Upper Six Literatures in English Midterm.
Name: Kyran Richard Assing
Form: 6,2 Modern Studies
School: Presentation College San Fernando
Teacher: Ms. Khan (“Death of a Salesman”)
Due: Monday 15th November, 2010
Question: “I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman...” Discuss how Willy’s self-perception affects Willy and his family.
Arthur Miller’s modern drama, “Death of a Salesman”(DOAS), is the tale of common men in pursuit of the elusive “American Dream” in the late 1940’s. Miller uses the protagonist to harshly criticise the selfishness perpetuated through capitalism and the dismal domino effect that it unleashes upon its practitioners; an act that caused him to be labelled a criminal communist. The pejorative effect of the economical system is portrayed through thevarious modern dramatic techniques, structure and characterisation that Miller employs in his presentation/introspection of Willy and how the American society “eats the orange and throws away the peel.”
The “American Dream” is the idea portrayed by the United States of America that any man can come into the country, regardless of race, nationality, level of education or any other disadvantages andbe successful through his hard labour and positive thinking. Miller uses the techniques of Realism and Expressionism to best present the American society in the late 1940’s. He depicts the reality of a changing, post-World War II country that has grown hard and callous to the well-being of its citizens and the faults of its financial system of capitalism. Miller combines realism andexpressionism to portray Willy to the audience. Expressionism is seen through the use of montage, in which the audience sees overlapping flashback scenes in Willy’s mind and his tenuous grasp on reality. Willy is the embodiment of the modern tragic hero. He is a common man, just as any one of us, and his fatal weakness of pride. He constantly says “Don’t insult me” to many offers of aid. He is on acontinual state of mental descent and physical fatigue brought about by his and the American society’s belief that “one must go out and fetch a diamond” and that success is something that “you can hold in your hands,” a pernicious belief that he passes on to his children Biff and Happy. The physical act of descent throughout the play is also important as we see Biff and Willy drift towards nebulousnessand Willy is only moved upwards when Linda forces him to go upstairs and when Biff is enlightened about true success. The issue of superficiality and materialism is also furthered through the commercialisation of popular brand names such as Studebaker, General Electric and Chevrolet as items desirable and worthy of great persons. In the end, Willy is an example of tragic irony as he kills himselfto allow his family to claim insurance benefits and achieve some level of tangible success.
The structure of the play allows the audience to see the rapid degeneration of a willing pawn in a capitalist society. The play is shown in condensed action over a period of two days. The structure assists to show varying views on the “American Dream,” the modern themes of ageism, societal values,love and parent-child relationships. The pace and concentrated drama never permit the audience to lose interest and also reflects the fast-paced world in which we live, unwilling to slow down to help a fellow man in despair.
Willy Loman sees himself as a successful salesman and a good father who thought his sons everything he knows. He is a good, caring, loving husband and is ‘well-liked’ inhis business with many high positioned friends who will do anything for him. He is influential and believes that his boys would “make it big” if they follow his teachings, none more so than Biff. However, Willy is revealed to be a self-important man as he constantly fabricates situations to prove that he is “well-liked” and prosperous in his salesman business, such as when he tells his boss...
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