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In Arthur Miller’s work of drama, Death of a Salesman, conflicts within an ordinary nuclear family arise and manifest into more serious issues as the play progresses. However, Miller also manages to highlight a much larger issue within the plot- the pursuit of the American Dream in relation to issues regarding values vs. American capitalism.
Blogger and literary analyst, Brett Correman explains “Death ofa Salesman explores the world of post-war America and the effect that America’s new found prosperity had on men.
During the 1950s, men began to feel pressured to not ust provide for their family but to also give them the luxuries that society was coming to believe every household was entitled to. Every family deserved a house with a picket fence, a new car in the garage, and all the newest appliances to make life easier.
Advertisers pitched the idea that the American Dream was in reach of every man. Yet the reality then, as it is now, is that strenuously reaching to keep up with the Joneses can stretch a family perilously thin.
Unfortunately, Willy Loman bought into the idea and he let it destroy him and his family. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to provide nice things for your family; Willy Just went about it all wrong. ” Miller charges America with selling a false myth constructed around a capitalist materialism nurtured by the postwar economy, a materialism that obscured the personal truth and moral vision of the original American Dream described by the countrys founders (Sparknotes.
om) In the play, the protagonist Willy Loman is a salesman in his sixties who has been a loyal employee at the Wagner Company over the past thirty-four years. Though his Job reflects his monotonous life, he is a clear- cut example of the phrase, “Get rich or die trying. ” One may agree with me in saying that Willys character seems lazy in achieving the American Dream though he shows great passion in wanting to achieve it. Willy believes in achieving the Dream by popularity like his neighbor Charleys son Bernard who is actually popular because of his strides in academia.
Willy also tries to live the Dream through the life of his own son, Biff, who actually has a different approach to living his American Dream which nclude freeing himself from his father’s idealistic expectations and becoming his own man. Within the play, various literary elements were explored but the end of the play (pages 81- 107) showed three distinct elements that helped to make the plot clearer for the modern day individual to understand. The first element was the thematic concerns of the final act which included Dreams vs.
Reality and The Effects of Capitalism. The first theme of Dreams vs. Reality seems to be overplayed in this work of drama but it is portrayed by the impression that Mr. Loman is losing his mind for example, he has a long intimate conversation with his dead brother Ben as he plans to end his life in the denouement. Stage directions help to enhance this scene as the character of Ben’s “ghost” appears in the garden where Willy is, “He breaks off as Ben appears at the right and moves slowly down to him. However, one may be able to state that here the voice of Ben acts as Willys conscience in that as Willy justifies the need to end his life for Biff to reap the savings of the life insurance while Ben objects by remarking “It’s called a cowardly thing William. ” As the play draws closer to the end the character of Ben argues with Willy insisting that he is making a terrible decision. Willy never fully comes to terms with reality as he lives in his dreams which range from his self-delusion that he has achieved great things at work or his past that he revisits during his frequent flashbacks.
His dreams are so far stretched from reality that critic, Brett Correman states that it is ultimately “Willy Loman’s denial of reality that leads to his downfall. The theme of the Effects of Capitalism is also one that has been embodied by the entire plot of the play but more so in the last act as it shows what the actual pressures of the Western World has degraded a man into becoming- depressed, uneasy and helpless. In a statement to Ben, Willy is able to capture the real effect of capitalism to the reader, “Oh Ben, how do we get back to all the great times?
Used to be so full of light….. always some kind of good news coming up…. ” This describes the past, in Willys younger days before he made this Dream a life goal. This theme identifies with even the modern day reader as the majority of the working class still strives for materialistic gains to achieve ultimate happiness even if in that process, more discomfort occurs. The second literary element in this play is symbolism.
This literary device is recurrent throughout the play especially toward the end as again the ongoing conflict between Willy and Biff is expressed through Biff having to withstand his father’s negative comments toward his life choices. One example of this is the insult mfou’re no good, you’re no good for anything. Though it is in context with the argument about Oliver’s pen, the audience is aware that Willy is blatantly referring to his discontentment with his son not allowing him to live out his dream through him (BifO.
This symbolizes modern day life when parents push their children to get the best out of formal education so as to achieve the goals they themselves were unable to in their youth. However, if the child’s dreams differ from that of the parent’s, serious conflicts arise leading to a breakdown in the household. Another aspect of symbolism in this play is the name f protagonist, Willy Loman. The name Loman is of Irish origin and means “small bare one”. This in itself says a lot about Willys life and his financial state.
His name in the literal form too, gives the reader the idea that he belongs to the lower social class. Ben’s ghost is another symbolic element that helps readers to understand not only Willys deteriorating mental state but to mirror his character’s dream of becoming rich like his brother to his reality of being a salesman. The last element of symbolism in the play is Willys funeral. The fact that only his family attended the funeral shows ow worthless he lived his life. The small group of people even paying their respects is probably only present because he was their husband and father.
Furthermore, it symbolizes how the modern world lives- working everyday trying to achieve materialistic gains, wanting to be popular and forgetting things that really matter such as family life. In the end you end up with neither. The third literary element is dramatic irony. The first instance of this is at the end of play where Willys funeral is described as “a cruel and pathetic end to the salesman’s life. Only his family and Charley attend, while none of his other customers, friends, or colleagues bothers to pay their respects. Even Linda in the requiem addresses the irony of his small funeral by asking “But where are all the people he knew? ” This alone clarifies that Willys self-acclaimed popularity was conjured in his own mind, in a way to cope with his mediocre lifestyle. The last ironic element occurs when Linda claims that she has made the final payment on the home that Willy has worked so hard to pay for but he ends his life Just as a sense of financial security is made possible for them after his hirty-five years of working, therefore, depriving himself of the results of his years of dedicated toil and service to the Wagner Company.
Citations: “Death ofa Salesman. ” Sparknotes. com. 1 November 2013 Correman, Brett. “Lessons in Unmanliness: Willy Loman. ” Theartofmanliness. com. 1 November 2013 Ross, Jeremy. Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “Death of a Salesman Study Guide : Summary and Analysis of Requiem”. GradeSaver, 06 June 2009 Web. 6 November 2013 “Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Study Guide: Conflict”. PinkMonkey, 5 July 2007 web. 7th 2013