Literary Criticism In Death Of A Salesman By Arthur Miller

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Literary background Death of a Salesman was written in 1949 in the period of literary realism (Na). In this play, Miller also integrated naturalism and expressionism. Expressionism is seen in the work because Willy sees not only reality, but also his past and he sees his brother Ben who is dead (Hoeveler). Willy imagines that his death will cause his son to praise him because through the insurance policy, the family would receive a sum of money to provide for themselves, but in reality, Linda, Biff, and Happy, wish that he wouldn’t have done that. Miller wanted Death of a Salesman to imitate a Greek Tragedy. In most Greek and Shakespearean Tragedies, the tragedy begins because of a flaw of the protagonist and in the end, the protagonist either…show more content…
The play appears to be similar to the story of Oedipus written by Sophocles. Both Oedipus and Willy don’t really realize who they are until the end of the story (Perry). When Oedipus realizes that he killed his father and married his mother, he blinded himself and sent himself into exile. When Willy realized he was a failure after Howard fired him, he decided to kill himself because he had no other way to provide for his family. Arthur Miller was largely influenced by three writers, Bertolt Brecht, Henrik Ibsen, and George Bernard Shaw. Brecht would try to tell stories from a Marxist perspective and he always wanted the audience to be able to engage with what was happening on stage. Brecht also ended most of his plays in trial scenes in which the themes of the play and their political inferences would be argued. Shaw expressed his many social concerns in his plays. Ibsen scandalized subjects such as suicide, feminism, and marital infidelity in “plays of vivid psychological realism” (“Miller’s Influences.”). Both suicide and marital infidelity are discussed in…show more content…
The war increased the industrial production, leading to an economic boom which brought about the beginning of materialism (“Historical Context for Death of a Salesman.”). The economy shifted from being producer oriented to being consumer oriented. While life seemed good for the middle and upper classes, poorer citizens and small farmers were hit hard. Poorer citizens were affected because the boom kept them from saving money and small farmers faced difficult times because most government policies benefitted larger, corporate farmers. In this time the lowest paid were migrant farmers, sales clerks, and unskilled laborers. The play wasn’t written in the time of the Great Depression or even published during that time, but Miller still integrates it into his book, by including the idea of the American Dream and by also making Willy recall his younger years. Arthur Miller integrates the American Dream into his story by showing how it failed to manifest. Willy never becomes successful and cannot rise above his circumstances, and Biff had dreams to play football in college and he never graduated high school, began to steal things, and only wanted to work as a ranch
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