Return to the Nature—an Ecocritical Interpretation of Death of a Salesman 1. Introduction
1.1 A Brief Introduction to the Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman, the masterpiece of Arthur Miller, depicts a story of common American family—Lowman’s family. Willy is a man with hugh ambitious but finally failed in the fierce competition of his business. Linda, his wife, is a loyal , considerate and strong wife who always takes good care of the whole family and always stands in the back of his husband. Biff, Willy’s elder son, is a real weak and sticky-fingered man who are loved by his father but always disappoint him. Happy, Willy’s second son, is a man who just like puffing but never did something successful. It was a story of a sixty-four-year old salesman Willy Lowman keeps travelling and selling everyday to afford his family all because of the inaction of his two sons. He has a hugh dream that he wants to start his own business, but he failed because of his faulty idea that personality can make fortune. Linda worries his husband a lot that she tries to persuade him to ask his boss Howard for a position in New York so that he doesn’t have to travel. Finally, Howard fired Willy for his unsuccessful business. Full of desperation, Willy lays his last hope on Biff that he hopes Biff can find a good job and start their families’ business. However, Biff can’t give up his bad habit to steal others’ things and finally let his father down one more time. To find no way out of the desperation, Willy ends his life in his car. Arthur Miller wrote this drama based on his own experiences which have been considerably influenced by the Great Depression. During the 1930s, the United States went through an all-around economic depression. The collapse of financial system resulted in terrible situations: factories bankrupted millions of Americans jobless, homeless and hopeless. But for Miller, it was more like a psychological disaster which influenced a lot on every American people. This play came into being in 1949, and the prototype of Willy Lowman was Miller’s uncle Manny Newman. Miller still remembered well the encouter with his uncle, “I could see his grim hotel room behind him, the long trip up from New York in his little car, the hopeless hope of the day’s business.”(Miller: 130-131) And Miller also remarks, “Newman was a competitor at all times, in all things, and at every moment.” (Miller: 122) And Manny’s death also inspired Miller of the his writing of the tragedy. It was not only Manny as the prototype of Willy Lowman, but a lot of other victims in the real society. His story of the salesman was just a projection of the whole society. 1.2 A Brief Introduction to the Theory of Ecocritcism
Ecocritism as a critical theory appeared along with the stressful environmental crisis. In 1962，Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, and it stirred a powerful and far-reaching ecological movement. “She reminded us that we can solve the ecological problem through the change of our world viewpoint instead of assisting by war or violent revolution.”(Lu: 27) In 1978, “ecocriticism” was firstly raised by William Rueckert in his essay Literature and Ecology: an Experiment in Ecocriticism to encourage the connection between ecological concepts and the study of literature. In 1991, Modern Language Association held a special session entitled“Ecocriticism: The Greening of Literary Studies”in which ecocritics’ enthusiasm of building a new study ran high. At the annual meeting of the Western Literature Association in 1992, a new Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE) was founded “to promote the exchange of ideas and information pertaining to literature that considers the relationship between human beings and the natural world” and to encourage “new nature writing, traditional and innovative scholarly approaches to environmental literature, and interdisciplinary environmental research”.(Glotfelty: xviii) From then...
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