Death of a Salesman Stage Effects

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In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman reviews a life of desperate pursuit on a dream of success. The playwright suggests to his audience both what is truthful and what is illusory in the American Dream. Unusual in its presentation of a common man as a tragic figure, the play literally processes Willy Loman's way of mind. To accomplish this, Miller uses the sense of time on stage in an unconventional way to point up that, for Willy Loman, the voice of the past is no longer distant but quite as loud as the voice of the present. The play uses two different time frames simultaneously, one based in the present, and one based in the past. Past flashbacks are often triggered in Willy’s mind by symbols and motifs from the present, and often serve to develop the present situation and explain why characters are acting the way they are. Because the play is about Willy's search rather than the socioeconomic environment in which his search takes place, the play's setting is meticulously devoid of detailed reminders of place and time. For example, in Act One, Ben's remarks, the flute music, and the voice of the “woman” illustrate Miller's concept that everything exists at the same time—at least within the human mind. From the beginning, the Salesman image absorbed the concept that nothing in life comes next, but that everything exists together and at the same time within everyone; that there is no past to be brought forward in a human being, but that he is in his past at every moment and that the present is merely that, which his past is capable of noticing, smelling and reacting to.

Arthur Miller did not divide his play into scenes within each act. Instead, the action is continuous, even when flashbacks occur. The play encompasses an evening and the following day, but the action is interrupted by or mixed with flashback or memories of a period approximately seventeen years earlier.

Act one covers the author’s pre-play description of the set as well as...
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