Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman is play written by Arthur Miller. The author through this work has received many awards such as Pulitzer Prize in 1949. The play was written during the postwar era in the United States of America. It was meant to give hope and inspiration to the middle class people in the society. The play gives more emphasis on the values of material success and the philosophy of the American people. There is a reflection of anxiety and insecurity in the play which expresses the past experience of the author. Miller was a Jewish born in the New York City in 1915. Since he was a Jewish, Miller encountered a lot of challenges such as social disintegration during the 1930s Great Depression. Miller through his tough life experienced a lot of depression and gave him the drive to achieve in life. Taking on odd jobs such as truck driver and factory worker gave him an opportunity to directly interact with those who suffer the most. Miller expressed these experiences through the Death of a Salesman play which was performed in 1949.
The play had several characters such as Willy Loman, Linda, Happy among others. The play takes in the house and yard of Willy Loman and other places in New York in the Boston area.
The key theme of the play is about the American Dream since America has been referred to as land of opportunities for long. America has been known to be a land where anyone can make it and be successful. This is why many migrants struggle to enter into America through illegal channels because they are sure they will succeed.
This play revolves around the life of Willy Loma as he desperately chases the dream of success. The play displays the reality of things in America and the illusions that many Americans have in their lives through the American Dream. Miller demonstrates the importance of time in the process of achieving the dream in Loman’s life while on stage. There is a relationship between the present and the past in Willy’s mind reflection. The act also describes the changes in the environment especially the neighborhood of Willy. Willy was a salesman who had over 30 years worked as salesman in New England coast. Act one tells us that Willy is at home and Linda is very concerned about this. This shows how people were insecure whenever one does not have a job. Willy is also worried about making ends meet. Although he does not have a lot of burden since his son is independent and the house is nearly paid for.
The death of a salesman tells us about the struggle that was taking place in 1949. How people struggled to put food on the table and strive to achieve the American Dream of being stable and successful. Although there was a controversy that this play was against the capitalists, it is a good play that earned the author a good name as writer during post war era in America.
Willy Loman is constantly reminiscing and thinking about the past. Why? What effect does this have on him and on the play?
To an unusual degree, The Death of a Salesman interweaves past and present action. Willy Loman, the play’s protagonist, repeatedly revisits old memories, sometimes even conflating them with the present moment. But these memories are not the sentimental, slightly melancholy daydreams of a contented man. Instead, they are the dark clues to Willy’s present state of mental and emotional disrepair. Miller uses the extended flashbacks to show both that Willy longs to understand himself, and also that his efforts to do so are doomed.
Willy revisits the past not in an effort to sink into happy memories, but in an effort to analyze himself and understand where his life went wrong. His flashbacks are hardly comforting flights into idealized past times. Rather, they are harrowing journeys that get to the heart of his dysfunction. When Willy thinks about the old days, he remembers making light of Biff’s thieving, barking at Linda about the state of her stockings, ignoring Biff’s mistreatment of young women, sidelining Happy, and so on. Each of these memories lays bare one of Willy’s shortcomings: his failure to instill strong morals in his sons, his guilt over his adultery, his inability to see Biff objectively, and his unequal love for Biff and Happy, respectively. If Willy’s dips into the past were purely escapist, he would fixate on the happy moments in his life. Instead, he tends to be drawn to the times at which he behaved in revealingly unpleasant ways. This tendency suggests that Willy longs for self-knowledge. He wants to figure out how he got into his present mess, and he knows that the answers lie in the past.
Paradoxically, the very strength of Willy’s impulse to understand himself scuttles his efforts at gaining self-knowledge. In his ineffectual desperation to understand what went wrong, he becomes subsumed by the past. Instead of remaining firmly rooted in the present and thinking about how the past applies to the life he is now living, he pulls his memories over his head like a blanket. Miller brings this absorption to life by fully dramatizing Willy’s flashbacks. They are not narrated in the first person or addressed to the audience, as might befit events that occurred in the past and are at a remove. Rather, they are played out as fully realized scenes, just as vital and urgent as the present-day scenes are. By dramatizing Willy’s memories, Miller makes them as vivid for us as they are for Willy. Miller suggests that while Willy might benefit from sticking a toe into the waters of the past, he begins to lose his grip on sanity when he plunges in those waters completely.
Willy’s efforts at self-analysis are doomed not just because he gives himself wholly to his memories, but also because his passionate emotions are not balanced by cool critical thinking. Willy is constitutionally incapable of analyzing his own behavior, understanding his character, and comprehending the mistakes he has made. Over and over, Miller shows how Willy plunges back into the past, stares uncomprehendingly at the errors he made, and then makes those identical errors in the present. He remembers idealizing Ben as a boy; then he describes Ben in outsized, glowing terms to his sons. He remembers implying that Biff did not need to work hard in order to attend a good college; then he bridles at the implication that his parenting has something to do with Biff’s failure. Willy dimly senses that his past missteps have a bearing on the present, but he cannot bring himself to make the connections explicit.
Willy Loman has a multitude of faults, but escapism is not one of them. He truly wants to understand himself; part of his tragedy is that he is incapable of doing so.