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Essay on The Tragedy of EveryMan in Death of a Salesman

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The Tragedy of EveryMan in Death of a Salesman


 
   "Will you take that phony dream and burn it before something happens?"

"I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money; his name was never in the paper; he's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid ... Attention, attention, must be finally paid to such a person." from Death of a Salesman

 

Only in America. The American Dream. Much is made in our society of the "pursuit of the American Dream." But just what is that dream? And is it one worth pursuing? This is part of what Miller is asking us to look at in Death of a Salesman. But it manages to succeed on levels much deeper than just the social and political. It is actually rather amazing to consider how powerfully, what is perhaps our most American of plays, speaks to countries of different economic systems all over the world. It has been said that the play has been "played before a native audience in a small Arctic village with the same villagers returning night after night to witness the performance in a language they did not understand." Clearly more is at work than simply a challenging look at the dark underbelly of the capitalistic system. In fact, it succeeds on three distinct levels - the individual, the societal, and the universal. Much like rings of concentric circles - starting with Willy at its center, which opens and connects to his family, which open and connects to society and ultimately all of mankind.

 

In terms of American society the play asks us to take a deeper look at some of the myths we honor and hold dear. On the surface nothing could seem wrong with valuing the pr...


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...s. "Death of a Salesman: Arthur Miller's Tragedy of an Ordinary Man." New York Times. 20, February 1949.

 

Broussard, Louis. American Drama. University of Oklahoma Press, 1962. pp. 116-121.

 

Downer, Alan S. American Drama and Its Critics. Chicago, University of Chicago Press [1965]. pp. 218-239.

 

Houghton, Norris The Exploding Stage. New York, Weybright and Talley [1971]. pp. 59-67.

 

Laufe, Abe. Anatomy of a Hit. New York, Hawthorn Books, 1966. pp. 185-189.

Leaska, Mitchell A. The Voice of Tragedy. New York, R. Speller [1964, c1963]. pp. 273-278.

 

Miller, Arthur.  Death of a Salesman.  New York: Viking, 1965.

 

Martin, Robert A., ed. Arthur Miller.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

 

Vogel, Dan The Three Masks of American Tragedy. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press [1974]. pp. 91-102.


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