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Miller's Critique of American Society in "Death of a Salesman" Essay

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In Death of a Salesman Miller offers a critique of American society. What is this critique and how is it conveyed to the audience?

In Death of a Salesman Miller explores and exposes modern American society in a brutal and scathing manner. His analysis and critique is conveyed clearly to the audience concluding that society is based on a corrupt and immoral capitalist dream. Miller implies this through the Loman family and their struggle to survive and compete. Techniques Miller employs to illustrate this are symbolism, characters and structure.
Capitalism had an effect on every aspect of the 1940s’ American society. McCarthy witch hunts were rife and creating a fear of communism, many American artists and authors felt disenchanted by society as their individualism was under threat. The play was written and performed post WWII, in a period where everyone was anxious and worried on a daily basis. The audience knew they were living in a capitalist country where everyone was out for themselves however Miller was one of the first dramatists to confront and display a working-class family struggling in the face of cruel and heartless business society. Such criticism of American society was rare during this period however Miller still presents us with a scathing criticism of modern American values.
In Death of a Salesman the realization that Willy cannot accomplish the American Dream becomes apparent to the audience from an early stage in the play and is consistent throughout the play. The incident that defines this is when Willy gets fired. In the morning Willy says “I will get the job and won’t be on the road anymore.” He strides in to Howard’s office with purpose and hope but soon that is shattered. Howard clearly sees Willy as...


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...lly immediately jumps to the conclusion that because they have tennis court and play tennis –a posh game- they have to be wealthy, pleasant people when he hasn’t even met them but the simple fact about playing tennis. Willy and the audience know in a capitalist environment means his friends have accomplished the American Dream.
A capitalist structure clearly defines that you have to do anything to get to the top. The society is uncaring, ruthless and pressures people to reach unrealistic aspirations. “You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruit.” Miller represents this as the capitalist society fault; once they have the best out of Willy, they “spit” him out and leave him with nothing. The audience recognizes this and Miller’s critique is conveyed clearly through Death of a Salesman by the use of symbols, character and setting.


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