Monday, October 22, 2012

Death of a Salesman

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In Arthur Millers moving and powerful play, Death of a Salesman, Miller uses many character to contrast the difference between success and failure within the system. Willy is the dreamy salesman whose imagination is much larger than his sales ability, while Linda is Willys wife who stands by her husband even in his absence of realism. Biff and Happy are the two blind mice who follows in there fathers fallacy of life, while Ben is the only member of the Loman family with that special something needed to achieve. Charlie and his son Benard, on the other hand, enjoy better success in life compared to the Lomans.

Willie Loman, in Death of a Salesman,, has lived his life in pursuit of the American dream. Traditionally the American dream meant oppurtunity and freedom for all, and Willie believed that. However, hard work could not earn him everything that he wanted or thoght he deserved. Willy judged himsel and those arround him by theit material accumulation, as is demanded by capitalism and the protestant work ethic. The ethic demands accumulation and work as signs of favor in the eyes of god. Thus in order to please god and himself he had to accumulate wealth and objects. The consumer oriented society in which Willy lives will not allow him to live the American Dream. Willy is fascinated by accumulating things. His desire fior goods makes him want objects that he neither needed nor could afford. Willy thinks that he needs to buy his wife a new refrigerator and new stockings even though she is content with what they have. As he tries to live the American dream he venerates those who have been successful at doing so, like Thomas Edison, B.F. Goodrich, and Ben, his succesful brother. Furetheremore he punished those who did not work towards that ideal or accomplish it ,such as Biff, his son, and most importantly himself. The extreme to which he followed the dream brought him to disallusionment and lose sense of reality. Willy created a reality for himself where he knocked em cold in Providence, and slaughtered em in Boston.(p.) The ultimate result of his disallusionment is his suicide. It is ironic that he dies for his ideals although they are misconstrued. The problem with Willys ideals which ultimately kills him is that he has lost sight of achieving the true goal of the American Dream, happiness and freedom, and the dream took control of him. He struggled to achieve something that he could not; he did not have the talent to be a salesman. He became so obsessed with living the dream that he was unable to be content with his talents in carpentry and with his family.

Miller shows us that the American Dream and the way of American society is or can be very destructive. Willys relentless pursuit of success has not only affected his sense of his own worth but has dominated or even ruined the lives of his wife Linda and his sons Biff and Happy. Willy was trying to live up to what society was expecting of him and this is what destroyed him. Miller shows how destructive the dream is by the breakdown of Willys mind

Miller also shows that society in general had become far too competitive. Willy feels he has to compete with others by buying new goods, even when he cannot really afford them. This competitive spirit manages to seep into the personal lives of some characters. An example of this is when Happy admits to having an affair with a colleagues fianc�e and the only explanation he has for his behaviour is his over-developed sense of competition. Biff sees that they are pressured to always get ahead of the next fella, and Willy believes that the maddening competition is whats ruining this country. Miller presents his criticisms on stage well- the stage directions at the beginning of the play emphasize the competition which Willy faces. His small house is frail and surrounded, boxed in by a solid vault of apartments which tower menacingly over his from all sides. The competition is presented as fierce from the very start- the buildings around the Lomans house are described as angular shapes which would look particularly threatening on stage and the lighting, an angry glow of orange creates the same impression of an impending threat. The social aspects of American society are also criticized by Miller- mainly the fact that success is only measured in material terms. A man is not valued for what he is, but what he owns

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