Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman Essay
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Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, produced and published in 1949, still has a lasting effect today in the year 2001. The play which has won several awards and the Pulitzer prize, centers itself around a salesman and his family as they fight and sometimes struggle to “make it big” in this world. The play has been performed all over the world since its introduction in 1949, and it is still being performed and read in different languages and societies. The purpose of this paper is to show how Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman makes his American audience question their own lives and the society that they live in and why Miller would want the audience to question such ideas.
Death of a Salesman is centered on Willy Loman who is a 63 years old salesman and has a wife named Linda and two sons, Biff and Happy. Arthur Miller creates the Loman family so that everyone in a way could relate to someone in the family in one-way or another.
Many people in the late 1940’s and the 1950’s had lived through a very miserable depression, and it was during this time that the American Society and economy was changing as it was becoming more and more advanced technologically. Times were changing and the “good old days” such as the traveling salesman and other pastime occupations were being withered away. The American Society was changing in a way that people were becoming more and more materialistic and people would try to get to the top by any means.
Arthur Miller tries to get the American Audience to question whether or not their new views on business and life as a whole are the right thing to do. Willy Loman was a father that instilled values into his two sons that you should win at any cost by the means of cheating, lying, and stealing. Willy made fun of the rather weak, his son’s friend Bernard, who was a nerd at school, but latter became a lawyer trying out a case in front of the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., while his son’s were still living in the past and amounted to nothing but useless, lying, womanizers, that couldn’t hold a job.
Willy Loman was a salesman that had worked for the same company for years and was fired by his boss’s son because Willy had become too old at the age of 63. Willy had been loyal for so long, but was shown the door too easily. This is what Charley had to say about Willy at his funeral:
“Willy was a salesman; and for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law, or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine; and when they start not smiling back- boy, that’s an earthquake.”(Arthur Miller, The Death of a Salesman 138)
Arthur Miller is provoking the American Audience to realize the struggles of Willy Loman the Salesman, but at the same time makes the audience reveal their own struggles and their neighbors struggles, as Willy Loman was no longer getting the smiles back.
Willy Loman committed suicide because no one was smiling back any more. The once proud Willy Loman had quickly materialized to near nothing and his son’s had done the same. The idea of success at all costs and human suffering presented in the play by Miller really make the audience self evaluate and contemplate themselves and the society that they live in, because these were some of the new views and ideas held by society in the late 1940’s.