Death of a Salesman
Film and Play “Death of a Salesman”
I definitely feel as if the film and play ‘Death of a Salesman’ has a somewhat rehabilitated beginning. Everything wrote in the play can only be viewed the way the writer envisioned. It starts with Loman driving and then he came to a complete stop. In the play, it began when Willy got home and told his wife about what occurred during his trip. The details of Willy Loman house and the apartments buildings with blue lighting from the sky with some sort of orange glow was skipped in the starting of Act 1.
I would say the communication is practically the same during the movie excluding some hiatus. It was some lines that stated Happy’s friend who may have built an estate was gone.
It was several pieces of significance to the overall story that was deleted. For example, within the play Linda seemed as a very strong woman who deeply cared for Willy Loman. But, amongst Willy request she hums to him while in bed like a mother who sings to make her baby go to sleep.
As we may all know in the movie she agrees to sing but don’t. Willy kissed her on the forehead making it seems as if he’s the comforting person. There are so many alterations made in the film version in order to somewhat offend the public. If you don’t recall Willy tried to explain to Linda why he wasn’t able to make sales on his trip and stated his failures to influence the buyers he had. He stated in the play that he was fat but in the film he said he was short.
An additional thing I find that rehabilitated within the play and film version is the music. I, myself hearing the music is very different than trying to imagine it. But, the play does has a good advantage in this particular aspect. The play started with a tune played on a flute meanwhile in the film different instruments convoyed the flute. The coordination worked perfectly massive in influencing my emotions and mood. It definitely works great to have common sympathy for Willy after he died. But, I do also to think that the music works against the movie.
If you remember the restaurant scene the music distracted from the momentousness of the conversation between Biff, Happy and Willy. I didn’t see that happen during reading the play. Although, loudness and smoothness of the character voice did express how they was feeling. The film differed from the stage play because for the film it was differently something I couldn’t see up close but the film was giving natural expressions and gestures.
The American Dream: Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and Death of A Salesman Comparison
To begin to discuss The American Dream’ you first need to define which American Dream’ as it is different for each individual. The American Dream’ that I will be looking at is starting in lowest class in society and working hard to make a living and progress through the class system. It is also only achieved when this hard-fought class is passed on to your children and they are inspired to follow in your footsteps. However, The American Dream’ doesn’t actually exist within society, it only exists within each person and the pressures they believe are being put on them.
It could be argued that people are putting this pressure on themselves because the rest of society is too, and the people are being told to push themselves because everyone else is. The idea of The American Dream’ can be broken down into three fundamental components: The first is society and the effect individuals believe it has on their goals in life; the second is acquiring wealth through the hard work put in and the pressure people think society puts on you to provide for your family; the final key ideal of The Dream’ is the legacy you leave behind to your children.
I intend to compare how Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller use these three key components to show the effect The American Dream’ has on several characters’ behavior in Cat on A Hot Tin Roof’ and Death of A Salesman’. I will put a particular focus on the relationship between father and son. Biff and Willy Loman, from Death of A Salesman’ have a difficult relationship as they are both on what Younus Z. (2010) described as ‘The Quest Here, the characters are searching for something, whether consciously or unconsciously. Their actions, thoughts, and feelings center on the goal’.
However, they are both searching for something different making it difficult for them to see eye to eye, this is different to Brick and Big Daddy in Cat on a hot tin roof’ they appear to have a healthy relationship. However, if you look deeper Brick is hiding things from him showing they may not be as close as it appears for example when Brick joins the rest of the family in not telling big daddy about his cancer; as well as Brick hiding his drinking problem. Both authors use the three key components of the idea of The American Dream’ to show how it negatively effects the characters behaviour and mental health as well as the beliefs each character holds about themselves in relation to achieving their idea of The American Dream’.
Arthur Miller presents the ideals people believe society pressures them to adhere to as detrimental to relationships and a person’s mental state. He demonstrates this clearly through Willy beginning to act in an aggressive way towards Biff when Biff returns home without an idea of what to do with his life. Willy deems this unacceptable. When Biff decides he wants to work outdoors on his own ranch with his brother, Happy, instead of following his father into sales. Willy is troubled. He believes that society is telling him he should want more from his son however, these ideas are only present in Willy`s mind. Society’ is only what each individual assumes everyone else believes they should do. Willy can’t see this as he is blinded by what he believes The American Dream’ is, he believes the dream is working hard and giving everything, you have until you reach your goals and then pass this on to your children. This is what he has decided society wants from him and his son and he can’t see that he is making this decision for himself. His disapproval of Biffs life choice is first prevalent very early in the play when, whilst talking to his wife Linda, he has an outburst where he shouts ‘Not finding yourself at the age of 34 is a disgrace’ . This is Willy`s way of expressing his frustration of Biff not being further ahead in life. Biff doesn’t feel as though he is behind in life as his ideals of The American Dream’ are do what you love and do it until you get to where you want to be.
The fact Willy mentions Biffs age is important as it becomes blatant how Willy has certain milestones, he sets for himself and everyone round them, and it is the use of these milestones that begin the decline of Willy`s mental health. These milestones are his way of mapping his own progression and a way to judge others against himself to boost his ego. Miller shows this as Willy begins to think far too highly of himself despite his unobtainable ideals of The American Dream’. However, in this case Biffs progression, or lack thereof, through these made up checkpoints is frustrating as Willy wants Biff to aspire to be better than him as this is what society’ wants. When this is compared to how Brick and Big daddy have been affected by society it becomes clear that they have had an easier time than Biff and Willy. Big daddy worked hard and built his way to success, but this isn’t always achievable as shown through Willy and his failure. Big Daddy believes that society requires him to be the typical man of the house and show no fear or pain this can be seen through his denial of his cancer. He ignores it and pretends it doesn’t exist and is naГЇve enough to believe his family when they tell him it’s just stomach ulcers. This is summed up perfectly when Margaret says ‘Nobody says, you’re dying. You have to fool them. They have to fool themselves.’ This shows how Big Daddy is fooling himself into believing everything is fine, just so he can carry on with the hard and typically masculine behavior he has presented all his life. He carries on as normal as this is what he believes society wants from him and this is what he believes the American dream is, working hard and living off the profits as the man of the house and the breadwinner of the family despite the detriment to his health. However, this view is only within his mind and the expectations of him don’t exist outside of his own views.
The American Dream in Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire
The American Dream is a central aspect of the plot of the two plays in question. It serves as both the motivation for Stanley’s behavior in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Willy Loman’s vision that his son Biff refused to uphold in Death of a Salesman. In Miller’s play, Willy turned his vision of the American dream into more of a culture. He sincerely believes that the key indicators of success are how much money and brand-name appliances you have, how “well-liked” you are, and how hard you worked to achieve all you’ve got.
