How can two people watch or read the same story and yet, interpret it completely differently? Does it have to do with the author’s intentions, or maybe it has to do with the viewers’ own backgrounds and ideologies? Whatever the case may be, viewing one piece of work can lead to a wide array of opinions and critiques. It is through the diversity of such lenses that Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller has become one of the most well-known plays in modern history. There are many different ways in which a play can be criticized, however, criticisms from the approaches of a Marxist and reader-response will be utilized to further dissect Death of a Salesman. Marxist criticism sees pieces of works as a struggle between different socioeconomic classes; what better way to see Miller’s play than for what it is at face value, the struggle of a middle-class man trying to achieve the American dream (1750). On the other hand, a reader-response criticism comes from either an objective or subjective view; in this case Death of a Salesman will be viewed with a subjective lens based on Willy’s deteriorating mental health (1746).
Willy Loman 's American dream, was to become a well-known and loved salesman. Unfortunately, his life was built upon lies and exaggerations in order to escape the pain staking the truth. Willie would have flash backs from his better days at work and with his
Willy believes that wealth is the key to your happiness, and the extent of your wealth is exposed by the amount of materialistic items one has. Miller explains Willy’s thoughts in Timebends, “The publicity apparatus tells Willy that if he works hard like Edison, that if he perseveres like Goodrich, that, if he is “well-liked” like Dave Singleman, then he will rise like Charley and become rich and powerful.” Willy’s thought process is foolish, and his belief that failure cannot be tolerated in his family causes him to lie about his success. This is evident when Biff says “We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house! ” The American Dream is to blame for imprinting wealth is all you need to be happy, into Willy’s mind.
In The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, it is argued weather that Willy Loman is a tragic hero. There are cases for both classifications of Willy. By definition, a tragic hero is a person born into nobility, is responsible for their own fate, endowed with a tragic flaw, and doomed to make a serious error in judgment. The tragic hero eventually falls from great esteem. They realize they have made an irreversible mistake, faces death with honor, and dies tragically. The audience also has to be affected by pity or fear for the tragic hero. In order for Willy Loman to be a tragic hero, he has to fulfill all of these descriptions. Willy Loman fits into some of
Willy Loman’s search for identity is an attempt to be the man according to the backward frontier tradition: the role a man is the supporter and that of the wife is one who keeps the home. His failure to achieve that dream fed his madness. Willy pursues his narrowed perception of the American Dream. He is emblematic of the failing modern American; he embodies the issues of those whom are consumed with dream over reality—taking shortcuts and failing to ad hear to personal sacrifice is what’s wrong with society, for we are manacled to the wrong values. Willy values intangible characteristics, such as personality and appearance over actual achievements and talent. He believes that
Willy’s biggest issue with his son is that he let him down by not being any more successful than him. He feels like Biff is failing on purpose just to make him look bad. Although, he has no decent job and is single; Biff has become disoriented about life. Earlier in the play Biff tells Happy, “I tell ya Hap, I don't know what the future is. I don't know - what I'm supposed to want” (Miller266). Biff once looked up to his father as a role model, but lost all faith in him once finding out that he was having an affair. Ever since he has rejected Willy’s commitment of being a husband and also a father. To add to his ruins are Willy’s ideas of how Biff should get ahead in life. Willy taught Biff that popularity was the right way to get to the top, rather than hard-work and dedication. Trying to live by his dad’s standards caused Biff to fail high school and become unable to put forth the effort to become
Biff said when realizing the type of house he grew up in. Everyone in the Loman household was unsatisfied, the family left unstable. The top of the causes for the problems in the Loman household lead to Willy. Growing up Willy never had a true support system. His father left him at a early age. And his brother went to Africa. With all this abandonment in life, Willy learns to live on the dependency of being well approved of by others, and following a dream he saw as the “American Dream”. This dream led Willy into more failure than it did success. Willy never knew when to look at reality or chase a dream. When it came to a point in life when he realized he could no longer achieve this American Dream, he tried to live it through his sons. He never held his kids accountable for their faults because they were “well liked” Willy sees how much people like you as an equivalence to a human's success in life. Linda once said, “I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.” Willy filled all his actual doings in life, with dreams and visions of a successful him or of anything to make the pain of his actual life
Willy foolishly pursues the wrong dream and constantly lives in an unreal world blinded from reality. Despite his dream Willy constantly attempts to live in an artificial world and claims “If old Wagner was alive I’d be in charge of New York by now” (Miller 14). As a result, Willy often ignores his troubles and denies any financial trouble when he says “business is bad, it’s murderous. But not for me of course” (Miller 51). Another false segment of Willy’s dream includes the success of his two sons Happy and Biff. Biff was a high school football star who never cared about academics and now that he needs a job says “screw the business world” (Miller 61). Ironically, Willy suggests that Biff go west an “be a carpenter, or a cowboy, enjoy yourself!”, an idea that perhaps Willy should have pursued. Constantly advising his boys of the importance of being well liked, Willy fails to stress academics as an important part of life (Miller 40). Furthermore, Willy dies an unexpected death that reveals important causes of the failure to achieve the American dream. At the funeral Linda cries “I made the last payment on the house today... and there’ll be nobody home” to say that she misses Willy but in essence his death freed the Lomans from debt and the hopes and expectations Willy placed on his family (Miller 139). Very few people attend
