Death of a Salesman is a play written by Arthur Miller. Basically, Miller was not a very prolific writer and Death of a Salesman had been his most famous work. At a certain point, this particular play could be regarded as a tragedy although not in the normal sense. What I mean when I said ‘tragedy though not in the normal sense” is that usually we associate tragedy from a person with a very high status who in the end had been faced with many problems which led to his failure. However, such had not been the case with this particular play since from the beginning Willy Loman really never had anything good.
The brilliance within this play lies with the fact that Miller had been able to portray a certain sense on his audience that tragedy is not for the rich or for the better-off person’s alone. Rather, tragedy is a part of our everyday life and thus it could happen to anyone of us. He had been able to portray that particular part by making the play revolve most on Willy Loman. As a matter of fact, Loman is almost the same as that of being a ‘low man’. The play made use of interplay of two time frames basically that of the past and the present. The protagonist in this story is Willy Loman whose occupation is that of a businessman.
Willy had been one of the victims of the so-called American dream and he love competitions. All throughout the play phrases such as ‘well-liked’, ‘I’m going to lose weight’ and the like could be found, and they are repeated numerous time. One may wonder what those repetitions mean. Basically, the significance behind those repetitions lies on the fact that Willy believe that it is the outer appearance which would bring you success and not one’s intelligence per se. For Willy academic performance is of no significance, rather it is being admired and well-liked that really matters.
This can be seen from the scenes wherein he often reiterated that Charley and Bernard are both ‘liked’ but not ‘well-liked’. All throughout the play Willy dreamed of being a very popular salesman so that when he dies people all throughout the world would come to pay their respect to him. The reason why he had not been a successful man may lie on the fact that what he tried to sell had not been his goods, rather it was his character. Dave Salesman had been Willy’s role model and he greatly idolizes the man to the point that he wanted his death to be the same as that of Singleman.
Miller showed his genius by naming his characters “Singleman” and “Loman” since there is a great allegory between the two. Miller named the pleasant salesman as Singleman mainly because he wanted his audience to think of Dave as a single man who had never been committed to anyone and who had never shared his life with his family. In contrast, Loman is almost the same as that of “low man” which could possibly mean a man with a very low sense of morality and the like. Thus, since Singleman is Loman’s hero it greatly shows the contrast between the two and it also showed Willy’s weird opinion of what success is like.
The death of a salesman talks not only of the literal death of Willy who as the story goes committed suicide since it is the only alternative he sees in order to secure his dreams (which re left for his sons to continue), rather the story also talked about the death of Willy’s dream. As mentioned earlier, Willy believes that success lies within being well-liked and being popular. Willy said Charley is not very much well-liked and yet as was seen on the play Charley is very much successful as compared to Willy.
One of the main themes of the story is “the American dream”. Based on Willy’s understanding, what constitutes an “American Dream” is being well-liked and being attractive which in turn would result in success. However, his bizarre opinion of what success is like led to his own downfall. This blind belief led tom psychological decline which in turn made him daydream a lot. All throughout the scene there’s a constant drift from past to present which often time confuses the audience on which timeframe the casts of the story is in at the moment.
However, the use of the two timeframes gave Miller an opportunity to compare and to contrast Willy’s dream and reality. The shift of one timeframe to another also allowed Miller to forbid his audience to have a permanent opinion of his characters since it allowed him to show the characters in the story in pathetic and wicked light alike. However, as Willy experienced a psychological decline the boundary between the past and the present are no longer define and thus both existed in a parallel ground.
When Biff informed Willy of his interview with Bill Oliver Willy advised him to demand for a high amount of salary from Oliver claiming that if his son starts big then he would also end big. He also made it a point to impress Oliver with Biff’s personality. This particular scene showed how very unrealistic Willy is. It also contradicted the belief that everyone should start small and work little by little up the corporate ladder since Willy believes that they could all start big since they are a Loman.