His two sons, Happy and more so Biff, are victims of their father’s failed vision and his efforts to make himself look good despite his obvious failure (through lying and inflating facts). Biff’s view of the American Dream is different from that of Willy’s – he wants to define success for himself, and not let success define him, as it did to his father, as his words “I’ve always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that all I’ve done was waste my life” (Baym 2118) indicate.
Perhaps, this difference was brought about when Biff found out about his father’s affair back at the age of 17, and exclaimed “You fake! You phony little fake! ” (Baym 2166) at both his father and the American Dream. It may explain why “From the age of seventeen nothing good ever happened to him” (Baym 2152), because it was then that he realized that the American Dream his father was such a proponent of is as phony as his father is – and since then, Biff has been trying to follow something he didn’t believe in anymore, which obviously didn’t work out.
Now, Biff’s dream rejects the amount of money he makes, how well liked he is, or what brand his refrigerator is as objectives. It only relies on whether he likes what he does or not. “Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am! ” (Baym 172) – That is Biff, and that is his own American Dream, placed somewhere out west and not in the concrete jungle of the city.
Stanley Kowalski’s disposition regarding the American Dream in Williams’ play is somewhat more elusive in text, yet it can still be inferred from various details. His general straightforward nature, often raw and rude manner and his determinedness are just what it takes to “make it” out there. This is evident from Stella’s words to Blanche, saying “Stanley’s the only one of his crowd that’s likely to get anywhere…
It’s a drive he has” (Baym 1997), indicating his inner strength and ambition. In a sense, Stanley doesn’t have an American “Dream”, because he isn’t dreaming – he’s working for it, and is content with his place so far and with things the way they are at any given moment. Unlike Willy, he does not feel the need to exaggerate his achievements, and unlike Biff, he isn’t intimidated by the competitiveness of city life and does not feel the need to get away from it.
Even more can be inferred about Stanley’s disposition due to the fact that is he is the complete opposite of Blanche – one who cannot find her place in the changed, “hostile” world because she sticks to old values. Stanley, like Biff, does not see money as the sole happiness-determining variable in life – “I pulled you down off them columns and how you loved it, having them colored lights going! And wasn’t we happy together? ” (Baym 2026), indicating by these words that happiness was part of his and Stella’s life regardless of finances.
Also like in a sense like Biff, Stanley values control of his own life, even if to him it means deciding what to do with his leisure time (e. g. play poker no matter what and not be nice about it). Neither of them has a submissive personality. A major difference in their dispositions when it comes to the American Dream is that Biff’s is more old-fashioned, not only in the sense of going out west, but just kind of to go with the flow and to follow his inner wishes. Stanley does not quite concentrate on dreaming, but has a somewhat personalized version of the dream.
This “survivor of the stone age” doesn’t care for being well liked and having brand name appliances, he is only determined to move forward and be happy with the way things are. After looking at the aspects of the American Dream and how they were explored in the above plays through the use of the main characters, it can be concluded that it is likely that both authors’ aim was to suggest that there is no American Dream “formula”, and that in order to succeed, one must be true to himself.
‘The American Dream’ – Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman is centred on Willy Loman who is a 63 years old salesman and has a wife named Linda and two sons, Biff and Happy.
Arthur Miller creates the Loman family so that everyone in a way could relate to someone in the family in one-way or another.
Many people in the late 1940’s and the 1950’s had lived through a very miserable depression, and it was during this time that the American Society and economy was changing as it was becoming more and more advanced technologically.
Times were changing and the ‘good old days’ such as the travelling salesman and were being withered away.
The American Society was changing in a way that people were becoming more and more competitive and people would try to get to the top by any means.
It became a desire for many Americans and was what they strived for their whole life.
The American Dream is based mainly on wealth and materialism.
The sense of freedom is what people are striving for. Freedom from bills and debt is what Willy Loman is striving for in Death of a Salesman.
The American Dream is seen as a perfect life, which consists of a house with a perfect family; a husband, wife, two children, all living happily and comfortably without any troubles.
But very few Americans achieve that goal in their lifetime, because there’s also competition if everyone’s aiming for it. Every person is competing with their friends and neighbours.
These flaws show through in ‘Death of a Salesman’ as Willy tries to get to grips with his life and trying to pay off his house.
‘Death of a Salesman’ has been used by Arthur Miller to show what the American Dream is really like.
The play is based around an average family man, Willy Loman, who has struggled all his life to make something of it; to ‘strike it lucky’. But his chance never came. He is presented as an average ‘middle American’, who wants to pay off all his debts and bills. This shows the lack of contentment in his life. He’s not content having a roof over his head, or having a job, because he wants more. Willy wants to achieve more, just like his brother, Ben, who struck it lucky, because he happened to get lost and stumble upon some diamond mines, but Willy blames himself for not going to explore the world with him.
Although he regrets not going with his brother, what he doesn’t realise is that he was too young to go with him; he was only 3 years old, when his brother left, whereas Ben was 17. But, despite this fact, he still admires him.
Willy has a very flawed way of trying to fulfil the American Dream. He does everything the wrong way and what he doesn’t realise is that it takes some hard work. This may be the reason as to why there’s a feeling of failure in the play. Both, Willy and his sons Biff and Happy are failures in achieving in what they wanted and this shows how Arthur Miller is presenting the flaws of the American Dream, because it can really take its toll on people’s lives and practically ruin their relationships with other people, such as their friends and neighbours.
Willy was constantly competing with his neighbour, Charley. However, Charley is running his own business, whereas Willy is still in the same job that he’s been in for years.
The character of Willy Loman is perfect for presenting the flaws of the American Dream, because he’s just an average man, and basically a nobody, because he hasn’t achieved the things that he wanted to achieve.
His belief that popularity provides the essential tools for success proves to be a tragic mistake.
Willy grew up believing that being “well-liked” is the secret to becoming a success. He thinks that popularity will help you charm teachers and even open doors in business.
In some ways this may be true however, one should also have real skills.
Miller shows multiple points in the story where Willy speaks of the importance of being well liked and of the importance of appearances. Willy says, “I thank the almighty God you’re both built like Adonises” to his sons. There are many other examples of this, when he is blinded by his narrow-minded views.
For instance: he taunts at the ‘nerdy’ Bernard, who is too focused on his academic success to be popular.
In a flashback Willy has a conversation with Biff: “Bernard is not well-liked, is he?… Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out into the business world, you are going to be five times ahead of him”
But it all came crashing down soon afterwards, when he failed math. Biff never studied, or thought about the value of grades. He valued what his father instructed him to.
Willy believes that this teenage popularity will guarantee Biff’s success in his adult life. Even though Biff fails as an adult, his father still holds on to the idea that Bill Oliver, a businessman who Biff met numerous years ago will offer him a job.
