of years. They would always start off with the main character who is doomed from the beginning. Fate and their own free will lead that protagonist to his/her own destruction. However, throughout the story, the character would learn a valuable lesson about themselves by learning from their mistakes and their tragic flaws. Unlike many popular tragedies such as Hamlet and Oedipus Rex, it is argued that the main character in Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman, is a tragic figure. However, Willy shouldn’t be considered a tragic figure because he wasn’t born with doom riding on his shoulders. His fate wasn’t written in stone. Willy’s actions and his tragic flaws are the reasons as to why he died. Willy chose to ignore the people that wanted to help him and he chose to be stubborn and act “childish and stupid”. Throughout the play, Willy’s only friend and neighbor Charley reaches out to him and offers him a job. The job is closer to home and easier for him to do because of Willy’s old age. However, Willy’s ego was soaring high and he replied with “What the hell you offering me a job for?… Quit insulting me”. If Willy accepted the job he wouldn’t have to lie about the money and it would have resulted in him and Linda living an easier life. If he was to be a tragic figure, fate would have caused his misfortune not his idiotic actions. The first characteristic of being a Aristotelian tragic hero is to be of noble birth. Willy is not born as a noble and is just a common man. However, he aspires to be noble and rich just like his brother Ben. It could be said that Willy Loman is a tragic figure, arguing that times have changed and that in order for the reader to connect to the character, he must be a common man.
The reason as to why Willy must be a common man is because the readers won’t be able to connect to a rich man unless them, themselves are rich. Arthur Miller, the author of Death of a Salesman, wrote himself that “that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were.” He wrote this to show that back in the day being noble and seeing kings was a common occurrence. However, now that times have changed there aren’t as many kings and nobles as there used to be. So as a result, in order for the readers to connect to the play, Willy should be a common man. However, just because times have changed doesn’t mean that a definition of a word should change as well. Tragedies have been around for centuries, and the definition of the word shouldn’t change because than it wouldn’t be a unique for of literary genre anymore. It would just be a constantly changing word. For example, if people were to change to meaning or name of a word or object because it is used in a new way, languages would constantly be changing. The word ‘horse’ for example, the words has stayed the same for generations but the usage of the animal has changed in more ways than one. So just because times have changed the meaning of a word shouldn’t either. And that goes back to the fact that wanting to be noble and being noble is two different things. Just because Willy thrives to follow the American Dream and become successful like his brother, it doesn’t change the fact that he wasn’t born as a noble.
In every tragedy, there is a major flaw that the main character possesses. It can range from greed, to being lustful, and selfishness. In Death of a Salesman, Willy’s hamartia is his inability to be satisfied with what he already has and chases his unrealistic fantasy. He believes that he doesn’t have to work hard for the American Dream in order for it to happen, he believes that he is entitled to it just because he lives in the United States. Although Willy does have a tragic flaw that helps lead him into his own destruction, Willy doesn’t learn a valuable lesson from it. In tragedies, both the protagonist and the readers must learn a valuable message that they can incorporate into their own lives. However, in Death of a Salesman the readers are stuck to really think about the message. And even if they learn something from Willy’s mistake, Willy didn’t learn anything himself. Willy literally dies as a selfish man. He thought that he was sacrificing himself to get insurance money, however at the same time he mostly wanted to show off to Biff that people will show up to his funeral. He wanted to show his son that he is admired by others and that his life wasn’t a complete lie. This shows that he wasn’t taught anything and his suffering only brought more suffering to others. In conclusion, Willy Loman from Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman is not a tragic figure. This is because he was not born of noble status and doesn’t even act like it. He is unrealistic and selfish. He is filled with tragic flaws that help drive him into destruction, however Willy was taught nothing throughout the entire play. Willy died as a liar and a selfish man who only cared about the thoughts of others instead of what actually mattered.
Willy Loman – A Tragic Hero In The Death Of A Salesman By Arthur Miller
Many stories have a hero that is fortunate to overcome their problems, although some have flaws and meet tragic ends. In the Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, Willy Loman is conveyed as a tragic hero as he loses his battle against mental stability and family conflicts. Willy doesn’t admit that he’s old to work, which leads to him traveling to far places to sell products which his body is not capable. Willy is a tragic hero rather than mentally ill, because he is struggling to hold morality that has left in society which does not values the standards he grew up accepting.