Thus, this particular advice of Willy to his son proved to be very contradictory. Also, Willy himself did not follow his own advice with his interview with Howard. Whereas he advised his son to ask Oliver for a large amount, he himself did not do that with his interview. Rather, he begged Howard to station him in New York since he can no longer deal with too much traveling. He even said that he is willing to accept a moderate salary. This also showed a great contradiction with Willy’s advice and his own deed.
In analyzing stage directions made for Happy “Sexuality is like a visible color for him…” we could see that Americans wrote plays which show step by step how a character is supposed to act. It also spells their characters age, characteristic and the like. They are very strict in this manner in that they spell everything out down to the smallest detail. In the play, one could see that Willy is a victim of his society, particularly that of capitalism. This can clearly be shown from his interview with Howard, the son of his boss.
Since he could no longer produce money, Howard fired him out of his job. All throughout the story we can see Willy’s strong hold on his American dream which served him nothing but misery in the end, and now that he is old and no longer productive he had been thrown out of his job. Another significant part on the movie is the fact that the play is set in post World War II New York City, yet Willy’s flashbacks date back to 1928. The reason behind this is that it was in year 1928 that Willy had been able to sell big time and it was also the year that he bought his Chevrolet.
Thus, seeing from this point of view one could clearly justify why most of Willy’s flashbacks happened in that particular year. It was in year 1928 that Willy had been most productive and it may lead him to believe that it is the start of his great career. Biff Loman had been a kleptomaniac on the story. This particular attitude may be attributed to the fact that his father did not tell him that stealing is bad. In one particular act on the play Biff told his father that he stole a football yet Willy did not reprimand his son. Rather he said that as long as Biff is well-liked he would be very successful one day.
His father’s belief flowed into him believing that people would easily forgive him for stealing things as long as he is popular. One of the reasons why Biff had been constantly stealing things is the fact that he wanted to please his family. Most of all Biff wanted to impress his father by showing him that he could get anything he wants at whatever cost. What Charley meant when he said in Willy’s requiem that Willy is a “happy man with a batch of cement” (Miller, Williams, & Paul, 1984) is the fact that Willy had not been doing the things he really want or the things that he is most good at.
Willy is not really cut out to be a businessman to begin with rather he could have been better off had he been a gym owner or a sport’s coach. Willy had also been a man who enjoys doing things with his hands (he loves planting) and thus it makes the audiences wonder on whether Willy had been better off had he chosen a more appropriate career for himself. It also pointed out how Willy had never been true to himself. He did not succeed in any way because he is in constant competition and he had always been after commercial success although he is not really good with that particular thing.
Commercial success overshadowed personal success and happiness which in turn led to a greater tragedy. Everything about Willy had been wrong from the start. He had the wrong beliefs as well as the wrong dream. He loves gardening and he is good with working with his hands thus if he had chosen another path (probably that of farming) then he may have had a better chance with success. The Parent/Child relationship had been present all throughout the play. Miller clearly showed how a parent’s belief and way of rearing up their children could affect their child all throughout their life.
This can be seen clearly with the way Willy passed on his dreams and beliefs to his two sons. Willy’s wrong beliefs had been the primary source why his sons also failed in their lives. In one of the scenes in the play wherein Biff and Willy had been arguing Willy accused his son of ruining his life just to spite him however Biff rebutted him by saying that Willy filled him with hot air which led to his inability of getting any permanent job because he cannot bear taking orders from other people.
I think Biff’s claim is more accurate as compared to his father. Of course, it is true that Biff’s disappointment with his father made him lose interest in pursuing his studies however, the main reason why Biff could not really find a good work for himself is because his father made him believe in wrong beliefs particularly that he is far superior to other people. To conclude, the play had been rather interesting because of its clear way of portraying the effects of capitalism.
It also showed how wrong beliefs particularly that of beliefs regarding American Dream could lead to the distraction of people. The play also portrayed how the parent/child relationship could affect an individual thus all in all the play is exceptional save for the fact that there are times that the play is rather vague because of the constant interplay between past and present. Reference: Miller, A. , Williams, L. M. , & Paul, K. (1984). Death of a Salesman: Barron’s Educational Series.