He will not let himself believe that Biff stole from this man. On top of it all, after Biff confesses to stealing the pen from Oliver, Willy gives his regular old great advice. Again, his advice is to lie: “You give it to him and tell him it was an oversight! You were doing a crossword puzzle and accidentally used his pen!” Willy’s overall goals may be okay, however, his values are not. They are immoral, valuing only image, and popularity; never thinking about hard work, honesty, or skills of any sort.
Another misconception Willy has is that he believes Biff can be successful in business.
He thinks that this company will be successful because of Biff’s popularity and attractive personality alone. Willy never considers the possibility that the company may well be a failure because of Biff’s lack of experience or knowledge.
However Willy continues dreaming of making it big and he keeps on chasing this dream, because there’s a feeling of hope in him, every time his sons go for a job interview or have an appointment with their boss. He refuses to listen to what his sons have to say, because it’s not what he wants to hear. So, instead he just fills their mouth with words or keeps on interrupting them.
The lack of contentment is also shown through both sons. Happy’s name is pretty ironic, because his life doesn’t seem to be happy, even though he pretends to be. Both, Biff and Happy have a bitter streak in them as they both take revenge on their bosses in one way or another. Happy has a tendency to sleep with his boss’s girlfriends or wives, whereas Biff steals from his boss. But the reason they are like this is because their father has made them think they can do anything and get anywhere without qualifications.
However, Biff seems to go against his father, mainly due to the fact that he knows about his father’s affair.
But, Willy is still very stubborn and proud. He doesn’t realise his children are happy doing what they want. This is why his pride has got in the way of him not being able to achieve anything. He has also made his sons proud; too, by making them think that it’s their personalities that will get them a successful job. This represents another limitation of the American Dream; people have to work hard to get where they want. Bernard, Biff’s high school friend, is an example of this because he worked hard to get where he wanted and yet he never mentioned it to Willy, ‘The Supreme Court! And he didn’t even mention it!’ Willy says.
This shows that Bernard isn’t the type to boast about how well he’s doing even though he climbing the ladder towards the American Dream. He’s overtaken Biff and Willy regrets that, but isn’t quite sure who to blame. Himself or Biff?
Willy is blinded by false hope and great aspirations of striking it rich, but he’s doing all this for his children, so that they don’t have to struggle the way he did. But Bernard and Charley show that people have to do things themselves to achieve what they want to achieve, because Bernard is a top lawyer and he did this without anyone’s help. He doesn’t need Charley to provide for him, nor is he working for him either. The only things that Willy has ever been able to achieve in his life are solid material goods, such as his house, fridge, car and vacuum cleaner. But he doesn’t think that it’s enough, so he decides to go and crash the car and kill himself, just because he wants his children to lead a comfortable life. His death brings in money for his children, but it shows what lengths Willy went to just so that his children could lead the perfect life of this American Dream.
Arthur Miller said that his first title for “Death of a salesman” was “The inside of his head”
Arthur Miller said that his first title for “Death of a salesman” was “The inside of his head”. Why do you think Miller considered using this as a title and how can a production of the play convey to an audience that it is about Willy Loman’s way of mind.
“The image was of an enormous face the height of the proscenium arch which would appear and then open up, and we would see the inside of a man’s head .
. . it was conceived half in laughter, for the inside of his head was a mass of contradictions.”
– Arthur Miller
Miller of course, did not use this ‘arch’ in any way in his play, but he did use a number of things to show what was going on inside Willy Loman’s head. He not only showed the audience reality the way Willy Loman did, but at the same time show what was real. There are three levels of understanding: Willy’s perception of reality, Willy’s memories of his past, and the audience’s perception of reality in the present.
Past and present are used to show the audience what Willy Loman’s past was like and how the present is linked to it. It can get quite confusing for the audience, especially those who had not read the play beforehand, as the present frequently switches into the past and vice versa. The present is shown as a realistic view of what is happening to Willy and his family. But the past is mainly shown as how Willy remembered it. He may have remembered it in a slightly different way to what it was like in reality, as he felt his past was all he had to cherish, the past was all the hope he had left, to him, everything else had seemed to whither away.
Onstage, unreality is shown using lighting, golden light is used on Willy’s figures of respect, such as Ben. The majority of the time Ben is onstage, Willy is just imagining it. It wasn’t even one of his memories from the past. Such as in Act two, towards the end of the play, Willy speaks to Ben about suicide. This never happened in the past.
Willy’s disillusioned dreams of Biff and his success cause him mental traumas when he realises he has never achieved his dreams, his colleagues were no longer working and Willy Loman was no longer very well known in society at all. His salary is taken away, even after all the years he had been working for his company. He is no longer successful. This is first explained to the audience in Act one with Linda, Biff and Happy:
Linda: He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him anymore, no one welcomes him. And what goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent?
Willy is getting old, and to him, life has already ended. All he has is his hopeful past to and his memories to hold dear. Willy is constantly in a world of his own. It is like we are taken back in time to share what Willy experienced. It explains why he is the way he is. Willy often reminisces about a certain time in the past when there is something in the present that reminded him of it. For example, when Biff comes home, he remembers when Biff was in high school, in the football team and being offered scholarships in universities for their sport teams. In this scene he is speaking to Bernard in the past:
Willy (angrily): What’re you talking about? With scholarships to three universities they’re gonna flunk him?
Willy has this flashback the evening he comes home after almost crashing his car, when Biff has just come home (Act 1). He remembers Biff as he was in high school, full of hope and promise. He feels Biff is now completely lost, as explained to the audience in the beginning of the play in his conversation with Linda:
Linda: He’s finding himself, Willy.
Willy: Not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace!
Biff grew up trying to accept Willy’s values and ideas of how to be successful as his own; perhaps this was why he has not found himself yet. He never wanted to waste time in his life, but he has just realised that he had done just that. He explains this to Happy, early on in Act one:
Biff: And now, I get here, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve always made a point of not wasting my life, and everytime I come back here I know that all I’ve done is to waste my life.
Biff never found his own path to follow and after discovering his father’s affair with Miss Francis he had to face reality for the first time. (The audience are not aware of this until near the end, this is to create more dramatic climax.) This causes many problems for him; he lost hope, as the one man he admired had let the family down. Biff gave up trying to graduate and as a result, he had pointless jobs followed by pointless jobs.
On stage, the past is indicated by a number of things: Firstly, music was used to set the mood for what Willy was thinking back to. For example in Act 2 for the Ebbots Field scene, cheery, joyful music was used to indicate that Willy thought back of that event as happy and hopeful. Miller had specific ideas about how music was to be used, for example:
Young Bernard rushes in. The gay music of the boys is heard.
The production we saw used slightly altered techniques. Different music is used for the Ebbots Field scene; it was fast and cheery music. This went quite well, appropriate music was played and it helped the audience understand the feelings of Willy and what he was thinking at the time.
