Analysis of Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman'

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Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman was a hit nearly from its debut, and its importance to American literature and theater has not diminished in the over half a century since its first performance in 1949. However, the specific areas of the play that have most intrigued critics have changed over time, as different historical, social, and literary concerns lead critics to come up with different interpretations. By analyzing three different critical responses to Death of a Salesman, it will be possible to not only understand the play better, but also actually see how the reception of the play has changed as society's standards of criticism and discourse changed over the intervening years. One is able to see how shifting views on patriarchy lead to a change in the play's reception, and particularly the characterization of Willy Loman, who transforms from a tragic, albeit flawed man into the contemptible lackey of a patriarchal, capitalist society that has little regard for human health or happiness. The first critical response to Death of a Salesman considered here actually comes from 1949, just as the play was first debuting on Broadway. The first reviews of the play were almost unanimously positive, and February, 1949, review in the Los Angeles Times is indicative of the praises it received at the time. The Times review, like most popular reviews, does not bother with literary theory, but rather focuses solely on the plot and reviewing the constituent elements of the
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