top-rated free essay

Analysis of "Death of a Salesman" opening stage directions

By russov Mar 02, 2014 595 Words
Death of a Salesman Act I - opening stage directions analysis

Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ (1949) opens with an extensive description of the Loman house. Miller uses extremely precise and detailed stage directions, including prop placement, sound and lighting, giving heavy significance to each of these elements and painting an unchangeable picture to ensure that it is preserved in every interpretation of his work.

Throughout the opening stage directions of Act 1, despite the structure and tone being very factual, composed of short, clear sentences, Miller hints at underlying themes and messages through a range of stylistic devices, preparing the audience for the play, and setting the scene. As the play is set in Brooklyn, New York some years after the great depression, many references are made already at this early stage to idealism and the American dream; the desperate and yearning vision of many Americans at that time of a better life. This permeating theme becomes apparent formerly even to the introduction of the characters, as the mere scenery and props act as symbolic elements, which reflect this motif. Miller however subliminally makes it evident that this dream is purely an illusion, through emblematic phrases in his stage directions such as ‘rising out of reality’ and physical representations, for instance the broken boundaries where ‘characters enter or leave a room by stepping through a wall onto the forestage’ which create an aura of delusion.

The first stage directions include a melody played on a flute, ‘telling of grass and trees and the horizon’. This natural imagery encompassing three physical elements accompanied by the soft and harmonious sound, sets a serene tone which is then highly juxtaposed with the following depiction of the house and it’s neighborhood, featured with darkness and hostility. This heavy contrast may be symbolic of the conflict between the dreams to which the individual aspires and the actual harshness of society’s reality. The description of the surrounding cluster of apartment blocks seems almost to have a greater prominence than the house itself, as this is the first thing the audience ‘becomes aware of’. The tall and ‘angular’ silhouette of Manhattan that lies in the backdrop has expressionistic features and surrounds the Loman house in a way that suggests some metaphorical form of oppression or confinement.

The ‘glow of orange’ that falls upon the ‘fragile-seeming’ house is personified as ‘angry’, perhaps reflecting the hostile times in which the play is set. This enclosing and intimidating hostility is in part what makes the home appear so fragile, a fragility that may represent weakness in family bonds or equally, weakness in he who represents the house, condemning him immediately to the role of a tragic protagonist. Willy clings to his dreams just as ‘an air of the dream clings to the place’. This idea becomes present again in the description of Linda’s feelings towards her husband and his traits. ‘his massive dreams’ are the source of his tragic nature, dreams that he shares with the rest of society, but that for him become an unhealthy obsession. Willy is cursed with the incessant desire to pursue his dreams ‘to their end’ and these words forebode a fate that unfolds as a result of this fixation.

Overall the opening of this play provides the audience with a sense of the themes that will permeate throughout, by cleverly using stage schemes and elements that insinuate profounder significance of what is to come. The audience is hereby prepared for the play and begins to form judgments and predictions shaped around this carefully strategized scenery.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Death of a Salesman

    ...How is Death of a Salesman a commentary upon American society and values. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is a commentary upon society in relation to the painful conflicts of a working class family in New York, who throughout their life has struggled to make a decent living and fulfil the American dream. The play illustrates its critica...

    Read More
  • Death of a Salesman Direction

    ...Death of A Salesman Introduction American is a capitalist society in which everyone is dispensable, where new is seen as being better: A place where people are valued by material things and not by their personality. The American dream rules America, believing that with hard work and a belief in yourself you can achieve your goals in life,...

    Read More
  • The Crucible Stage Directions Analysis

    ...In a play, actors will speak and act a certain way so that the audience can infer things about their characters.These stage directions help paint a picture in the readers’ minds, as they help to define what is going on and show the reader more about each character. Act II of The Crucible certainly utilizes stage directions, as well as dialogue...

    Read More
  • Analysis of Biff in Death of a Salesman

    ...Camilla Tanzi Year 12 An analysis of the character of Biff. Biff Loman is portrayed as the root of Willy’s mental illness and instability. He is also the only member of his family who acknowledges his own failures in life. On the whole, Biff Loman stands out as the most intriguing and strong character in “Death of a Salesman. He is not ...

    Read More
  • Death Of A Salesman Analysis

    ...In the play, Death of a Salesman, the Lomans are a typical middle class family struggling to support themselves while the rest of the world seems to thrive around them. Willy Loman believes that how he carries himself is the most important trait needed to prosper in all aspects. His idea of success is similar to that of the concept that arises f...

    Read More
  • Analysis Of The Death Of A Salesman

    ...The Death of a Salesman is a play which presents the severe conflicts facing the family of Willy and Linda Loman. It is to some extent argued to depict the strong attacks raised against the American capitalist system which is characterized by ruthlessness, hostile business policies, tenacity on monies and social status as a way of proving the wo...

    Read More
  • Analysis of the Ending of "Death of a Salesman"

    ...Analysis of the Ending of "Death of a Salesman" The play "Death of a Salesman" shows the final demise of Willy Loman, a sixty- year-old salesman in the America of the 1940's, who has deluded himself all his life about being a big success in the business world. It also portrays his wife Linda, who "plays along" nicely with his lies and tells him...

    Read More
  • Death of Salesman Analysis

    ...1. Title of Work: Death of a Salesman 2. Author and Date Written: Arthur Miller, 1948 3. Country of Author: United States 4. Major Characters: a. Willy, the protagonist in the play, is a self conscious, insecure, and prideful, habitual liar. Through the play, Willy lies both to himself and those around him, saying things like, “Business is...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.