Miller had originally suggested a flute for whenever there was going to be a change in time. It is small and fine, telling of grass and trees and the horizon. I think this would have worked better, as it would be less confusing for the audience.
When present moved into the past in the play, the lights would often change with it. Brighter colours showed the past whereas in present scenes, dull, worn out colours were used. Again, Miller had originally suggested something else, infact, the opposite to what was done in this particular production. Miller had visualised the lights in past as dim, signifying the faded out, blurry past.
Leaves are also used onstage. This is something that Miller had suggested; it indicated the present moving into past. I think this is quite effective onstage as it helps us realise when we are no longer in present, but in past. In Act one, the first time present switches into the past, these stage instructions are given:
The apartment houses are fading out, and the entire house and surroundings become covered with leaves. Music insinuates itself as the leaves appear.
I thought the production’s alterations were significant, as the brighter past is relevant in terms of what was happening inside Willy’s head. It suggests he sees the past as brighter, and more joyful. Something that reality is not.
In the present, there should be an imaginary kitchen wall onstage that the actors could not walk through. In the stage directions, Miller states:
Whenever the action is in the present the actors observe the imaginary wall-lines, entering the house only through its door at the left. But in the scenes of the past these boundaries are broken, and characters enter or leave a room by stepping ‘through’ a wall on to the forestage.
This shows Willy’s mind is not in the kitchen or even his house anymore and has drifted into a world of its own. For example, in scenes with Biff and Happy in the past. The actors freely walked through the imaginary wall-lines.
Scenes with The Woman would always be in the past as she was only a memory of Willy’s. In the film, she was bought on in Act one after Willy looked through a mirror, this was again, not something Miller had suggested but it worked well, as it showed he was imagining all of it and it wasn’t happening in reality at all but in his mind. Both the film and production used the woman’s laughing as a way to indicate he was starting to reminisce about her again, as indicated in the text:
From the darkness is heard the laughter of a woman. Willy doesn’t turn to it, but it continues through Linda’s lines. This shows that his past experiences with The Woman are with him as he is talking to Linda.
Sometimes the past and present are played on stage at the same time. This is when Willy is reminded of something and starts reminiscing. E.g. in Act 1 in the scene when Charley first appears in the present, and he reminds Willy of Ben, his deceased brother:
Uncle Ben, carrying a valise and an umbrella, enters the forestage from around the right corner of the house. He is a stolid man, in his sixties, with a moustache and an authoritative air. He is utterly certain of his destiny, and there is an aura of far away places about him. He enters exactly as Willy speaks.
Willy: I’m getting awfully tired, Ben.
Ben’s music is heard. Ben looks around at everything.
Charley: Good, keep playing; you’ll sleep better. Did you call me Ben?
Ben looks at his watch.
Willy: That’s funny. For a second there you reminded me of my brother Ben.
Ben: I only have a few minutes. (He strolls, inspecting the place. Willy and Charley continue playing.)
In this particular scene, Willy sees and hears Ben, as he is in his head, whereas Charley does not. He is confused when Willy starts talking about completely different things to what they were previously discussing. This is one example of the dramatic irony Miller uses throughout the play to show that Willy is in a completely different world of his own. It also creates tension and suspense. The other characters do not see what he sees, but the audience do. This helps the audience understand Willy’s state of mind, and can make us feel pity for him. It seems to be heading towards a very tragic end.
Symbols play a significant part in the play. It is used to show what is going on in his head. Willy Loman’s constantly longing for the good days to return, and this is presented in many ways, for example:
His affair with Miss Francis. He is clearly still guilty and this is shown using stockings. He sees his wife fixing hers, just the way she tries to fix all the family problems straight after he remembers he gave Miss Francis Linda’s stockings. He orders that she throws them out straight away and he would not have his wife fixing stockings in his house.
Willy: (noticing her mending) What’s that?
Linda: Just mending my stocking. They’re so expensive-
Willy (angrily, taking them away from her): I won’t have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!
This particular action suggests that Willy yearns to be free of his problems at home.
Also when Biff finds out about his father’s affair, in Act two, he is very upset she had been given his mother’s stockings.
Biff: You- you gave her Mama’s stockings! (His tears break through and he rises to go.)
This again is a symbol that a bond and happiness has been broken.
Willy’s car plays a symbolic role as well. In this car, Willy is driving himself to death. The “accidents” he had were perhaps early attempts to commit suicide, but they were definitely attempts to draw attention to his condition. The car represents control, and movement forward of which are symbols in Willy’s life of desperation and misery. It was no wonder he used it to kill himself.
Imagery is also used to create dramatic effects and to show what is going on in his mind. One of the most important incidents is in connection with Ben, Willy’s successful brother, who introduces the motif of the jungle and the diamonds.
Ben: The jungle is dark but full of diamonds, Willy.
Willy remembers his brother saying “When I was seventeen, I walked into the jungle and when I was twenty-one I walked out…And by God I was rich!” The jungle was the place Ben found success, but for Willy, his “woods are burning” there is simply no time left. The jungle symbolises life and the diamonds are symbolic of success. This image shows that Willy thinks every piece of hope is closing in on him: time, his business and family. Even the apartment buildings are too, they don’t show the beautiful view like they did in the years of Willy’s success.
Willy: The street is lined with cars. There’s not a breath of fresh air in the neighbourhood. The grass don’t grow anymore, you can’t raise a carrot in the backyard. They should’ve made a law against apartment houses. Remember those two beautiful elm trees out there? When I and Biff hung the swing between them?
This is said in his conversation with Linda when he first comes home in Act One.
Even everyday things involved in the play suggest the weary daily life of Willy Loman. The fridge is one example; it is so old and uninteresting and has been in that house for almost as long as Willy had. It represents how worn out he and his hopes were.
Linda: And you got one more payment on the refrigerator…
Willy: But it just broke again!
Linda: Well, it’s old, dear.
Willy: I told you we should’ve bought a well advertised machine. Charley bought a General Electric and it’s twenty years old and it’s still good, that son-of-a-bitch.
The scenery in the production that I went to see with my school was very symbolic of what Willy’s mind was like. It seemed closed in, small and Willy appeared to be trapped in it wherever he went. The house was in the background of all the scenes, this seemed to show that no matter where Willy was, he couldn’t free himself from the pain and misery in his life. The backdrop was of the apartment houses around the Loman house. They towered over the house and invaded the privacy.
I think Arthur Miller made the right choice with using ‘Death of a Salesman’ as the title for the play instead of ‘The inside of his head’. Though the original name was suitable, I feel it gives away too much of what the play is about. ‘Death of a Salesman’ however is a little more discreet and subtle and gives away only the fact that there is a death at some point of the play. It doesn’t give any clue as to what the structure of the play is. Miller is very careful with his words in this title. He uses ‘A salesman’ as opposed to ‘The salesman’, this gives us the sense that the salesman who died was not important. I think the title as it is now adds a bit more excitement, suspense and drama into the play for the audience.