Willy’s relationship with Linda is a very complex relationship, she enables and supports Willy’s fantasies and dreams. Plus she defends him against the criticism that others makes about Willy. In Act I, Willy is worried about traveling far places to sell products. After Linda finds out about his problems, she quotes, “Willy, dear. Talk to them again. There’s no reason why you can’t work in New York…..why don’t you go down to the place tomorrow and tell Howard…..you’re too accommodating dear.”After a long conversation with Linda, Willy decides to finally confront Howard, his boss in New York. Once he arrives at his office, Howards asks Willy if he is supposed to be on a sales job in Boston, and then pursued to ask, “’You didn’t crack up again, did you?”. Willy then explains to Howard that he’s been working for his family for thirty-four years, and confronts him for the request of transferring to a local office. But in return Howard comes clean with Willy and tells him that he doesn’t want him to represent the company, because he’s slower than other young salesman to sell products. Once, Howard denies his request, Willy goes on a rampage and starts yelling. Which follows Howard firing Willy, and stating, “This is no time for false pride, Willy. You go to your sons and tell them that you’re tired. You’ve got two great boys, haven’t you.” Once Willy comes home, he had a daydream or a flashback to several years ago when Ben came from an Alaska trip to visit Willy.
The dream shows a cheerful moment in Willy’s life, a moment which shows faith in his prime sales career, plus the future success of Biff. Subsequent to being let go, however, Willy memory can’t bring him much happiness. Because it helps him remind of the time when he denied the conceivable cash of Alaska. For half of his life, he kept on accepting aimlessly that he and Biff would end up happy based on being liked. Willy is trying to escape reality through his dreams of imaginary talks with Ben. The relationship of Willy and his son is remarkable and most important in the novel. He has two sons, Harrold “Happy” and Biff Loman, both brothers connects with each other through emotionally or physically. In their young age, both Happy and Biff admires their fathers work, believes in his morals, and tries to go on the same path as him. But as the story continues, they slowly start to realize that Willy has nothing but fake, that he has failed to prepare his sons for the real society. After Willy gets fired from his job, he quotes, “I’ve got to get some seeds. I’ve got to get some seeds right away. Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground.” The seeds represent the future of both Biff and Happy, as a father, he wants to leave something behind for his family to live for. As Biff starts to fail in life, he blames Willy for making false promises, and flunking him out of math. Biff decides to split up with his family, he quotes, “I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been.” But Willy believes that biff hates and mocks him only because he’s not successful, which leads him to think that his sons doesn’t like him. There are many unique items that symbolize something big in the novel, but the biggest one is the rubber hose. The rubber house symbolizes that Willy wants to commit suicide. Linda finds it first in the fuse box in the cellar, and finds some part of it on the gas pipe in the kitchen which leads her to believe that Willy wants to inhale the gas. Biff confront Willy about the rubber hose, which Willy continues to deny and goes on to say that he doesn’t know how it got inside the house. Biff doesn’t believe a single word that his father says, plus tells him that he wants to leave the house right away and never come back again.
Willy gets angry, curses him and says that Biff is wasting his life away and he will not be successful. Biff admits that he was arrested due to stealing a suit, which led him to serve time in prison for three months, also comes clean about stealing items many times from others. He also realizes how many great job offers he declined since high school. Biff alleges his family of lying and never saying the truth “for ten minutes in this house.” Willy and Biff are not the only ones lying, Happy has also lied about his job. Biff exposes him in front of Linda and Willy, he says that Happy has never been the assistant buyer, the truth is that he’s been one of two assistants to the assistant buyer. He also says that Happy wants to work in the open environment. He wants his father to realize what their sons what to do in life, not what he wants them to do. In conclusion, Biff and Happy wants Willy to accept the reality. Willy Loman, a man wanting to achieve his American dream loses the battle against life and his family. Willy was a great salesman in his young days, but as he gets older, his body gives up and he starts having daydreams or flashbacks. He starts talking imaginary people, such as Ben. Ben died years ago and he was the best Salesman in the company. A great amount of people and his family showed up to give their final regards. That tells the reader that he was loved by everyone plus he lived his best life. Willy wants people to show up to his funeral, he doesn’t want his funeral to be gloomy or sad. Willy and his family need money, he wants to leave something behind for his family. He saw a big beauty between his once dream-drive away life plus his present circumstances. He wanted to redeem himself from the real world respecting the desolation and emptiness of life. He gets the idea to commit suicide, so his family can receive a small fortune of twenty-thousand dollars of his insurance policy. Which will advance their living standards, plus acquire BIff’s love. If he dies intentionally, his family won’t gain the money. It has to be an accidental death. Also, his loved ones don’t know about his ideas or the insurance deal. At the end of the play, after talking with his deceased brother, Willy deliberately crashes his car, which leads to his death. For Willy, suicide was a victory, his gratefulness to his sons. Weeks prior to Willy’s death, Biff and Happy held their father’s funeral. No one except his family shows up to the ceremony. In one scene, Linda is confused about her husband’s death. She quote, “I can’t understand it.
At this time especially First time in thirty five years we were just about free and clear. He only needed a little salary.” Linda refers to her house to how it was mortgage free. Willy Loman had every characteristic that a tragic hero needs to have. He showed sadness and emotions such as pity and fear. His American dream was to be the greatest salesman and to provide a better future plus money for his wife and two grown sons. He couldn’t achieve his American Dream, because of his tragic downfall, he thought he can travel to far places to sell products door to door with no problems. But in reality his body was giving up, and his mind was in an imaginary place. He started talking to Ben, his older brother who expired years ago, asking for his advices and started following his directions. After Howard broke the news to Willy that he doesn’t want Willy to represent the company, Willy decided to give up his life for his family’s bright and upcoming future.
