02 Jan 2011

Sample Essay: How Does Society Define Failure


The modern American society defines failure as something related to non performance of things that are ought to be done and are very crucial.  Failure, today, means not meeting the intended individual objectives.  Modern American society defines failure, with relevance to an individual, who is incapable to be successful by achieving the specific goals that are ought to be achieved.

Death of a salesman is a twentieth century novel which predominantly speaks about the life of the modern man in this modern era which is highly developed in many facets including technology.  The significant objective of the play is that it depicts as to how money has become an obsessions to most people of the world and how the life of a modern man is determined through the amount of his daily or monthly earnings.  The protagonist of the play Death of a Salesman is Willy Loman is a salesman by profession.  However, the author Arthur Miller portrays him to be unsuccessful in his professional career which leaves him dissatisfied and discontented in life provoking him to commit suicide by the end of the play.  Interestingly, the character of Willy Loman has for sure a few redeeming traits.  Willy is confronted with the biggest challenge or rather a bitter truth which is a very big deal both for him and his family members.  With this discontentment and dismay, the depressed salesman Willy Loman commits suicide (Shvoong.com).

Charley compares the salesman to a valiant, brave sailor, “out there in the blue (Spark Notes),” who is left with nothing to direct him and dominant forces against which he is supposed to compete.  He also points out the immense difference between the vastness of the salesman’s duty and the trifling tools with which he is prepared to do his duty: Willy actually was believed to have had only the flimsy smile on his face and buff of his shoe with which he had to sell himself.  Repeated breakdowns faded his smile and made his shoe filthy, which made it even harder to sell himself as a salesman.

Strangely, his obsession with the apparent qualities of charisma and likeability is probably with a more courageous and more gratifying understanding of the American Dream that recognizes hard work without criticism as the important key to success.  Willy Loman’s elucidation of likeability is apparent from the fact that he dislikes Bernard in a childish manner since he considers him to be a nerd.  In this book, it has been masterfully portrayed how the life of a salesman, who is dejected on his luck, unhappy with life, and at the end of his life, resorting to suicide as he perceives it to be the only way to cope with his shattered life.  The play is stunning and disastrous, magnificent and horrible, displaying the dichotomy of intuitive real life.

In conclusion, it can be said that the great American dream was initially about detection, uniqueness, and the quest of happiness.  The era of the 1920s was trouble-free wealth and comfortable communal values have resulted in the American dream getting extremely corrupted, particularly on the East Coast of the nation. The capacity to create significant symbols constitutes a vital constituent of the American dream, as the early Americans invested their brand new nation with their own individual principles and morals.

Works Cited

Shvoong.com. Summary of the Death of a Salesman. 15 September 2009. 26 December 2009 <http://www.shvoong.com/books/1874963-death-salesman/>.

Spark Notes. Character Analysis. 2009. 26 December 2009 <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/salesman/canalysis.html>.

08 Dec 2010

Sample Essay: The Crucible

Arthur Miller was born in Harlem, New York in 1915 to an illiterate Jewish father, Isidore Miller, and Augusta Barnett.  Despite being illiterate, his father’s business of manufacturing ladies wear and shoes was successful, giving the Millers a comfortable lifestyle.  However, the Depression had hit the business hard and forced the Millers to change their lifestyle.  They moved into a smaller house while Arthur had to work after high school in order to study in college.  His family’s circumstances propelled Miller into becoming a playwright.  He studied at the University of Michigan and won playwright of the year[1].

Miller was already an acclaimed playwright, having written Death of a Salesman, when he wrote The Crucible in 1953.  The Crucible was loosely based on the events that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 when people accused of witchcraft were brought to trial and those who did not confess to practising occult were hanged.  It did not matter if they were innocent or not.  Miller, however, wrote The Crucible not as a direct remembrance of man’s folly during that time but as allegory to the 1950s hysteria over communism[2]. During the 1950s, there was a general paranoia that communists were trying to dominate the country, the direct result of the Cold War era.  Even Miller was invited for questioning, which he refused to attend.  Senator Joseph McCarthy led the fervor and dramatic hunting of communists and their sympathizers in the U.S.  Miller was reminded of the Salem witch hunt that happened during the 17th century and wrote The Crucible to remind people that what was happening during their time was reminiscent of a period when suspicions and jealousy had wreaked the lives of many people[3].

Review

The Crucible was set in Salem, Massachusetts and the time was between 1692 and 1693.  Miller loosely based the story on the characters and event that became popularly known as the witch hunt that occurred in Salem during that period[4].  The characters and what happened to them were followed but Miller made his own interpretations and laced the story with his own twists in order to make it more dramatic to the audience.  It revolved around John Proctor and Abigail Williams, a scorned woman.  Events became easier to understand if someone was forced to do evil because her or his heart’s desire has been thwarted – such is the case of Abigail.  She lied because her ultimate goal was to get rid of Proctor’s wife.

