Death of a Salesman - Materialism & Alienation

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Modern Tragedies deal with modern issues such as materialism, consumerism, procrastination and alienation. To what extent does Death of a Salesman show evidence of at least two of these issues, and how does Miller present them? Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ is a modern tragedy; one that incorporates both the tragic genre presented in theatres for centuries as well as essences of the modern world we live in. Materialism is a modern phenomenon, something which possibly began due to the American Dream – an idea which is heavily criticised through implications in this play. The play is set in 50’s capitalist America, where the idea of the American Dream had only just begun gaining momentum; Miller’s criticism of the Dream very much resides in his presentation of his character’s valuations of products being higher than those things more mandatory to survival – with one character being the prime focus of this flaw, the protagonist, Willy Loman. Materialism is a recurring theme in this play; it over-shadows all the characters actions and is constantly one which the audience is made aware. Willy is a materialistic man, one who is shown to be acutely conscious of his public image. This in itself could be a criticism by Miller that following the American Dream can lead to a person becoming shallow; solely interested in other’s opinions and perceptions of them. This is further extenuated by Willy’s repetition of the necessity to be ‘well liked’. The term 'well liked' implies that Willy desires to be more than friends with people; he wants them to have a strong feeling of his importance. In the film version of the play, Willy is shown to always look into the eyes of the person he was just speaking to; possibly showing that he is desperate to assess how he is received by his counterparts. This correlates with the constant idea that Willy wishes to be superior to people, whether that is through material goods or, in this case, through social status. Much like the...
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