NOTES on Death of a Salesman (1949) by Arthur Miller (1915-2005) *****
GENRE: Example of modern tragedy and “selective realism” Refer to your study guide for the quote from Arthur Miller’s “Tragedy and the Common Man” Selective Realism: refer to your text, and consider the notes following the brief remarks on the play below…. *****
Notes on the play, with comparisons to others this semester. (feel free to disagree or elaborate): PLOT: Willy Loman loses his job, regains a relationship with his oldest son Biff, and commits suicide, thinking the death benefit in his insurance policy will help Biff. SPINE: Willy Loman makes his final sales trip.
CHARACTER: See your play synopsis in the back of your textbook. THOUGHT:
1. The American Dream v. the reality of everyday life. How does each character view the American Dream? 2. Reality v. Fantasy. Reality: hard work, telling the truth, honest dealings. Fantasy: lies, wishes, hopes, dreams. DICTION: All New York accents. Think about the style and pace of the talking. MUSIC: The flute represents Willy’s brother Ben. Other musical themes are more representative of the mood of each scene. See what you can remember. SPECTACLE: The set has drab, open spaces. The flashback sequences are colorful and bright.
Which brings us to…..
SELECTIVE REALISM: dramatic writing that portrays psychological states of mind AND naturalistic acting The set design is one key element in creating layers of memory through flashbacks and special effects. The other key elements are musical segues and costuming. Realistic /naturalistic acting relies on unaffected speech (i.e., mumbling), movement (slouching), and playing the “subtext” (constant tension motivating dialogue). A BRIEF GENEALOGY OF SELECTIVE REALISM
(add to your study guide)
Influences from the 1800s:
Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859)
Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (1867)
Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) and Three Contributions...
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