27 Aug 2011

Essay Topic: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

‘Death of a Salesman’ is the complete life history of Willy Loman, who was a salesman by profession living in Brooklyn. The presentation style of the author ‘Arthur Miller’ is so rich that the whole play gives an impression of playing live before our eyes. The whole story revolves around Willy Loman and his family, which includes his wife ‘Linda’ and his two sons ‘Biff Loman and Happy Loman’. The general perception about this play is that it is a tragic piece of literature; however, the comprehensive analysis of this play imparts a different approach because the theory of Willy Loman about gaining success for happily living was quite fussy and rusty in its nature. His stumbling nature made him resistant to adopt the flexible philosophy of life for coping with the modern social world and his dogmatism eventually leaded him to take a suicide like coward step, in spite of his caring wife. The moral of the story is that egoism and stubbornness never leads to success.
The author has concluded that Willy’s character cannot be quoted as a tragic hero because tragedy requires some incidents or natural flaws incurred to the tragic heroes. Bradford also appreciates the attempt to become a tragic hero but also criticizes the senile attitude of Willy. Though Arthur Miller has endorsed the same notions and philosophies in this play but it will be still difficult to decide as the author has shown concerns about that at the end of this review analysis. Arthur Miller seems to describe the vagueness of typical American society. At the same time, the main character ‘Willy’ gives different outlook as in the other plays. Willy stands for the American dreamy world and also reflects the real issues that the Americans are facing due to illusionistic ideas. In other words, the protagonist of this play was living in a dreamy world and was obsessed with obnoxious anti-Marxist ideas. The major rationale behind his failure of life was his unrealistic philosophy of life that contributed mainly for compelling him for suicide. Willy was highly obsessed with the concepts of conservatism and arrogance. His egoism and erroneousness has leaded him to make multiple suicidal attempts and finally, he succeeded in killing himself. His whole life, as sketched by Arthur Miller, described his inflexible nature towards the changing societal values and also shows his typical nature as is usually of an American middleman. Hence, he should have more pragmatic approach to gain access to his dreams and to compete with modern societal challenges (Bradford, About.com).
‘Death of a Salesman’ is composed of three main sections that are Act I, Act II and Requiem. The play starts with Act I, which includes also the opening scene of the play presenting the true picture of a middle-class American, named Willy Loman, who was a resident of Brooklyn in the New York City and was a sixty three year old traveling salesman. After a non-productive routine official tour, his wife ‘Linda’ shows her deep concerns on his tiresome facial expressions, which denotes her supportive nature for her husband. At this point, the author, Arthur Miller, seems to be well-acquainted with strong matrimonial emotions. Willy’s today was completely different from his hopes and dreams that were not atypical from the middle-class American dream. Willy’s two sons, Biff and Happy, were also back to his home at that day. Willy criticized Biff on coming back to home after such a long period of 15 years with no cash in hand. On the other side, these two brothers found their father as an absent-minded person in his old age. They also ridiculed their father in a sense that he could not cope with societal changes (Bradford, About.com).
Willy has displayed arrogant and obstinate nature throughout his whole life. The lack of parenting skills has also produced flaws in his personality that has been presented by author at various scenes of the play. While, taking Willy back to his past, the author described his unethical parental coaching to his son on his act of stealing a football because he did not react to him in an expected manner. The author has also described the romantic nature of Willy, when the love-affair of Willy was described during a scene of the play. These all thoughts of Willy were disturbed, when his neighbor, Bernard, complained about the educational illness of Biff on which Willy got short-tempered and started searching for Biff with intensive aggravation and this scene was also the closure of flashback (Bradford, About.com).
In another scene, the author has described the ideal of Willy who was Willy’s own rich brother, named Ben. Ben used to extract diamond in the jungles of Africa and Willy also remembered his proposal to join him in this venture, but Willy did not accept his proposal. Here, Miller has again indicated his egoistic nature. Retaining the same depressive emotions, Willy started to daunt Happy for his obsessed thinking. In the mean time, his next-door neighbor Charlie came into his home who was an owner of a sales-firm. During playing cards, Charlie offered him to join his firm, but he again declined here and even insulted him. His nature of conservatism and arrogance leaded him to his failure and eventually to suicide. Here, Willy has idolized his father also to an extent, assuming that he was a rich and successful man (Bradford, About.com).
