In modern society, most Americans own an automobile. In the wealthier households, a family of four may own as many as three to four automobiles, one for each driver living in the house. However, the automobile has not always been a staple of living in America. In the 1940s, a family with an automobile was considered well-to-do, as well as wealthy and hard-working. It is during this time period that Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, is set. Miller gives the reader a glimpse into the life of Willy Loman, and in doing so provides an intriguing insight into the common American family of the time. Willy Loman is the everyman, constantly pursuing the “American Dream.” Part of the “American Dream” constitutes owning an automobile, which the Lomans do. However, the importance of the automobile in this play reaches far beyond ownership. In the first scene it is addressed when Willy’s wife Linda asks him worriedly if he has smashed the car. In the closing scene, Willy commits suicide by smashing his car into a tree. In Death of a Salesman, the automobile plays a major role, functioning both as a symbol and a tangible manifestation of the “American Dream.”
In the opening lines of Death of a Salesman, Linda Loman worries that something has “happened” to her husband Willy. After Willy assures her that “nothing happened,” Linda asks, “You didn’t smash the car did you?”. This initial exchange sets up the significant role the automobile will have in the events of the play. In Linda’s mind, she instinctively makes the leap from a problem with Willy to a problem with the automobile. Although she is anxious about the state of the family car, Linda is not a materialistic or s...
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...n depicts another outmoded character in a society on the brink of great social change.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Lhannon, Jr., W. T. Deliberate Speed: The Origins of a Cultural Style in the American 1950s. Washington: Smithsonian Inst. P., 1990.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Viking P, 1966.
Oakley, J. Ronald. God’s Country: America in the Fifties. New York: Dembner Books, 1990. 245.
Murphy, Brenda and Susan C. W. Abbotson. Understanding Death of a Salesman: A Student Handbook to Cases, Issues and Historical Documents. The Greenwood Press “Literature in Context” series, Claudia Durst Johnson, series editor. Westwood, CT, London: 1999.
Guth, Hans P. and Gabriel L. Rico. 1993. Discovering Literature. “Tragedy and the Common Man” by Arthur Miller. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
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