A Theme of Following a False Hope in Arthur Miller’s the Death of a Salesman
Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman is story of the American Dream and how it is a prime example humanity misinterpreting what a perfect life is. Miller uses Willy as an example of a tragic hero doesn’t have to be perfect or the good life, when in fact it can be just a common man trying to make a living. This makes the story of Willy and his sad downfall more real towards the viewer, when they could almost compare the job and the sort of lifestyle to that era in the United States. Often people cover up their mistakes with lies and deceit yet expect to achieve their goals without any problems. Throughout the story the reader can follow the unfortunate demise of both the salesman and his son. These two characters exhibit flaws that become apparent throughout the play as Biff grows into an adult. Whether his personality traits developed as a result of his own nature or as a product of Willy’s parenting has been a point of contention for many audiences.
It is crucial to understand Arthur Miller Life and upbringing to clearly view his perspective in his plays. Born in 1915 in New York City, as a child Miller knew not that much about delinquency. In the streets of New York in 1957 would spend his time talking to sociologist, and psychiatrists hoping to write about juvenile delinquency as he states in an interview done with Richard Evans. Miller’s research on Juvenile delinquency can pay a great role in his creation of the character Biff, who is a delinquent himself as a child. It can also be mentioned that Miller had a son with down syndrome, this can be a connection to willy that Miller had. His understanding of parenting an autistic child gave him an understanding on parenting, and a perspective on mental health. The Death of a Salesman is a story that splices the play in the present and past, focusing on main character Willy Loman. Willy Loman, a salesman who just returned from a business trip is surprised to see that his sons came to visit him from out of town. It is very important to note that Willy has been having trouble with driving correctly and is starting to talk to himself more often than usual. Willy recently was just demoted from his job, with all the stress he begins to hallucinate, about his past. In the hallucination he talks to his deceased brother Ben, about how he got his fortune in the diamond mining industry. Throughout the story Biff can be seen looking distraught about his father ending up the way he did. While Happy, Biffs brother, always knew that his father talked to himself but not to an extent that Willy has taken it. By the end of the story the two sons leave their father at the restaurant by himself.
A careful reading can show that it is the one part of Willy, Biff’s father, and his poor parenting that leads to Biff’s poor character traits as shown in his Flashbacks depicted throughout the play. Miller’s purpose for including the flashbacks was to show that his family meant a lot to him, also using the flashbacks for character development. It added towards representing Willy’s sanity and showing the overall disillusionment he was going through. One of Willie’s flashbacks in Scene three act two is very important because it takes place in the past completely. This scene pays homage to the overall theme of pride with his children absolutely worshiping him, the viewer can tell that Willie holds this memory close to his heart. Willy believes in this memory that he is living the American Dream, everything he says in this memory is perfect. In his Biff and Happy’s eyes hero, Biff says towards the end of the scene “This Saturday, Pop, this Saturday -just for you, I’m going to breakthrough a touchdown.” This type of behavior of constantly having constant episodes in him reliving his past, or his rapid outbursts that randomly happen.
An important scene to note in this play can be seen during an incident that happens in one of Willy’s flashbacks. Scene ten begins in a hotel room and Willy can be seen with another woman and is caught by Biff, who calls Willy a “liar” and “phony little fake”. This event can be considered the moment that Biff loses all respect for his father, all of Biffs thought of his father being perfect is sent right downhill. This plays a major role in the hatred that Biff holds against his father, who throughout the play constantly uses his wife as a sort of punching bag. It should be known that Arthur Miller left his first wife whom he had two children with, this could play a role in his character development for Willy.
Another key moment in this play is during thirteen, in an interaction both Willy and Biff break. As an argument commences as Biff attempts to leave his Fathers residence, as Biff leans in for a hand shake Willy refuses and exclaims “May you rot in hell if you leave this house!”, pushing Biff to confront Willy and his attempt at suicide. (Biff is worn out from constantly feeding his father’s disorder, bringing out a rubber hose that his father tried using to commit suicide. Biff bring the rubber hose not only faces Willy with reality of his intention that he is hiding but crushing his dream of Willy’s suicide to redeem himself for what he has done.
In conclusion, by finally ending his life Willy faces the truth that all of what he dreamed and hoped for was for nothing. Giving the viewer a scary reality of how following a false hope or an American dream, the outcome may be scarier than the thoughts. During the requiem Willy’s funeral is held, but there is nobody there for him only his wife and sons. It was Willy in the end who found out that not everybody wins in the game of life. Even if all the odds are stacked against you, there is no such thing as hope in reality.