Death of a Salesman vs. Our Town

Topics: Death of a Salesman, Meaning of life, Pulitzer Prize for Drama Pages: 5 (1794 words) Published: April 20, 2005
David Twu
Challenge 11/12 – Period
In the road of life, the right path may not always be where the road signs lead. The road to self-discovery is found by following one's heart and mind and to wherever they may lead them. Within the plays Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, and Our Town by Thornton Wilder, parallel pathways and contrary connections can be established between the characters coinciding in both. In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is the portrait of a sixty year old man reflecting upon his past, one of lies and hopelessness. Upon coming about his past, he finally and fatally, discovers himself at the end of his life. Mr. Webb from Our Town plays the figure of an editor of Grover's Corner Sentinel and loving father of Emily. Early in the play, he displays knowledge over his own self-discovery, which he hopes to tell others. The self-discovered Mr. Webb raised Emily coherently as a woman who in the end recognized the value of life. Married to George Gibbs, her life was very much comparable to Linda Loman, married to Willy Loman. Linda Loman was a woman dedicated to the needs of her spouse, but also therefore blind to the real needs that Willy desired. In the end, she still was left wondering why or what had gone wrong. Interlocked by protruding parallel traits of progressive self-awareness, these characters promoted the two plays to a higher level of understanding.

The similar philosophies of life residing in both Willy Loman and Mr. Webb are present in both plays as they progress. Their strong belief in themselves gives them the ability to influence others by giving them advice. The advice which Mr. Webb provided to George was "start out early by showing who's boss" (Wilder IIi 58). The confidence to tell a strong willed son-in-law shows his aptitude in his belief. Similarly, Willy was often dictating the actions of people around him. Usually his interferences would be contradictory to what others had in mind such as "No, you finish first" (Miller 1.3). His constant dictations most often cause contradictory with his dictations! At first, Willy referred to Biff as "a lazy bum" (Miller 1.2), but then later called him "such a hard worker" (Miller 1.2). This exhibits Willy's faith in his ideas, but shows a confusion within those ideas. Mr. Webb also inherits the same weakness that Willy has. Described as "terrible. One moment you tell me to stand up straight the next minute your calling me names." (Wilder Ii 26) by his daughter, Emily, he demonstrates the fault that plagues both him and Willy. The way they try to express themselves, though contrary sometimes, proves that they are on the road to self-discovery. On this road, they both discover qualities of themselves that they wish to pursue. Willy Loman was extremely capable with his hands. He wanted to "buy some seeds" (Miller 2.1) because things were "heading for a change" (Miller 2.1) and to plant them in the backyard. Soon, he wanted to "get a little place out in the country" (Miller 2.1) where he could use his tools to their greatest capacity. Sadly, the smog of the city blackened this vision and soon he forgot about it and was again lost in his troubles. Mr. Webb also had personal goals that he attempted. But like the troubles of the city, Mrs. Webb denied Mr. Webb these opportunities. Thinking that her husband should "be talking about things worth while" (Wilder IIi 59), she forbade such fantasies. Willy and Mr. Webb have the same idealistic images, but suffered the same setbacks on their road to self-discovery.

Though both Willy and Mr. Webb were on the same idealistic road to self-discovery, their directions did vary somewhat. Mr. Webb, despite being similar to the impressions of his counterpart, he had less obstacles to overcome in achieving that goal. Therefore, he had a more broad perception of what he set out to accomplish. Without the hectic environment that surrounds Willy, Mr. Webb...

Cited: Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman.
Wilder, Thorton. Our Town. New York, New York: Perennial Library, 1975.
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