Death of a Salesman Review
This paper is a review of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” that focuses on society’s alienation of Willy Loman.
Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” It is often stated that society is very judgmental. It can be seen in movies, literary works, or just an everyday walk of life. Arthur Miller chooses to portray society’s prejudice against the protagonist, Willy Loman, in his play, Death of a Salesman. Society, in this case, rejects Willy Loman because he isn’t upper class, and because he is getting up in age.
Many occurrances highlight society’s judging of Willy, including him being fired, the “spite” that he recieves from his sons, and the way he alienates himself. All of these eventually lead to the downfall of a strong, determined, but confused character. Perhaps the most defeating action that happened to Willy was the loss of his job. All he had ever been in life was a salesman, therefore it was the only trade that he was any good at.
When he had the conference with Howard, he had his hopes up. Willy had regained his confidence in himself and was ready to take control of his life at a very crucial time. However, Howard crushed all of that by firing Willy, simply because he thought Willy, “needed some rest.” Actually, Howard never intended to give Willy his job back. He was merely trying to take Willy’s position because he didn’t believe Willy could hack it anymore. This is a reflection of society’s present day treatment of the elderly. Younger generations now, move older people into rest homes and try to keep them out of public view, for risk of embarassment. This is reflected by Howard’s statement, “I don’t want you to represent us anymore.” Society’s assumption of Willy’s capabilities, in this case, cost him his job. A second occurrance that displayed Willy’s alienation happened in his own family. Biff doesn’t believe whatsoever in his father and has no hope for him at all. Biff even says in act one that his father has no character. Biff is a perfect symbol for society in the play. Biff knows his father has problems, but even as a son, “can’t get near him.” Even though he accepts his father as a fake later in life, Biff tries over and over again to reach his father and to help him, but an unseen barrier prevents Biff from doing so. Happy is the type that knows what’s going on with his father, but won’t try to help him. Although it is never actually said verbatum, it is obvious that Willy has some kind of mental problem that needs some attention. Yet even in his own home, he can’t get any help because his family can’t bring it upon themselves to help him. This instance depicts the way society would rather, “Let someone else handle it,” than take action and go against what is popular. This example is probably the saddest and most heartbreaking part of the play. A final instance of Willy Loman’s alienation is the way he excludes himself from society. Subconciously, Willy knows what his capabilities and his problems are, and he exiles himself socially. That could very well be the reason behind the “conversations” he has with himself throughout the novel; he feels like he can’t talk to anyone else. Willy has a war going on in his mind, and he is helpless toward ending it. He knows that he can do well in life and be the man he should be, but he just can’t seem to piece together the correct method of doing so. It’s because of this that he continually defeats himself, and repeatedly fails. Willy Loman wants to be the best at anything, particularly selling and being a provider for his family. However, his character is one who owns nothing and makes nothing, so he is constantly at the far bottom of the totem pole. Even the merchandise that he sells, which is his expertise, doesn’t belong to him, and just helps to keep him down in the business world and away from society. Perhaps Willy’s alienation is symbolized by the garden he wishes to grow in his back yard. His back yard is small, fenced in, and unable to bear a fruitful garden. Likewise, Willy Loman’s position in the working world is constricted, away from everyone else, and won’t let him become successful. Willy was his own worst enemy, a man who couldn’t accept himself. Society added fuel to the fire by not accepting him either. It is human nature to be judgemental of things, and especially people. Willy Loman was no exception to this. Yet, Willy was already down, and society kept him there. He lost the job that he’d worked at faithfully for thirty-four years, simply because the younger owner couldn’t bear with having an older, less succesful salesman representing the company. Willy is sealed off from his family, especially from his sons, because of an unseen force that causes an inability to communicate. Finally, he can’t fight the predicament that society placed him in, because deep down, he can’t accept the fact that he’s not what he wanted to be in life. All of the actions that alienated Willy Loman validate the prejudice and bias of society.
Consider the importance of time in “Death of a Salesman”
In this essay, I hope to analyse Millars use of time and how he represents it in the play “Death of a Salesman. ” The first thing to realise when looking at this play is how Millar conveys the thought that everything you do in the past has a consequence in the future. The way Millar does this is to squash 10 years of the Loman family’s life into the space of 24 hours using flashbacks and memories. In this essay I will be looking more closely at how he does this and what effect it has on the story.
In the play, we see the Lomans as a family who have been left in the past and therefore not succeeded in the present. This is shown by the changing scenery and people around them. The Loman’s house used to be an average suburb house surrounded by others like it, when we see it in the present though; it is dwarfed by the new tower blocks which suffocate.
Willies friends also advance in life where he fails to, Howard for instance has become head of the company whilst Willy has stayed in the same job for years, and he could even be seen as going backwards by the way that he is only paid with commission nowadays.
Biff as well has also failed to make anything substantial while the “boffin” Bernard has become a high flyer in the business world. The whole of the Loman’s world has become stagnated with things going from bad to worse because they wont move to the future. We also see in the play, the consequence of actions that may have happened years ago surfacing to result in the eventual death of Willy. The two main things which haunt and eventually take over Willy are the fact that he didn’t gop with Ben to Alaska which could have made him rich and successful and his affaire with the woman in Boston.
As Willy comes to realise that he isn’t as successful as he makes himself think, the fact that he didn’t take the chance to be as rich as his brother starts to eat away at him. The memory of Biff finding him with the woman also reappears when hostilities between Willy and Biff break out again and Biff uses it to try and make Willy see what’s happening. The regret and guilt at what he did to Linda also starts to eat at him. Such things as Biff’s early stealing, although small, reappear when he takes the pen. These small things could be counted as the straws that break the camel back.
Willy, being already overloaded with the realisation that he himself is a failure and a fake, cannot take the fact that his sons are also failure. The main way that Millars shows the change of time in the play is the way he uses Willies flashbacks. These flashbacks not only tell us what happened to the Loman family years ago, it also gives us more of an insight into the characters and who they really are. In the first flashback, Willy tells the family outside that he’s doing brilliantly and that the boys are going to be just like him when they grow up, great businessmen or successful sports stars.
This has some irony in it as he says they will be just like him who we can see later on they are, but not successful but failures who have made the wrong choices and refuse to change who they are in order to succeed. This is their downfall as Willy refuses to give up the belief that if you are “well liked,” you will succeed. Biff tries but can’t let go of the fact that he doesn’t like business and want to be in the country. The thing that makes him want to stay is the thought of his family even though there is so much argument when the family is together.
Linda refuses to believe that Willy is anything other than a perfect husband whose failure can be blamed on others. As I said before, the most important aspects of time in the play are the flashbacks that Willy has. These are used to show how life was and how it has changed (or not as the case may be). Some of the time switches are obvious with a drastic change in the presentation of the set and the actors whilst some are more subtle and difficult to understand. In the first time switch for instance, the change is drastic as it goes from nighttimes when Willy is remembering the past to bright daytime when he starts to relive it.
