Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Death of a Salesman - Critical Review

In the play, Death of Salesman by Arthur Miller, written in 1949 the American father as a provider was a strongly held fact. Since Arthur Miller wrote the play the man is no longer the undisputed head of the household and this title is now encompassed by mothers and/or fathers, grandparents and same sex households. In this play Willy Loman is living in a life that is not suited for him. He became a salesman because of what he saw his father doing growing up, selling flutes and thought he could be successful. He never gave himself a chance to ask what he wanted for himself and when he did try to go make money with this brother he was to far into his life to make a change without fear of failure. Willy seems more comfortable in the play when he doing things with his hands and we can see the similarities to his older son Biff who enjoys working on the farms in the west. His second son Happy wants to follow in his footsteps as salesman and become number 1 in his industry to give it to his father.

Willy is the provider of the family at least financially, but the older he gets the less he is able to bring in substantial paychecks and support his family. Emotionally he has lost touch with his sons and his wife and his wife is the one who provides emotional support for Willy and keeps the peace between him and his sons. The sons realize how much their mother gives up and how much Willy is concerned with his own success.

The play examines the American Dream that was highly publicized after World War II, that if you worked hard you could achieve health, happiness and wealth, or if you were one of the lucky ones like Willy’s brother Ben you could accidentally get rich quick.

The reason Miller doesn’t reveal what Willy Loman sells is because it isn’t relevant to the story. The sales industry is the same no matter what you are selling. When there are people interested in what you are selling they will buy what you are selling.

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