The chaos all started when one of the girls who went to the forest to do some dancing collapsed due to fright after being surprised in the clearing by a reverend – only to wake up hysterical.  The hysteria could have been the result of fright or exhaustion but the people chose to interpret it differently.  This was unsurprising given the religious fervor of the Puritan era.  Proctor went to see the woman who collapsed but found himself confronted by Abigail.  Proctor refused her advances, which precipitated the entire witch hunt.  The whole thing would have been prevented if Proctor responded to Abigail’s schemes[5].

Abigail saw her opportunity to get back at Proctor for refusing her advances and to get rid of his wife, Elizabeth, in the process.  What her selfishness and pride accomplished was to put Proctor on the gallows rather than his wife.  On the surface, the chaos and the fateful events that followed merely resulted from the malice of the woman who had been rejected by her former lover.  It was revenge of a scorned woman.  The story, however, was not just about suspicions and jealousy but also about how fragile were the threads holding society intact.  Given the opportunity to take advantage of others, people in Salem were ready to point accusing fingers.  Thomas Putnam, for instance, wanted Giles Corey’s land, and used the witchcraft hunt as an opportunity to make Giles miserable by accusing his wife as a practitioner.  More, Giles did not just end losing his wife but he suffered the worst among those who were accused of witchcraft.  For trying to save his wife and to explain the motive of the accuser, Giles ended up being pressed by stone[6].  Despite the absence of any solid evidence, the judges were willing to hang people just because somebody has claimed them to be practitioners of witchcraft.  There were no questions asked about the likely motives of the accusers.  It was enough that they were accused to be communing with evil forces or dabbling with the occult.

The judges were an important part of the story because they held the fate of the accused in their hands.  In essence, the judges in the trial were not judges in how the term has come to be known in modern society.  They seemed not to have minds of their own; they seemed to have not known what critical thinking was all about[7].  Considering their choices of people to become judges, this was expected.  One of the judges was a maidservant, probably a woman who was highly superstitious.  Another judge was as ignorant and superstitious.  Worse, Judge Hathorne was sadistic.  It was ironic that to be saved from hanging, an accused should just accept to being one, like in the case of the slave Tituba[8].  The depiction of the judges – their ignorance, cruelty, superstition – was not something that Miller just made up.  He did not make them appear evil.  He simply gave them these traits because more reasonable and intelligent individuals would not have acted as naively or as unreasonably as they did[9].

Given the portrayal of the judges in this story, society was frightening as the voice of reason has been shelved.  Justice was a farce during this time.  The depiction of the character’s hopelessness was very evident, making the reader hope that some form of miracle would happen so that the nightmare that was happening to those people would somehow stop.  It was clear to the reader where the root of the problem started, yet, it was not resolved.  Abigail could have been exposed for the fraud that she was.  However, resolution of the problem was not possible because that would mean clearing the misunderstanding and exposing Abigail for what she has done and intended to do.  That would give the story a happier ending with no innocent people going to the gallows.  But Abigail and her friends had to escape and Proctor had to be hanged, otherwise, the story would not reflect the horror of the time and what actually happened in Salem in the 17th century.

Miller’s writing and portrayal of the evil nature of man was compelling and realistic.  He has an understanding of what truly drives people to do the things that would harm others. The author was known for his ability to portray the everyday reality of the American society in an unidealized manner.  He presented truth starkly without trying to dull its impact.  If society was foolish, he was able to present it without fear of hurting sensibilities.  If a man died a horrible death, he had no qualms writing about it.  If a man would die because justice was very much flawed, he would not hesitate to expose it.   Miller wanted people to understand and acknowledge that life was cruel and that society was deeply flawed; however, people can make it better by acting more sensibly and using more of his intellect rather than believe on superstitions.

In the case of the people who died during the witch hunt in Salem, Miller was able to make the emotional pain surface on the words of Proctor, as well as, the overwhelming anger of the men and women who were forced to confess to something they were not just to save themselves from being hanged.  Proctor’s wrath over the helplessness of his situation and of others was easy to guess from how the characters have spoken.  Proctor’s declaration of “it is enough!” showed in a few words the different emotions consuming him at the moment when he was supposed to be delivered from his sins[10].  The reader will easily imagine himself being on the shoes of the accused and feel the same emotions at the wrong and ridiculous allegations.  Danforth’s reaction to Proctor’s outburst was also reflective of how naïve society was in handling the situation.  Danforth and many other Puritans like him seriously believed that someone who dabbled in witchcraft would be saved if they confessed to the sin.  A modern person would be aghast at the naivety of Salem’s population and the prevalence of superstitions.  Yet, it is important to remember that America was young then.  The country was still trying to establish itself.

