“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller

As it happens in many cases the literature does not simply tell fiction stories, but illustrates some ideas connected with a modern for the author society. Among such examples one can find the tragical drama “Death of a Salesman”, a play written by the outstanding American dramatist Arthur Asher Miller in 1949, is a work of art, revealing the tragedy of American Dream conception through the sorrowful history of unfortunate salesman.

In this play Miller does not only depict an average American family, but draws a parallel between the family microcosm and the society, in which the dream of wealth and prosperity appears to be the most significant for the main hero of the story. According to Meyer “Miller placed his characters in a social context so that their behavior within the family suggests larger implications: the death of this salesman raises issues concerning the significance and value of the American dream of success” (Meyer, 1401).

American Tragedy

Several examples from the play can prove this idea. Miller emphasizes the family dynamic as the father wants to take care of his sons and help them to become successful businessmen, but his sons, especially Biff, have got different ideas about what is important in life. These disagreements about life values foster the central conflict of the drama. All the family members Willy, Linda, Biff, and Happy represent the father, mother, and two sons of the average working class American family, where the father is the old-fashioned man, who believes that hard work, and regular income is the greatest value, the mother is always supporting her husband, and the sons are the representatives of a younger generation, whose more modern views hinder their father to fulfill his dream about success. Linda, who loves her husband above all, supports Willy and tries to help him in persuading their sons about finding job as she knows that Willy is addicted to the dream of success and money, but, consequently, the attitude to work leads to problematic relationship between the family members. Finally, neglecting the human qualities in the family appears to be the crucial reason for Willy Lonman’s failure. Therefore, Miller tries to show his readers the impact of the society values on people. Having grown in the American society with its value of the American dream of success becomes destructive to the individuals.

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Along with artistic prerequisites, the author provides us with the analysis of social ills that the society has not only in the United States of America, but also throughout the whole materialistically oriented world. He does this by virtue of reflecting of separate individuals lives and the destiny of their relatives. Based on the American Dream worldview, the author displays the nayward of the wealth-oriented perspective. Moreover, he touches upon such issues as ethics distortion, relations between genders and relatives, and commercialism. The critique of the Death of a Salesman, written by Robert A. Martin, artfully describes the topic and gives a basis for being able to reason on the issues that the author provided and, simultaneously, to dispute on several Martin’s assertions.

What is oblivion? What is delusion? All this refers to the state of mind, which confines one’s conscience within the frame of defined condition, and makes it harder to interpret reality in the way that makes it possible to accept it, despite all the obstacles. The person who is able to get rid of all of the illusions is a happy one. It is not the case with Willy Loman. He has a wife and two sons, and a great desire to become a successful merchandiser, trying to make the same of his older son, Biff. However, he fails: own success runs away, as well as his son, who does not wish to devote his life to the father’s profession. It is the reality, which is invisible for Willy, since he lives in a mirage. His life is ruined despite he does not observe it. And who is liable for that? In this play, Miller makes it possible for a reader to understand that the blame is both upon Willy Loman and the society he lives in.

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Wealth, career and reputation – these are the commandments that should be observed in order to have a happy life. That is what Willy Loman believes in. He is able to sacrifice everything in order to carry out these rules: morality, dignity and the happiness of his relatives. These rules exist in any place where one believes that the fortune issue depends on the external, material, or social circumstances. It is remarkable that Willy, as the main character of Death of a Salesman, is displayed by Miller as a religious fanatic. And his religion is American Dream itself. Such social illness promotes the means of psychological and moral breakdown of the personality, who is not able to fulfill the due self-imposed obligations. Thus, one can see that it constitutes both in mental and moral illness of Willy. He is living simultaneously in the past, present and future time and, therefore, occasionally, he cannot distinguish them. On the other hand, the moral illness represents itself in double standards that Willy has forced to propagate.

As it was mentioned earlier, the altar that was used by Willy in order to be able to sacrifice the victim of happiness stands in the temple of Success. And the society has built that. The principal issue here is that there is a blinding impact of the former on its members that cruelly draws a line beneath everyone, who has incredibly various personal features and subconscious strivings. And Willy is one of them. In this play, Miller artfully and furiously discloses such influence of the society that imposes values, which are not suitable for the majority of people. The author gives an excellent example of the aforementioned by virtue of endowing of Willy with love to plant growing and with adoration to nature in general. He notices the morning sun in the window when he just wakes up. He notices it even despite the fact that the sun radiates its rays through the stonewall massifs of the Brooklyn structures. He desperately tries to plant some seeds about his house after returning home from the restaurant, in which his own children abandoned him. The inability of Willy to get to know himself, along with the incorrect social impact put him in a quite sorrowful condition. Miller expresses the representation of such impact via Willy’s brother image. Ben is a very successful man, who “walked into jungle and comes out, the age twenty-one, and he’s rich!” (Miller 28). At the same time, means that are used by him are quite strange, which is indicated by Ben’s advice to Biff: “Never fight fair with the stranger, boy. You’ll never get out of the jungle that way” (Miller 34). Thus, Willy’s brother personifies the image, which is the motive power that forces people to devote themselves to the things they are not fond of.

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The question is whether Willy Loman is right when he sacrifices his life for extra 20,000, and if he is a hero or a victim. The question is quite disputable. One side of the coin indicates the greatness and unselfishness of such an act, while another side is the fact that his deed is just a desperate and needless jerk. Robert A. Martin is absolutely right asserting “Willy is more than a victim of his society – he is a tragic victim in that he believes it is necessary to sacrifice his life in order to provide for his son” (103). And it is true. There is no need in such a deed. The situation is not critical. On the contrary, it is almost resolved. Thus, Robert A. Martin is right by saying that unknowingly Willy is striving to “retreat from the competitive business world to an agrarian, manual labor-oriented way of life” (105). That was his real dream, the dream of his soul. That is the tragedy that Miller revealed in order to indicate the inconsistence of success-oriented worldview. The tragedy that blinded the due world and true desires perception of Willy, as a member of the cruel society. The society forces him to give up his life for the purposes he actually does not believe in.

To conclude, it is necessary to point out that in his play Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller truly depicts the one of the most considerable issues that the American society and the entire humanity shall pay attention to. Partially, the American Dream concept, or in general the blind willingness to succeed materially, creates incentives in minds of the people that are potentially able to make their lives and those of their relatives agonizing and unhappy. That is what one can see in this play. Willy’s fanatic striving to fulfill all the three commandments of success results in the deprivation of the things that are more valuable than wealth, reputation and career. These are family, morality and internal strivings. Both Willy and the society he lives in are liable for the things that happened. Thus, Miller artfully describes the wide range of ills of society through the life of separate individuals, and makes it clear that sunshine and fresh air sometimes are more valuable than all material strivings.