The backgrounds change from tower flats, to a spacious landscape. The actors themselves not only change their appearance (Biff wears the old sports jackets and Linda has more youthful hair), their attitudes also change. Biff is much more confident and hopeful instead of being downcast and surly like in real time. Linda, although she acts much the same, creates a happier feeling in the house rather than the scolding she gives Biff and Hap for undermining their father. This all makes the first time switch easy to understand and follow.
Because this prepares the audience as to how the play is constructed (the use of Willy’s flashbacks) Miller can now afford to be a bit more adventurous with how he uses the flashbacks. This is shown evidently in the second time switch which moulds past and present together in a quite confusing manner. With Willy trying to speak with two people at once and no discernable set change to tell the audience what is happening. The rest of the time switches are relatively simple compared to that one.
They clearly show the change in time which makes it easier to watch. Looking closely at the flashbacks, we can see how they are carefully juxtaposed to the situation in real time. The woman’s laughter at the beginnings is placed next to Willy’s conversation with Linda to accent the difference of the two. The scene where Willy relives the time when Biff discovers his affaire is placed next to the restaurant scene where Biff argues with Willy. This gives the audience an insight as to why Biff acts the way he does towards Willy.
Overall, in this play, I think that Millar although mainly trying to make the point that the American dream doesn’t work, he is also making the more subtle point that any action you make in the past or present, will catch up with you and affect you in the future. It is a story about the “chickens coming home to roost. ” The main thing the Miller tries to illustrate the Lomans doing in the past is the fact that they did nothing, that is the reason their family has fallen into disrepair and why the American dream didn’t work.
Essay On The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman
Likewise, Willy has flaws just like Macbeth, Hamlet and Romeo. These flaws eventually cause his downfall and ultimately, death. For example, his unrealistic view on things and his pride drove Biff away and he was left without a job despite being offered one due to his pride. It was also his pride in himself that stopped him from being successful as a salesman – he thought that everyone liked him and that’s all that matters. In reality, many people did not like Willy because he simply tried too hard to be liked and constantly made jokes which were, in fact, quite awful.
All the negative consequences of these flaws accumulated into a very bad life for Willy and his family – eventually making him realise that he can only be of any help when he’s dead. This is of course a very tragic thing to watch happen to a man and portrays a ‘downfall’ perfectly, even if Willy wasn’t in a very high place to fall from to begin with.
Unlike the heroes of Shakespearean tragedies, Willy is not at all anyone important in society, nor does he do anything that can be seen as heroic.
He is no nobleman like Romeo or a prince like Hamlet and he never performs an action that would earn him the title of a hero such as saving a life, but within his own household and to his own family and friends he is very much loved despite the fact he does not show this love back – Linda being a perfect example. From this, we can argue that Death of a Salesman is the tragedy of the ordinary, simple man and not of people of high standing which is the norm. The admiration he gets from his family is obvious whenever Linda defends and tries to rationalize Willy’s actions – even his attempts at committing suicide.
An example of the extreme devotion Linda has to Willy (something which was expected of housewives during that time) is when she says to Biff, “Biff, dear, if you don’t have any feelings for him [referring to Willy], you can’t have any feelings for me”, this quotation shows that Linda would block out her own son for the sake of Willy. Other members of the family do not love Willy to the same extent Linda does but they do care for him nonetheless. Happy, for example, tries to get the attention of his father by saying, “I’m gonna get married, Mom.
I wanted to tell you”, to which he is nonchalantly dismissed. He may say these sorts of things as he may be jealous of the amount of attention Biff receives from both his father and mother – which shows he does care for Willy. Even Biff, who has always had an uneasy relationship with Willy, shows he cares. When he rushes down the stairs after realizing his father has sped away in the car and exclaiming, “Pop! “, shows this. On the other side of the spectrum, the same argument shown in the above paragraph for the play being a tragedy can be flipped to argue against that too.
Willy being a ‘hero of his household’ may not be accepted by some as a valid argument. Instead, they would say that since Willy does not live up to the high standards of all other heroes in literary works of tragedy he cannot be classified as one; therefore the play cannot be called a tragedy since it lacks a hero. Just as he does not have a high place in society, Willy never performs heroic actions (in the course of the play, at least). As a matter of fact, Willy is a bad person in some ways, unlike a hero who you would expect to be noble.
Just to name a few, Willy neglects and mistreats his wife, as can be seen when he constantly shuts her up for interrupting while he is talking to Biff, “Stop interrupting” and “Will you let me talk? “, are examples of this. Also, he was at one point unfaithful to Linda with a nameless person simply called ‘The Woman’ in the script. This is what leads to the falling out between Biff and Willy when Biff catches him with her red-handed. At first he lies to his son, “No, that was next door”, when Biff hears her laugh from the bathroom.
These are the sort of things you would not expect from a good person, let alone a hero – someone you’re meant to look up to. To end off the arguments against Death of a Salesman being a tragedy, it should be pointed out that classical heroes in works of tragedies commonly have quite grand and dramatic flaws. Romeo was too much of a fool for love and he was very dramatic. Macbeth always listened to his wife against his better judgement and he was very arrogant. Hamlet was mad – and so on.
Willy was also an arrogant and mad man, but not to the same extent of the likes of Macbeth and Hamlet. Instead, his more major flaws were the common everyday flaws you see in ordinary human beings. Stubbornness, pride, unrealistic, full of false hope, too optimistic, etc. Also, none of these flaws are so significant in Willy that they become dramatic – just like most people. The point of a hero is to be extraordinary, to stand out from the common man. Willy is as ordinary as you can get. In both who and what he is.
In conclusion, we have seen the argument presented from both sides and it is clear that both sides present a convincing case, making this not a simple decision. It is clear that the answer to the question lies in whether Willy can be seen as a ‘hero’, that is for individuals to make their minds up on by weighing both arguments thoroughly and then making a choice. From my view point, I do not see any argument which is stronger. Of course, if we are judging by the literary standards set by Aristotle and Shakespeare, then no, it is not a tragedy as the case against Willy being a hero is stronger.
From this, we can finish off by saying that Death of a Salesman is not a tragedy as it is missing a key ingredient – a hero – in this case; Willy, who does not measure up to the requirements of a literary hero. However, you can only make this conclusion if you judge by the standards and definitions set by Shakespeare and Aristotle. To modern people and even late 1940s Americans right after WWII, Death of a Salesman can be seen as a modern tragedy of the ordinary person as it is a very tragic thing to see happen to any man and his family. So – is Death of a Salesman a tragedy? Depending on how you define it: yes and no.
Essay On The American Dream In Death Of A Salesman Thesis
A thorough review of Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman” including plot and character analysis.