The Crucible, as a whole, is another representation of how Miller used his writing to raise social awareness.  He was an advocate of change and making people realize the folly of their ways.  For someone living in the modern times, the events in Salem were unbelievable but they happened.  It made people realize that society was very much capable of acting stupidly on its whims despite the fact their actions and beliefs ran contrary to what is reasonable, sensible, and intelligent.  The story was about an event that took place more than 200 years ago but its lessons and applications remained true at present.  The book should be read by the coming generations in order to keep its lessons fresh.

Description of History in the Book

The Crucible should not be read as a faithful recounting of the Salem witch hunt or a perfect allegory of the 1950s frenzy over communism.  Miller took liberties with the story and embellished it with his own ideas of what could have prompted men and women to point accusing fingers at others[11].  He delved into the motives of people and created heroes and villains to make the story more appealing to an audience.  Miller used real names of those who were involved in the trial and included real events but the facts were changed in many respects so that it becomes a work of fiction rather than of fact.

Personal Opinion

The Crucible, as a work of literature, is highly admirable.  It can make the reader want to put sense into the people who have been called upon to stand as judges to the accused individuals.  The story can make readers want to cry and beg people to be reasonable.  It was painful to think of Giles Corey being pressed to death even if it was only mentioned in passing; hanging was better than being pressed to death.  The people of Salem were brutal and cruel, all in the name of a twisted belief in a practice that was not even proven to have existed.  Ignorance and over zealotry are very dangerous when combined.  The Crucible is a good reminder to people to demand facts and evidence when being asked to make a judgment on anything.  It is folly to just take people’s words at face value.  Hopefully, society has gone a long way in treating the deviants of society.  Overall, I like the book for its literary value although I wanted a happier ending – one where the villainess will be served her just punishment.  However, this cannot be the case considering that it would change history and lessen the book’s impact.

Bibliography

Abbotson, Susan C.W.  Student Companion to Arthur Miller.  Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Budick, E. Miller.  “History and Other Spectres in The Crucible,” in Arthur Miller by Harold Bloom (ed.).  New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Martin, Robert A. and Bloom, Harold (ed.).  Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: Background and Source.  Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 1999.

Miller, Arthur.  The Crucible.  United States of America: Penguin Group, 1982.

Otten, Terry.  “The Crucible to a Memory of Two Mondays,” in The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri, 2002.


[1] Susan C.W. Abbotson, Student Companion to Arthur Miller (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000), 7.

[2] Abbotson, 1.

[3] Abbotson, 10.

[4] Robert A. Martin and Harold Bloom (ed.), Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: Background and Source (Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 1999), 55.

[5] Arthur Miller, The Crucible (United States of America: Penguin Group, 1982), 3.

[6] Miller, 49.

[7] Terry Otten, “The Crucible to a Memory of Two Mondays,” in The Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri, 2002), 60.

[8] Miller, 122.

[9] Martin and Bloom, 63

[10] Miller, 142.

[11] E. Miller Budick, “History and Other Spectres in The Crucible,” in Arthur Miller by Harold Bloom (ed.) (New York: Chealsea House, 1987), 127

17 Oct 2009

Essays on Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman is a play about a struggling family.  The main story is regarding the father Willy Loman, a failing salesman.  As his wife begs him to try and ask his boss to remain in New York, Willy begins to daydream regarding a younger time in his life.  His sons begin to talk about a job out in Alaska where they could make much more money.  Willy also begins to dream about his Mistress and hiding her from his family.  After the loss of his dismal excuse of a job, Willy snaps, driving off into the darkness of night.  Though it is never said what happened specifically, insinuation, built upon by a conversation over an insurance policy on Willy, is that Willy committed suicide for his family to obtain the insurance money.

Death of a Salesman is written by Arthur Miller.  Arthur Miller was born in New York City in 1915.  His playwright career started when he was still in college.  Death of a Salesman, written as a stage play in 1949, won Miller a Pulitzer Prize.  The main idea of the conflict in Death of a Salesman is believed to have come from the conflicted relationship between Miller and his Uncle Manny Newman.  It is said that the emotional trauma within the main character, Willy Loman, came from his Uncle Manny.

In the course of this play, it is revealed those once happy relationships between Willy Loman and his sons Biff and Happy have turned bitter.  The interactions between them over matters of money and opportunity show the rapid building of the story until the climactic moment of Willy’s suicide.  Also Willy’s connection with his wife and his Mistress gives us a deep understanding of the problems that he was having before his death.

Death of a Salesman, though focusing on the struggles of a single family, is considered to be a general indictment against free enterprise, and in a way it is.  More precisely, it is an indictment against individuals choosing a career based upon the expectations of others or upon the expectations of ever increasing income.  This is discussed by the survivors at the end of the play as the characters debate who or what is to blame for Willy’s death

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