Death of a Salesman

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Willy Loman’s character can be perceived as a ‘worthless commodity in a capitalist society’ or as ‘an ordinary man’. Making close reference to the play, evaluate these two interpretations and assess what you think Miller was trying to show through his character.

The 1949 Arthur Miller play, ‘Death of a Salesman’ gave birth to Willy Loman, a man obsessed with living life to achieve the American Dream unfortunately Willy did not achieve the Dream however he could never accept that. As his life went on Willy developed mental health issues which continued to deteriorate, he kept having flashbacks of times when his life was working and he was a healthy and happy man. Willy and his wife Linda had two sons; Biff and Happy, they couldn’t be more different, Happy followed his fathers failed ambitions and succeeded however Biff rebelled against his father choosing to go his own way.

The playwright Arthur Miller was born in 1915 and grew up during the American Depression which lead to many once successful businesses becoming bankrupt and America saw an economic crisis. Death of a Salesman, Miller’s most famous work, has many similarities to his own life and it can be seen that Arthur Miller used his life experiences as a building block for the play. The Miller family lead quite a poor life during Arthur’s childhood, his father provided the whole income through his women’s clothes shop which was one of the businesses that became bankrupt due to the Wall Street Crash. In 1938 Miller was offered his dream job, a scriptwriter for 21st Century Fox, however Miller turned down the offer. This is very similar to the scene where Charley offers Willy a job however Willy turns it down. For a short time in his life Miller worked as a Salesman which of course is the main stem of the play. On August 5, 1940 he married Mary Slattery, the daughter of a Salesman, they then had two children, Jane and Robert. Robert grew up to become a director, producer and writer, it’s unknown what profession Jane was in. This again links back to the play as only one of Willy’s son’s was in the spotlight and allowed to follow his dreams. During his marriage to Mary, Miller had an affair with Marilyn Monroe. This is yet another strong reference to the play as Willy had an affair with the woman. Arthur Miller has won many awards for his works, such as the Pulitzer Prize and the Critics Award both for Death of a Salesman. He has been a prominent and iconic figure in American Literature and cinema for over 60 years. It is clear to see that many of Millers ideas for Death of a Salesman have come from his own life experiences, such as his affair with Marilyn Monroe, he married the daughter of a Salesman and he had two children Miller uses the American Dream often in Death of a Salesman this is especially clear with Willy who is adamant that all should believe in the American Dream and tries to push his own beliefs onto his children. The American Dream is, the belief that anyone living in America can achieve and fulfill their dreams through hard work and dedication. Death of a Salesman is set in late 1940’s America. At that time, America was dominated by World War II. The war pulled America out of the Great Depression finding thousands of jobs for the millions of unemployed people in America. Women gained ‘some’ independence, as the men were at war, Women were left with the men’s jobs. After World War II, American ideals changed. The family farm was no longer an ideal. Blacks no longer accepted a lesser status (shortly after the war, black people of America were given the right to vote) and more men had a full college education. By 1949, 8,120,000 million Americans were left completely unemployed. America was in National Debt by approximately $43 billion. In the 1940s America was very centered around the idea of wealth and status and that the American Dream was the only way to achieve such wealth and status. Throughout the play, Willy can be seen in two ways, one of...
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