Arthur Miller's Death Of a Salesman Exposes Morals and Values of American Culture
Length: 1075 words (3.1 double-spaced pages)
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Arthur Miller's play, "Death Of a Salesman" is a very elaborate play that tells the story of a man's dream to achieve greatness from nothing. It almost seems to make fun of American society's competitive nature, "Imagine? When the mail comes he'll be ahead of Bernard again!" Willy(1215)
The title "Death Of a Salesman" leaves nothing to the imagination of how this play ends. Indeed this is a story about the noble, cowardly death of Willy Loman, a traveling salesman.
Arthur Miller used the efficient idea of using flashbacks to allow the play to take place within a few days instead of years. Willy Loman as the central character, lives with his wife, Linda and has two sons, Biff (elder) and Happy.
Willy Loman who is quite literally a "low man" has so many personality traits accurate to real life, this is no surprise since Miller based Willy's character on his uncle, Manny Newman. Miller said, "That homely, ridiculous little man had after all never ceased to struggle for a certain victory, the only kind open to him in society - selling to achieve his lost self as a man with his name and his son's name on a business of his own"
Willy was defiantly in a struggle however, he was certainly not in a struggle to convince himself he was doing better than he really was, "I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own." Willy (1165).
Willy Loman did not want to die, he went to Ben to seek approval of what he thought would please the family"...Ben, I want you to go through the ins and outs of this thing with me. I've got nobody to talk to, Ben, and the woman has suffered, you hear me?" Willy (1210) He also proved this with his many "near incidents" and the rubber pipe. According to "Suicide:The facts and myths" by Judi Marks, "Attempted suicides are a sorrowful form of communication, but they're also trial runs for the final event."
Anyone who commits suicide actually does not want to die and reality, just wants a solution to end their problems or pains. In this case Willy's problem was he thought he was so well-liked by society, however what he wanted most was for his sons to like him, and for his wife to not have to suffer his torment anymore.
His suicide could have been prevented.
John mason Brow said, "miller's play is a tragedy modern, and personal, not classic; its central figure is a little man sentenced to discover his smallness rather than a big man undone by his greatness." This Is an excellent point, Willy was so sure of himself being so well-liked and having personal attractiveness. He believes he is so successful and thinks so highly of himself. However Willy keeps getting closer and closer to realizing he is not a great as he thought. The more he knows this the more closer to death he is. The quote uses the term "sentenced" which is a very accurate word implying Willy is being passed judgment on, he is being banished from society for life as they all leave him behind, alone and isolated. Starting with Howard taking his job away, then Biff and Happy leaving him behind in the restaurant, and finally Linda went to bed when she could have seen that Willy was going to kill himself and instead she should have stayed with him and encouraged him.
The play can be seen from 2 points of view regarding Willy. Willy could be a hero or he could be a pathetic fool with no achievements.
Willy can be seen as a a pathetic fool because he could not make his success in life so he had to play make-believe as if a child. "He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong." Biff (1216) Eventually when life gets hard and he realizes what an inconvenience he really is, he kills himself. It is a quick escape from his problems.
When Willy died he expected to have a huge memorial just like the Dave Singlman character he so admired. When Willy was discussing with Ben what he should do he describes what his funeral might be as being exactly like he described Daves, "...he thinks I'm nothing, see,, and so he spites me. But the funeral--Ben, that funeral will be massive! They'll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! ...That boy will be thunder struck, Ben, because he never realized--I am known! Ben, and he'll see it with his own eyes once and for all. He'll see what I am,..." Willy (1210)
Willy as a hero comes in place, Happy said at Willy's funeral, "...I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. he had a good dream. It's the only dream you can have--to come out number-one man. he fought it out here..." (1216) When it is obvious that Willy only killed himself to free his family of his burden and to provide Biff a chance at business success. It was a sacrifice, he gave up his life to give freedom and hope to his family. "We're free...We're free" Linda (1217)
According to "The Family Constellation" by Alfred Alder, Happy really takes his place in the play. "A second child...tends to compete more aggressively for attention and the feeling of self-worth that goes with it. The second child often avoids areas where the first one has succeeded, and often succeeds where the first one has failed." In the end at the restaurant scene when Biff knew he could not follow Willy and his version of success, Happy took the part with no hesitations, he started lying, creating a bit of a dream world, going off with women (a parallel to Willy's adultery), he even told the women that he did not know who the rambling man was, it was his father. Unfortunately Happy is doomed to repeat his father's mistakes.
"Death of a Salesman" shows both family and society conflicts. It is most effective when looked at as exposing society. It causes you to evaluate the morals and values of this culture. It reminds us that what we prioritize and hold most important can cause irreversible damage to the ones we hold dear. The play is depressing, but a truthful reflection of our materialistic society.