Experiencing, Interpreting, and Evaluating Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman'

Experiencing, Interpreting, and Evaluating Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman'

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Death of a Salesman is a play about a man named Willy Loman who is an aging sales man that has difficulty remembering events, as well as distinguishing the present from his memories. Willy has always tried to live up to the “American Dream,” but unfortunately has failed miserably as a salesman and a father. Willy still having high hopes of the dream tries to live his life through his oldest son Biff, who has turned out to be just as big as a failure. Biff uncovers the truth behind his father’s lies and Willy being tormented by his failures starts to spiral downward. The thoughts of having failed as a salesman and father finally lead Willy to take his own life. In order to understand a play like this one you need to use a strategy in approaching it. One valid approach to any type of literature is to experience, interpret, and evaluate it.
Experiencing a play means to allow it to make an impression for the reader, for him or her to observe the characters and create emotions, get a better understanding of the situation that is occurring in the play, and allows the readers to form opinions. Many times during the play we come to realize that Willy drifts in and out of flashbacks. Most of these occur during the period when Biff was in high school, and foreshadow the events of the present. For example, in one of the flashbacks, Biff “borrows” a football from the locker room and is told by Willy, “Coach will probably congratulate you on your initiative.” Obviously, Willy tries to justify Biff’s behavior in addition to his own. In the same flashback Willy asks Biff, “What do they say about you in school, now that they made you captain?” Willy proudly hears that Biff has a crowd of followers, and is well on his way to becoming well-liked ...


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...and allow harmful activities. “I never told him anything but decent things,” Willy says with grief and regret. Like his brother, Happy is also misguided. He grew up in the shadow of his brother, and attempts to mask his self-esteem issues by surrounding himself with women.
Death of a Salesman is a play of tragedy because it tells of disappointment, failure, and death. Ultimately, Willy wastes his adult years trying to prove his worth but is very unsuccessful in everything he does. He has a misguided vision of what life should be that he passes on to his two children, and can no longer distinguish between reality and illusion. This play teaches good morals, values, and that personality can only get you so far in life. We come to understand this by experiencing, interpreting, and evaluating the play, which is a good strategy in approaching any work of literature.




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