Death Of A Salesman The play “Death Of A Salesman” , the brainchild of Arthur Miller was transformed and fitted to the movie screen in the year 1986. The play itself is set in the house of Willy Loman, and tells the melancholy story of a salesman whom is in deep financial trouble, and the only remedy for the situation is to commit suicide. In the stage production of this tale, the specific lighting, set, and musical designs really give the story a strong undertow of depression.
And logically the screen and stage productions both differ greatly in regards to the mood they set. Moreover the movie production can do many things that just cannot be done on stage, with reference to the setting of course. To generalize, the play gives us a good hard look at the great American Dream failing miserably. However the combination of both the stage and screen productions accurately depict the shortcomings of the capitalist society.
Death of a Salesman specifically focuses on four characters, the first being the main character Willy Loman, his wife Linda, and their two sons Hap and Biff Loman. As mentioned, the focal point of this play is Willy Loman, a salesman in his early sixties. Throughout the story we are told the hard life, emotions and triumphs of Willy the salesman. Early in the play we learn that he has recently been demoted to working for commission, which later in the play,(on par with his luck) translates into Willy getting fired. As the plot unfolds we discover that Willy had a rich brother who recently died named Ben, whom Willy looked upon with great admiration for becoming extremely wealthy and the ripe old age of 21. However Willy also becomes very depressed when Ben leaves, the fact being that he re-realizes the meagerness of his own life, and that he is still making payments on all of his possessions. Willy then comprehends that bye the time his worldly possessions are paid for…they shall no longer be of any use. For example, the Loman house has become virtually unnecessary now that the two sons have moved out. It isn’t until after Willy’s death that the final mortgage payment is made….for a house with no one inside it. The one example of this statement is given by Linda during the final paragraph of the play, “I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there will be nobody home. We’re free and clear……….we’re free…….we’re free…………we’re free” As the plot thickens, Willy the salesman plummets deeper and deeper into depression until his most likely route of action, which of course is suicide. However the reasoning behind this course of action, we find, is his genuine love for his family, along with Willy’s deep longing to supply his family with as much money as he can possibly get his hands on. As we learn more about Willy’s trials and tribulations, the age old expression “like father like son” appears out of nowhere like a beacon. Like his father, Willy’s son Biff also has some problems of his own, the main one being that Biff cannot seem to find his niche in life. Furthermore, we are told that Biff at one point did in fact have his future all planned out. It turns out that Biff was a shoe-in for a position on the University Of Virginia State football team. However, that chance was all but lost when Biff did not qualify to pass his final mathematics course. Now as you can imagine the fact that Biff had to explain this to his father was quite a large problem in itself. But to add insult to injury, when Biff made the trip to Boston to explain his mathematical dilemma, he is horrified to find that his father has been with another women. And this one incident would leave Biff being an entirely different person altogether. He didn’t even make an attempt to finish his math in summer school. After Boston, Biff couldn’t have cared less what happened to his own life. However, as is in life, out of something horrible comes something worthy. And Biff finally comes to the realization that he in fact wants to make his future. And that future entails working in the outdoors on a farm. The other reasoning behind this life decision is of course, is to go against the wishes and values that his father has tried to instill in Biff his entire life. Biff pours his heart to his brother Hap one quarter through act I. …..”To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks a year for the sake of a two week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off …” Fortunately for Biff, he determines his future by the play’s conclusion. He comes to the understanding that he and Willy were never meat to be business men. Including that they were intended to be working on a farm with their hands. And after vexing to procure Hap to come with him (which is to no avail), he escapes from his home to continue on with the rest of his life. Which for Biff seems to be the soundest choice, the decision that Willy just couldn’t make. Hap on the other hand stays with his father, and at play’s end decides to follow in Willy’s footsteps. That of course is to succeed at business at all costs. Both the stage and screen rendition utilize a melange of distinct effects to set the tone and to enact the specific place where the action transpires. For example the stage interpretation utilizes a unique convention that involves walking through the set to delineate circumstances in the past, or episodes going on inside the mind of Willy. This illusion can be easily created with specific crossfades and musical underlay, and of course willing suspension of disbelief. Divergently, in the screen production the set is obviously utilized in a completely different manner. On that account the movie uses a distinct fading and brightening lighting technique, that still stays true to the conventions set forth by the playwright. The one device that the screen production contains that the stage does not, is the ability to display the past events of Willy’s life in a completely accurately set manner. Meaning when there is a flashback to a previous happening, the setting travels back in time as well. Which, from a certain perspective, better illustrates the past recollections of Willy and his family. As mentioned the stage production successfully employs music to delineate certain characters or the tone of that particular instant. There is in fact music used in the movie, however it is only a small aspect of the screen medium whereas it is an integral component of the stage version. Although you cannot fully comprehend the importance of the music by simply reading the play, it must be performed right in front of you.. While the movie gives you a generally decent feel for the musical intonation. In its entirety the music does an excellent job of setting the mood that Willy is in. The play is set inside the house of Willy Loman. Surrounding his house are some tall building that are quite visible on the edges of the set. The house itself contains two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen. This is also where the majority of the action of the play takes place. All other action happens outside the house lines. Which for a stage audience requires them to suspend their disbelief even further. Whereas in a movie the viewer isn’t required to stretch any of his or her imaginations. Although this particular screen production utilized a uncommon convention that allowed the viewer to actually see through the set. One other interesting convention used by the designer was that there was no roof on the house at certain times during the performance. And in place of the roof were huge buildings and skyscrapers. These buildings were used to divulge a over-powering feeling of gloom. This tool is much more effectual in the movie, due to its original and abstract nature. This was also was very helpful during Willy’s dreams, on account of the house would exude an aura of peace an tranquillity. Together with the prevalent set in the movie, (where there is a roof and normal fencing), the idea is very well perceived. In spite of the fact that this play has been described as a modern tragedy, there has been some controversy to that description. The reason being that it does not accompany the standard protocol of tragedy. Traditionally speaking, a tragedy usually begins with the main character in the midst of a prominent position of piety. And over the course of the play becomes transformed and that character flips to a lower level of status. A tragedy is also reputed to acquaint its audience with regard to life. The audience should leave a tragedy feeling virtuous about themselves, even though the tragedy concludes on a note of melancholy. This is why scholars say they cannot include this play in the definition of tragedy. This famous tale of a salesman contains a singular main character; Willy (The Salesman)Loman, his two strapping young lads Happy and Biff, and of course his adoring wife Linda. Willy struggles to climb his way up the American capitalist hierarchy, but its seems his ship will not come in. In spite of the fact that Willy would much rather be laboring with his hands, he is set in the mindset that his real love could never make enough money. Disappointment after disappointment Willy decides that his only way to provide for his family would be to commit suicide. The number one son of the salesman, Biff, is paving his way for a discouraging life. Symbolically speaking, the character of Biff represents Willy at a younger age, for they both carry the same characteristics. However Biff is given the same chance to do something with his life, and surprisingly enough he takes it. As for Willy’s other son, Happy decides that he will take the same long, hard road as his father, only he thinks that he’ll make it. The Character of Willy Loman seem to be the consummate model to illustrate the dissension of the American capitalist ideals. For example he is a salesman who dons an aged suit that is ceaselessly creased during the course of the screen production, moreover in the script is directed to appear dilapidated. He drive an archaic, run down vehicle on the brink of extinction. While on the contrary, a proper salesman must appear presentable and attractive to market his goods. And Willy definitely does not harmonize with the ideals of being a salesman, divergently he pains to match it. Moreover that is the reason why he doesn’t belong inside the world of business. As exemplified in the passage made by Biff in the requiem. “When he’d come from a trip; or on Sundays, making the stoop…………….You know something Charley, there’s more of him in that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made.” This story seems to epitomize the frivolity of agonizing to achieve something as insignificant as money and power. It definitely makes one question the social values of the American capitalist system, and why certain individual continue to pursue the ideals of that system on a daily basis. For the downside to the capitalist dream is hopelessness. And that downside is more that apparent in the Loman family. Quote on page one: Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller, Viking Penguin Inc. 1949, Pg.139 Quote on page two: Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller, Viking Penguin Inc. 1949, Pg.22 Quote on page four: Death of A Salesman, Arthur Miller, Viking Penguin Inc. 1949, Pg.138
Willy Loman’s constant daydreaming in Arthur Miller’s play “Death of a Salesman”, leads to very severe consequences. Willy never really does anything to help the situation; he just escapes into the past, whether intentionally or not, to happier times where problems were scarce. He uses this escape as if it were a narcotic, and as the play progresses, the reader learns that it can be a fatal, because of its addictiveness and it’s deadliness, however some people argue that his downfall was associated with the social issues which enclosed him.
