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Miller's Flashbacks in Play Death of a Salesman

Categories: Death Of A Salesman

Within “Death of a Salesman” the use of flashbacks is continually used to show the audience the problems that have arisen in Willy’s life and also how Willy believed his life was like in the past. The characters take on an almost opposite personality within the flashbacks, due to their different perspectives on life and their family. The flashbacks themselves create their own stories and examine the contributing factors, which have guided Willy Loman in his thinking and ultimately caused the ruin of himself and his family.

The flashbacks give us kind of a telescope back in time to figure out why the relationship between Willy and other characters are the way they are. In the play we see that in the current time Willy likes Biff better than his other son Happy. We see this from a flashback that shows Biff being very popular and doing the things that made his dad proud. I believe that this is what Miller intended the audience to understand, due to it shows them why Willy and his family lived the way they did and why it all came to an end.

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Miller creates his flashbacks by the use of numerous effects and techniques, allowing for the audience to understand the changes and situations. Due to the flashbacks been acted out in another area, Millers changes the set to show the area that they are in. The stage directions within the script, show how Miller wanted to achieve the changes in the set, such as the scene, in which we find out that Willy is having an affair, “Stanley picks up the chair and follows them off.

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Knocking is heard off left. The woman enters, laughing. Willy follows her.

This scene shows how Miller removed the props within the previous scene to allow the new scene to be acted out. Also as the flashback proceeds Miller increase the space in the set by using the characters dialogue, “All right, stay in the bathroom here, and don’t come out. I think there’s a law in Massachusetts about it, so don’t come out. ” This shows the audience the area that the characters are in, in this case Miller creates a hotel/motel room by using the imagination of the audience, and using the characters dialogue to form the room.

Although only minor changes are made within the set it still makes the audience aware that the characters are in a different place and with the addition of other changes, such as the lighting, it makes the audience know that a flashback is happening. As a flashback starts the lighting gradually changes from the previous scene to either brighten up or darken an area, depending upon the scene. The light change within a scene is shown in the stage directions amongst other changes that create the flashbacks.

I believe that the lighting contributes towards the audience’s perception of Willy, and manipulates them to make them feel a greater deal of sympathy towards Willy. I believe this because in scenes in which the light is decreased around Willy, it creates feelings of isolation and loneliness. This effect is used in the build up to a flashback and in as a flashback happens, such as Willy’s first flashback, “Their light is out. Well before they have finsihed speaking, Willy’s form is dimly seen below in the darkened kitchen.

“The apartment houses are fading out, and the entire house and surroundings become covered with leaves” This part shows the isolation that follows Willy around, created by the light, due to Willy been by himself and the light been quite dimly shun upon him. Also the light within the scene helps build up the start of a flashback because it shows Willy progressing towards his “dream state”, “Light rises on the kitchen. Willy, talking shut the refrigerator door and comes downstage to the kitchen table.

He pours milk into a glass. He is totally immersed in himself, smiling faintly. ” The change in lighting within this stage direction seems quite insignificant, although I believe it gradually allows the change from Willy’s “real life” to Willy’s “dream life”, which I believe is only achieved by the use of the lighting and the music. I believe this because other changes are instant, such as the change in costumes or the change in the set, which neither shows the change gradually.

I believe that through the lighting Miller is trying to create numerous atmospheres and feelings within flashbacks, and also he is trying to gradually bring on a flashback, rather than making it instantaneous. Like the change in the set, the lighting also is a minor change that Miller uses to create a flashback, although I believe it creates the atmosphere and manipulates the audience to feel sympathetic towards Willy, rather showing the occurrence of a flashback.

In any production the costumes make a big difference to how an audience perceives the characters and the time of the play. Within “Death Of A Salesman” the costumes make a considerable difference to the flashbacks, due to it allows a change in time and they are also used for symbolism within the play. It seems that Miller doesn’t greatly describe the costumes through stage directions, although Miller does show the symbolic clothing, which he describes, by the use of the characters dialogue, such as Biff’s sneakers and the stockings.

I believe that Miller doesn’t make a great deal of reference to the change of costumes at the time of the flashbacks, because I believe that he wanted a range of costumes to be used depending on how the audience and producers perceived the characters within the play. I believe that in the present time it would be quite evident that the characters wear quite dull and dark costumes, because of their personalities and the atmosphere’s that plague them. On the other hand the costumes would be altered in the flashbacks, due to the characters having different personalities and attitudes towards life.

