Crucial Role of Women in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman Essay

Crucial Role of Women in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman Essay

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Crucial Role of Women in Death of a Salesman

 
In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, women play a crucial role in Willy’s life and in the lives of the other characters. While the roles themselves have not changed since the play was written, society’s opinion of these roles has changed greatly. When it was written, Miller’s representation of Linda was seen as a portrait of the ideal American wife. She was a nurturing wife and mother, loyal to her family, and almost overly supportive of her pitiful husband Willy. The other women in the play, however, were seen as “working women,” or women who care about money as opposed to emotional support.

This view has almost spun 180 degrees since the feminist movement rocked society. Critics rethought the role of women in society and in marriage (Murphy and Abbotson 6), and concluded that the women in the play are much more complex and powerful than earlier interpretations had given them credit for. Not only are the women a recreation for the men in the play, they can be seen as heavily influential on the lives of the men with whom they come into contact. Willy’s entire pathetic life could have been turned around if only Linda had encouraged him to follow Ben to Alaska rather than insisting the couple cling to the seemingly safe life they had begun to build. The secretaries, who at first glance seem to exist merely to perform such menial tasks as typing, actually are able to block Biff's and Willy's entrance to the offices of the powerful men who could advance their careers. (Stanton 131)

In addition to being far more powerful than early critics of the play recognized, the women in Death of a Salesman also are far more complex. Women are not simply good or bad - supportive wive...


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...Works Cited and Consulted:

Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Harold Bloom, ed. New York: Chelsea House, 1988.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. 50th Anniversary ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.

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 Understanding Death of a Salesman: A Student Handbook to Cases, Issues and Historical Documents.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.

Stanton, Kay. "Women in Death of a Salesman" Readings on Death of a Salesman. Ed. Thomas Siebold. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1999. 130-137.

Guth, Hans P. and Gabriel L. Rico.  1993.  Discovering Literature.  "Tragedy and the Common Man" by Arthur Miller.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Oakley, J. Ronald. God's Country: America in the Fifties. New York: Dembner Books, 1990. 245.

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