Examine how the theme of the past is portrayed in 'Beloved' and 'The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar'. Show a detailed, critical understand...

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The theme of the past is a key aspect of 'Beloved' and the 'Selected Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar' as the narrators, in both texts, have a nostalgic perception of the many years that have passed, whether the memories are pleasant or grim they are reflected upon with – at the very least – a hint of admiration alongside a deep longing to return to the past. Similarly, in Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman', the tragic hero, Willy Loman, is also constantly drifting back into the past to when his sons were ambitious young men and he was a successful businessman. 'Beloved' was set after the American Civil War in 1873, where many black people were heavily mistreated and suffered long and gruelling years of slavery. The novel was written in 1987, but the author was able to capture the hopes and dreams of most Black Americans whilst simultaneously criticising the treatment they received at the hands of a racist society. Paul Laurence Dunbar also uses the same context in his work, again depicting the longing to be freed from a past life of slavery, which is particularly conveyed in his 'Invitation to Love'. Contrastingly, in 'Death of a Salesman' Willy also yearns for the people of his past, such as Ben Loman, his older brother, who was his role model of success for himself and his sons. In 1945, World War 2 had ended and left American citizens financially very well off and by 1949, agriculture became a difficult job as the Government was more interested in co-operate farms, thus providing a new American Dream; working in high-end businesses to gain a large salary and a respected status. This was Willy Loman's dream, however Arthur Miller used his protagonist to portray how competitive and cut-throat the business world was and how emplo...

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...did through his poems. Although the themes of slavery, past and longing were depicted in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poems, he provided a different aspect in each one; portraying ‘A Drowsy Day’ of a lonely reminiscent narrator, who was trapped in their confined home as well as their mind, being unable to escape from the constant swirl of memories. He uses ‘An Old Memory’ to convey the past as positive and full of hope, although disappointed by his present day, the past remained to have a ‘subtle charm’ – contrastingly in ‘Sympathy’, the poet describes the past as ‘cruel’, thus portraying it in a more dark and unwelcome light. Arthur Miller portrays the past as full of regret for Biff, but also of ambition for his father. All of these texts portrayed the past as a place where identity was stronger, however it could be argued that the past was where slaves had no identity.

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