May 1, 2011
How Women are portrayed in Death of a Salesman
Linda Lowman is a woman who seemed to be taken for granted in the Lowman household but that did not mean she was powerless. "The Great Depression reinforced female domesticity", which was clearly shown in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller through Linda (Koenig 1). In the time period that this play took place women did not know any other life than to stay at home and tend to their families. This being the case, Linda took care of the home but was not at all powerless because she dealt with all of Willy's problems and held the family together. Miller portrays Linda as a woman who is submissive to her husband, which exemplifies that he is an anti feminist. The 'other woman' in the play is also negatively portrayed as a stereotypical bimbo.
Throughout the play, Miller depicts Linda as powerless and highly dependent on Willy but by digging deeper into her actions, one can see is the backbone to the family. "…bore the cross of reality for them all, supporting her husband, keeping up her calm, enthusiastic smile…" (Bigsby viii). Linda is portrayed by Miller as a very weak individual mainly by how Willy speaks to her. In one particular example Willy loses his temper at Linda and says, "Shut up!…shut up!…there's nothing wrong with him!', which leaves Linda in tears (Miller 27). The abuse that Willy exerts on Linda is not to be taken as a representation of how he actually views women. But rather, Miller makes statements which show how highly he thinks of Linda such as:
"Linda is tough. She is a fighter. Willy is prone to bully her, cut off her sentences…this is a woman who has sustained the family when Willy has allowed fantasy to replace truth, who has lived with the knowledge of his suicidal intent, who sees through her sons' bluster and demands their support" (Bigsby xix). The description that Miller just gave of Linda exemplifies her as a very independent, strong, loving woman who will do anything to keep her family together. Although Miller depicts Linda as a strong woman in the play; the movie, shows otherwise. During the movie it seems that Willy is not only emotionally, but physically abusive to Linda. This may be the reason that Linda is so loyal to Willy; out of fear instead of love (Schlondorf). By Linda staying with Willy even throughout physical abuse is showing that Miller feels as though women aren't independent or strong enough to leave their husbands and the men receive a sense of empowerment through dominion over women, "The woman makes him feel he is an important salesman and powerful man" (Ribkoff 123). This negative connotation towards women shows that Miller is an anti feminist.
Aside from Linda Lowman, another woman in the play is depicted in a negative, stereotypical way. Towards the end of the play we discover that Willy has been cheating on Linda with the 'other woman'. Stereotypically, the 'other woman' is considered a whore and usually dumb or ditzy. The woman laughing gaily constantly represents the idea that she is considered to be dumb, for example: [The WOMAN enters, laughing…] Willy: "Will you stop laughing? Will you?" (Miller 91). The movie shows this woman as a young, blonde, attractive woman who seems very ditzy and carefree. This portrayal of the woman is very stereotypical of 'bimbos' and women who would sleep with a married man. Miller is creating a picture of this woman through the play and movie, which is quite negative towards women. The way he views women is clear; stupid, dependent, and promiscuous, although at times he seems to depict the women in the play as strong individuals.
It is surprising that Willy engages in this verbal abuse towards Linda in the company of others. On many occasions Biff and Happy have been present to hear Willy put down and yell at their mother. After repeatedly being told to stop by Biff it seems Willy will eventually give in and the attacks will subside. Out...
Cited: Bigsby, Christopher. "Introduction". New York: Penguin Group, 1998
Koenig, Rhoda. "Seduced by Salesman 's Patter". The Sunday Times. London, October 26, 1996, 10.4.
Leonard, Eileen B. "Household Labor and Technology in a Consumer Culture". Composing Gender. Boston: Bedford, 2009.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Group, 1976
Schlondorf, Volker, dir. Dofas. Perf. Dustin Hoffman, Kate Reid, John Malkovich. VHS. Lorimar Home Video, 1986.
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