Death of a Salesman Essay

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Arthur Millers play “Death of a Salesman” is a well-recognized drama, yet it has been controversial due to the ethnicity of the actors performing it. Critic John Lahr believed that Millers play “Death of a Salesman” could not be preformed by black actors. This is a play with universal themes, such as the “American Dream”, but the American Dream was different for African Americans back then, than what it is today in modern society. In the Hard Sell “A black Death of a Salesman” August Wilson argues trying to portray the black experience, culture and history, as part of the human condition through a play conceived for white actors is a denial of black experience, culture and history. John Lahr agrees and furthers this point by saying: “To replace the Jewish Willy Loman with an African-American is to change something elemental in the nature of the play’s lament… This sense of expectation and entitlement was simply not shared by the African Americans in 1949.” (Lahr,2) I agree with both of these critics because there are specifics in “Death of a Salesman” that would not seem to apply to the African-American experience in the middle of the 20th century. For example when Biff dreams of returning to Texas to become a rancher, you cannot help but wonder the potential fate of a young African American embarking on journey like this and how unlikely this would be in 1949. “The losses that Miller contrives to heap on Willy- salary, job, dignity, filial affection,” says the critic, are not things that African Americans were experiencing or even had the entitlement to worry about back then. (Lahr, 3) The main theme seen in “Death of a Salesman” is the American Dream which is universal, therefore many people may argue that it can be preformed by a black cast. But the defention of the “American Dream” was different for African Americans in the 1940’s. The American Dream for most people was to achieve financial success and material comfort, which is...
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