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The Multifaceted Themes and Symbols in Miller's Play, Death of a Salesman

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Arthur Miller, the author of the play Death of a Salesman, proposes the idea that even an ordinary person can have major tragedies happen to him or her. When something bad happened to the individuals, who were mostly royalty, as portrayed in the great Greek and great Shakespearean tragedies, it affected the whole country. The ordinary person with a commonplace background, however, playing the major role in a tragedy, is a reformation of the older masterpiece, now tuned for modern readers and viewers. The title, which is a clever way to introduce this modern tragedy, gives away that it is not going to be a happy play. Similar to its precursors, the play conveys key morals, such as the evil of lying, the requisite of facing reality, the consequences of stealing, the values of honesty, the necessity of learning skills so that an individual can financially support himself or herself, and the obligation to show respect to parents even on the premise that they are not perfect. The play asks questions such as what qualities it takes to be successful in America, what the right lessons are that parents should teach their children, and how one’s relationship to family affects that person’s success, which altogether affects the quality of a person’s life.
Willy Loman is an everyman character. He is neither a superhero, nor perfect, but on the contrary, he is an average ordinary person. He strikes me as aloof to the reality of his own tragedy. He does not want to deal with how things really are. His sons did not turn out well, and when he loses his job, his sons cannot take care of him. Willy cannot effectively deal with either the domestic tragedy of his son’s inability to live decently, or the tragedy related to capitalism when ...


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...ly five people show up. The ending of Willy’s life is not what I would wish for myself. It’s a sad reality that during his life, Willy never realistically invested himself in others. As I believe, the most important role in life is to be a stepping stone for future generations, and in that manner to become part of the grand plan of the Creator God. Willy’s loss even over his own son’s moral upbringing is an indicator that he did not invest himself in them. He may have earned money, but he never became a true friend to his sons. It is a theme with which I can closely identify, as a lesson that these character can teach me. The larger themes that they represent are vital to everyday life, not just as a form of entertainment. Arthur Williams effectively conveys these larger themes, and writes one of the most important modern tragedies in the present time.


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