Social values can be described are the norms that all people follow, which varies from culture to culture, that is to say that they are the ideas generally accepted by everyone. Many contributing factors define the social values in which Willy Loman lived; a major factor was the “American Dream”. Willy Loman was a believer in the American Dream, this dream caused him to think that he could do well in life and “become a success”.
Willy wants his life to be a success but he feels he is a failure and he has to lie to impress his family, “I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. ‘Willy Loman is here!’ That’s all they have to know, and I go right through”. However, there is a flaw to this dream though, it is always moving on. By the time that one aim has been achieved, a new dream has developed. As Willy says, “there is always something nice up ahead” but the problem is, tomorrow is always tomorrow and never today.
The American Dream is measured in terms of are you are up-to-date with gadgets and possessions. This “dream” leads the Lomans’ and some other Americans to be very materialistic. Willy always wants what is current and new but he never has it because by the time he has managed to achieve it, a new fad has come along. To the Lomans’, a fridge is a symbol of achievement and status, not everybody could afford a fridge.
On page 10, Willy says, “Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it.” This quote is very true for many things in Willy’s life such as his house, car and fridge. Also on page 51 Willy tells Linda that she wont have her mending stockings in the house, this is probably because Willy feels that mending old clothes isn’t good enough and that his family should be able to purchase new clothes whenever they need to, and also because of the immense guilt he feels about his affair with The Woman, because she was entertaining him for the want of a better term, for stockings.
Willy’s pride in his sons defiantly contributes to his fate; the pressure Willy puts on himself to make sure his sons are a success is one of his downfalls. The idea of generational progression is definitely very important to Willy, if Biff and Happy become successes then they will represent the Lomans well, make good lives for themselves and also through having successful sons Willy may feel his is a success himself. Happy says (talking about Willy) “He just wants you to make good, that’s all.” And later on Biff says “this Saturday – just for you, I’m going to break through”. Willy’s sons do love him but in some ways they just humour him to keep him happy.
Another value that seems to be rife in Willy’s life is ageism. Willy is regarded, by some people, as useless. When Willy asks if he could not travel anymore for his occupation his boss is stunned and says “Not travel! Well, what’ll you do?” Willy is patronised by his boss, who is young enough to be Willy’s son but refers to Willy as “kid”, and he tells Willy “I think you need a good long rest.” One of the values that this shows is that the Lomans are living in a “throw away” society. This is what is happening to Willy. When Howard finds a new gadget he says “I tell you, Willy, I’m gonna take my camera, and my bandsaw, and all my hobbies, and out they go”. Howard seems to apply this to Willy too, “I think you need a good long rest.” “Look, kid, I’m busy this morning”
As well as wanting to be successful, Willy wants to be more successful than the people surrounding him, but not his family. He wants to prove to everyone that he is good enough; he knows that they laugh at him and he wants to prove them wrong. Willy tells Howard he is “defiantly going to get one” in relation to a gadget that there is no way Willy could afford but he feels like he has to keep up to date, and keep up with Howard.
Willy thinks he can achieve this goal with a smile and handshake. He places image before the things that really matter. “Be liked and you will never want” this idea coupled with a belief that the most common man/woman, no matter what their background can rise to the greatest heights form the core of Willy’s motivation. It is also the source of his greatest struggle. Willy becomes Miller’s representative of the common man.
Willy has been selling unsuccessfully for a long time now, for so long, that he began to sell himself rather than the product. I think the fact that the product remains unknown conveys its’ irrelevance to the play as a whole, it doesn’t matter what Willy is selling because, he is just one of many sellers and it is not important, and that Willy is more focused on selling himself than the product. This desperate hunger for popularity on Willy’s part acts as a catalyst which speeds up the process of Willy slowly coming to the end of his tether.
This popularity, removes Willy from society and even from his own family, for example in the restaurant when he asks Biff to come up with some good news to tell Linda, here is an example of Willy trying to sell himself even to his own family. Miller has done this to convey more about the American dream, and to show how one can become consumed in the whole glorification process and forget about the true things that matter in life such as his family. Many critics have shrugged off the notion that Miller was criticising society, however I think that one would be misjudging the play and Miller to overlook the scene to which Miller has set for the Lomans’.
Willy excuse for committing suicide was that so his sons can have a better life, they could make a better life for themselves with the money that Willy’s death will bring. I also think this is a farce because since Willy committed suicide the insurance money will not be paid to the Loman’s, therefore Willy did not commit suicide to save his family, he committed suicide to escape his own guilt, the same guilt that drove him to the insanity in the first place.
Along with the guilt it is the mythical American Dream that was the fatal factor for Willy, he did work so hard to try and garner himself some status, but for every day he worked, another person laughed, which I think says a lot about American society. So, yes I do think the social issues were an important part of Willy’s demise. Many things caused this fate, and in my opinion it is ironic that the American Dream Willy worked so hard towards was a major cause of his unhappiness and suicide.