Biff was quite confused to see his father’s awkward attitude and also queried her mother about his state of mind for its duration. Here, Linda, Willy’s wife, proved herself as a loyal wife and accused them to be the sole cause of his current insanity. Here, she also tried to convince them for being responsible by telling them about his suicidal attempts. She also appreciated her husband’s effort to make them able for keep pace with social needs. After listening his mother’s lecture, Biff promised his mother for gratifying his father in the future. During an argumentative conversation between Biff and Happy, they began to investigate the underlying reason behind the failure of Biff in the business world and in the meanwhile, Willy joined this discussion. On his entrance, Happy tried to please his father by presenting the plan of Biff that he was going to his ex-employer for requesting loan and Biff also reluctantly confirmed this statement, even Biff was not ready to go for it. This plan presentation made Willy smile, which shows here his greedy nature. However, at the end of this scene, there was again a conflict between two brothers (Bradford, About.com).
Willy seems to be well-equipped with the elements of arrogance and egoism. In the same evening, Biff was also carrying a bad news for Willy because he could finalize his deal with his ex-boss. Then, Happy tried to convince Biff to make a bluff with Willy so as to please him, but Biff was again reluctant in doing so. When Willy arrived, Biff started to tell the whole story, but Happy was again and again interrupting him so as to distract him from the truth. Willy left the dining table. On their return to home, Linda castigated their behavior with their father. Then, the climax of the play came when Willy drove his car into death. The last section described the funeral ceremony of Willy (Home Work Online).
Bradford believes also that Willy was the self motif behind his failure because he could not walk with contemporary society. The author also indicates that his suicide attempt was only meant for insurance company which has become common in the middle-class Americans. The author has also concluded that Willy’s character cannot be quoted as a tragic hero because tragedy requires some incidents or natural flaws incurred to the tragic heroes. Bradford also appreciates the attempt to become a tragic hero but also criticizes the senile attitude of Willy. Through Arthur Miller has endorsed the same notions and philosophies in this play but it will be still difficult to decide as the author has shown concerns about that at the end of this review analysis. Arthur Miller seems to describe the vagueness of typical American society. At the same time, the main character ‘Willy’ gives different outlook as in the other plays. Willy stands for the American dreamy world and also reflects the real issues that the Americans are facing due to illusionistic ideas (Bradford, About.com).
Arthur Miller has used various themes in this work; however, the major thematic expression is the American Dream. As the protagonist of this play belongs to a middle-class, this play reflects the overwhelming ideology of the American society. Similarly, abandonment is another thematic expression of this play which is quite vivid in the Willy’s character. Willy Loman has been observed as the character with frequent and subsequent denials and deviations from the truths. He has been in a state of continuous abandonment throughout the whole play. Loman has been in a state of confusion because he never tried to understand what he really wanted to be. Arthur Miller has used various motifs in this play among which mythic figure is an important aspect. Thus, Arthur Miller has been found a person with a strong vision of the Western world (Sparknotes, Analysis of Willy Loman).
Conclusively, it would not be righteous to label this play as a tragic play because Willy was highly obsessed with the concepts of conservatism and arrogance. His whole life, as sketched by Arthur Miller, described his inflexible nature towards the changing societal values and also shows his typical nature as is usually of an American middleman. His dreams were quite opposite to his actions. But the work of the author is undeniably realistic because Arthur Miller has selected the American Dream as the topic of this play in order to present the flaws and dilemmas prevalent in the middle-class society of the America. From the perspective of socio-economic theory, as illustrated by Mandel, Marxism is a flexible philosophy for accommodating contemporary changes in the social and economic system of the modern world. The protagonist of this play was living in a dreamy world and was obsessed with obnoxious anti-Marxist ideas. The major rationale behind his failure of life was his unrealistic philosophy of life.

Works Cited

Bradford, W. “Death of a Salesman- Review”. About.com. 06 Aug. 2011

Home Work Online. 06 Aug. 2011 < http://www.homework-online.com/doas/index.asp>

Mandel, E. An Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory. Australia: Resistance Books, Chippendale NSW 2008. 2002.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Viking Press: New York. 1949.

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