Death of a Salesman Essay
Death of a Salesman
How effective is the ending? Who do we sympathise with? ‘Death of a Salesman’ is a play based on the examination of American life and the effects of the American Dream. Arthur Miller wrote it in 1948, and shows how life was when living a life based on the American Dream. Willy, a failed salesman spent his life following the American Dream, effecting all of those around him and leading him to suicide.
The ending of the play greatly effects the feeling and sympathy given for all of the characters. It is a very effective way of ending the play, as the last scenes seem to link very well to show Willy’s funeral. It allows the characters true feelings to be shown, and the full extent of the American dream is revealed. The ending of the play shows the true feelings and actions of the characters, in particular Happy. Happy shows his true feelings towards his father and his life; throughout the play this has not been very well shown and Happy has been left a mysterious character. That is until the Requiem, at this point Happy shows his belief in his father and how much he truly looked up to him, “He had no right to do that.
There was no necessity for it. We would’ve helped him. ” Of the two brothers Happy still believes in the American dream, and has fallen for its poor existence. He still supports it after seeing what has happened to his father and the life he has lived. This is shown at the very end of the play, ” I’m not licked that easily. I’m staying right in this city, and I’m gonna beat this racket! ” I think Happy believes that he owes it to his father to follow in his footsteps, so that he has at least one successful son.
Happy spent his life trying to prove himself to his father and mother, as no attention was paid to him,”Happy: I’m gonna get married, Mom. I wanted to tell you. Linda: Go to sleep, dear. Happy (going): I just wanted to tell you. ” At the beginning of the play Happy tends to fight for the attention of his parents to over come Biff’s success. He is always trying to prove himself and obviously cares for his father. Towards the beginning of the play when Linda and Biff begin to worry about Willy’s mental state Happy always seems to be the one to stand up for him and care, “He’s going to get his licence taken away if he keeps that up. I’m getting nervous about him, y’know, Biff? “.
As the play progress Happy grows as a person. Although it is not very visible Happy does try to keep the family together. As he sees himself as successful in Willy’s eyes he tries to help Biff become successful by setting up a business together, “Wait! We form two basketball teams, see? Two water-polo teams. We play each other. It’s million dollars’ worth of publicity. Two brothers, see? ‘The Loman Brothers’. Baby, we could sell sporting goods! ” This all shows that Willy was wrong about his sons, Happy is the son with the courage and strength to be part of the American dream.
He is the son that will follow on from Willy and either be a success or a failure. Within the ending of the play Biff’s true character is also shown. During the play he has a moment of self-realisation, showing him who he really is and how he is living a life of lies. The ending develops this and shows him as who he really is. Just before Willy’s death Biff confronts Willy about everything in his life. Biff tries to explain to Willy about how he is living a lie leading to an argument and a loving moment between the two.
This shows how the American Dream truly effect those around Willy and brings the play to a good ending. It shows that although the two men had a moment of forgiveness and happiness together it was still not good enough for Willy. As Biff still had no success and did not wish for it Willy still felt a failure. Willy expected Biff to succeed in many ways, from the beginning of the play this is visible. As a child Biff was popular in school and was succeeding in sport although his school grades were dropping.
His popularity is visible within the beginning of the play as Willy looks back on his life, “Biff [goes through the wall-line of kitchen to doorway at the back and calls down]: Fellas! Everybody sweep out the furnace room! I’ll be right down! Voices: All right! Okay, Biff. Biff: George and Sam and Frank, come out back! We’re hangin’ up the wash! Come on, Hap, on the double! ” Willy seemed to care more about Biff’s popularity and friends rather than his success in school. This is the influence of the American Dream upon Willy’s life and family. As Biff grows older this still seems to be the case, although Willy also seems to expect Biff to be earning a lot of money.
This is Willy’s idea of success; it is more materialistic rather than personal goals. During the end of the play Biff makes a number of short speeches full of his thoughts and feelings. I think this is very effective for the end of the play as it shows emotion in a different way. An example of one of the speeches is, “Pop, get this now, will you? Every time I’ve left it’s been a fight that sent me out of here. Today I realised some thing about myself and I tried to explain it to you and I – I think I’m just not smart enough to make any sense out of it for you.
To hell with those whose fault it is or anything like that. ” This shows how Biff feels about himself and his father; it is the beginning of the argument and shows great feeling. The very end of the play is shown as Willy’s funeral, it is very small and consists of only 5 or 6 people. This is very much different to what Willy expected, he hoped for a large funeral with every one he had ever known or met.
These expectations were all due to the falsity of the American Dream and the funeral shows this in many ways. It is a very effective ending as the funeral puts life in prospective for the others and shows their true character. It shows that Biff really cared for his father, as he paid little notice to the amount of people there, he did not need to be impressed with popularity. Where as Happy was concerned about the funeral and still believed in his fathers dream, “I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have – to come out number – one-man. ”
There are three other main characters within the play that show the contrasts and other parts of the harsh reality of the American dream. Howard is Willy’s boss; he cares for money and not people and is also very fascinated with technology. He shows the growing business world and the effects of the American Dream as a truly successful man. His fascination with technology tends to over power his care for people. For example Howard has purchased a Dictaphone and is showing it to Willy whilst he is trying to talk, “Willy: It certainly is a – Howard: Sh, for God’s sake! His Son: ‘It’s nine o’clock, Bulova watch time. So I have to go to sleep. ‘