When Willy has a flashback about his two sons, they come out dressed like high school boys to show the time frame that Willy is thinking about, “Biff, in his high-school sweater, enters carrying suitcase. ” Also in one flashback Happy and Bernard both carry Biff’s football equipment, ready for the “big game”, which I believe Miller created to show the audience how once Biff and the family were successful and how they have deteriorated from that age. “Biff, I’m carrying your helmet, ain’t I? “Let him carry the shoulder guards” “Happy carries Biff’s shoulder guards, gold helmet, and football pants. ” I believe that, such things as the “gold helmet” symbolises success, but also the expectations of Willy, due to it be acted out, within one of Willy’s flashbacks, (the gold symbolising wealth and success because it is a value metal that the successful carry).

There are other symbolic items and clothing, within the flashbacks, which I believe affect the plot and contribute towards the death of Willy, such as Biff’s sneakers, “Oh, Pop, you didn’t see my sneakers! “Just because he printed University of Virginia on his sneaker’s doesn’t mean they’ve got to graduate him, Uncle Willy! ” I believe that the sneakers are a symbol of high expectations and achievement, due to them already having the University Of Virginia written on, which Biff believes he will attend and he believes this because he thinks that he has achieved what he needs to, because of his fathers encouragement and Willy’s belief that Biff, will succeed.

Also Linda’s stockings are of high symbolic importance, within the story, due to the flashbacks because Willy purchased silk stocking for his “woman”, and to see Linda mending hers it enrages Willy because of his guilt. I believe that to Linda the stockings are of great importance, due to them been a symbol of release and escape, because it seems that she is constantly trapped in her marriage and although she loves her husband she believes that mending the stockings will allow for her own time and own effort, without having to care for Willy all the time.

I believe that the costumes within the play are important to the time shifts in the flashbacks and also the emotions that the characters have, due to clothing representing their life and wealth. Within “Death of A Salesman” the music and the sounds contribute to Miller’s use of flashbacks, due to it creates quite a dreamy atmosphere that emphasises upon the perception of Willy and his delirious behaviour.

Such examples of this are the music that is assigned to Ben to let the audience know that Willy is proceeding with his “flashback”, “Willy stares into space, exhausted. Now the music is heard-Ben’s music-first distantly, then closer, closer. As Willy speaks, Ben enters from the right. He carries valise and umbrella. ” I believe that Miller assigns the music to a specific character, such as Ben because I believe it shows the significance of the character to Willy.

Like the lighting it seems that Miller uses the music to create the atmosphere and emphasise upon the feelings that are expressed within the flashbacks. I believe this because at the start of most of the flashbacks, music is played depending on how Miller believes the atmosphere is like within the flashback. This is evident in the flashback of Willy’s affair, due to quite voluptuous music been played, which I believe creates the atmosphere of betrayal and the sex scandal that Willy has, “She is in a black slip; he is buttoning his shirt.

Raw, sensuous music accompanies their speech” I believe that Miller intended the music to play quite a main role in effecting the flashbacks, due to it can create, and empathise feelings conveyed by the characters towards others. It seems that the order in which Miller uses the set, the lighting, the costumes, and the music effects the overall flashback. I believe this because in the order of which Miller places them, it seems to build up to a climax and helps emphasise the atmosphere and helps manipulate the audience into feeling sympathetic towards the characters at times.

An example of this is shown in the build up to Willy’s first flashback, “Their light is out. Well before they have finished speaking, Willy’s form is dimly seen below in the darkened kitchen. The apartment houses are fading out, and the entire house and surroundings become covered with leaves. Music insinuates itself as the leaves appear. ” I believe that the order that they are put in, (lighting, set, music) also allows the audience to expect the flashback, as well as building the effect of the flashback up.

I believe that the order makes the audience more sympathetic towards Willy, due to it emphasises upon the loneliness and disorientation that surrounds him, by first showing Willy’s seclusion from life by the lighting (the dimly lit room, creates the feeling of darkness and empty space, within life), then creating the feeling of isolation by the setting (the leaves blowing by creates the feeling of disconnection from everything outside of him) and finally the music builds the feelings even higher, due to it creating a mournful atmosphere.

I believe that the order of things doesn’t create the flashback, it merely allows the audience to understand that a flashback is about to happen. Also it makes the flashback more significant to the audience, by manipulating their feelings prior to the occurrence of the flashback, by the use of the set, the lighting, the costumes and the music, which altogether, builds the audiences feelings up.

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Miller's Flashbacks in Play Death of a Salesman. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from

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