For Willy Loman, the salesman, the American Dream is more than a passing phrase. The salesman does not merely subscribe to the American dream; he is its personification. Indeed, only a capitalistic society obsessed with commercialism can spawn his profession, for the salesman does not produce anything; rather, his job, like gilded metal, often places a premium on appearance instead of value, a principle that Willy tries to embrace in both his professional and personal life, as reflected in his choice of the refrigerator that is perpetually breaking down but has “the biggest ads of any of them!” (Miller 35). That inability to distinguish between his sales pitches and personal life leads to the point later when he is no longer able to separate his illusions of an idyllic past from reality. Even in those flashbacks, he is literally trying to sell himself to his sons, regaling them with his supposed exploits as a way to convince them of his worth. Willy tries to reinforce that worth as a parent, according to Thomas Adler, through material objects, seeking to prove his love with punching bags and
Finally, Willy failed greatly at achieving the American Dream. People have come to the United States hoping for a life of happiness and success, at the same time, hoping to take pride in what they do and enjoy it. Willy did not achieve the American Dream. He had no pride in what he did, although he hid these emotions. I believe he was so embarrassed because he could not make a single sale or earn a single dollar that he began borrowing fifty dollars a week from Charley, and then pretended it was his salary. He lied to his family and to himself. He did not allow himself to do what he truly wanted to do because he believed that it was more remarkable to be supposedly successful. He therefore failed miserably at the true American Dream, exchanging it for an unattainable fantasy.
As the play progresses, one begins to feel sorry for Willy and his problem, but at the same time angry and frustrated with him for his foolish pride. With this trait, it prevented him from accepting a job from Charlie, something that could have saved his life. Also, it is with this false pride that has been sparking the family flame for years, the fact that the Loman name was well known and well-liked. The family lie that was amongst themselves is revealed during the climax of the play. One example is the way in which Willy led Biff to believe that he is a salesman for Oliver, which at the end left Biff disappointed. The reason for this estimation of the truth may be because of Willy’s idea that he has not raised Biff and Happy the right way.
To begin with, Loman experiences two particular memories of his brother Ben that affect his present. In both moments, Ben is depicted as a successful man. Ben tells Willy’s boys that, “when I was seventeen I walked into jungle and when I was twenty-one I walked out. and by God I was rich!” It is evident that Willy admires and envies his brother’s prosperity and wealth. In Willy’s mind, he is defined by how much money he makes and how capable he is of providing for his family. The memory of his brother going to Africa leaves Willy feeling ashamed, regretful, and inadequate because of his brother’s subsequent financial success. His
Willy Loman's dream is an adaptation of the American Dream. Willy believes that the only things that are important in life are the successes that he achieved and the amount of friends that he made. This is easily illustrated when Willy says " It's who you know and the smile on your face! ... and that's the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked!" (Movie). Success is an important part of the American dream, but Willy puts too much importance on the need to achieve success. He neglects the needs of his family and chooses to remain in the mindset that as long as he is well liked he will achieve success. Although he has lost his ability to sell, Willy continues to believe that as long as he works hard good things will happen to him and his family. Willy's wife Linda realizes this and conveys these thoughts to her sons when she says "He drives seven hundred miles, and when he gets there no one knows him anymore… what goes through a man's mind, driving seven hundred miles home without earning a cent?" (Movie). Willy has delusional ideas about the American Dream. Even in the end Willy still believes that the only thing Biff needs to be successful is some
Willy’s relationship with Biff and Happy also becomes strained throughout their lives. Since Biff was the older son and football star he made his father proud, and Happy was left without the praise that he needed and deserved, as he was always second best. Biff also was the one who caught his father having an affair with a woman in Boston, causing friction between himself and Willy. More importantly, Biff is extremely disturbed by his father's later behavior, including participating in imaginary conversations and reacting to his memories as though they were happening in the present. Willy's job also falls apart from the beginning of the play towards the end. Willy had been making enough money to support his family, but his unwillingness to learn new sales techniques or utilize modern technology resulted in lackluster sales and the loss of his job. Willy’s house had a mortgage until his death, implying that the family was not even secure in their own home. Finally, the family car, a symbol of pride within the Loman household, was destroyed when Willy committed suicide. This was the last example of Willy's destruction of all that was once important to him. Willy Loman, in this regard, follows Aristotle's suggestion that the tragic hero has "...a change of fortune... from prosperity to misfortune...." (Aristotle,1303)
The first major standard of tragedy set forth is: “...if the exaltation of tragic action were truly a property of the high-bred character alone, it is inconceivable that the mass of mankind should cherish tragedy above all other forms.” All persons regardless of background, nobility stature, rank, or pretended or actual social division can innately empathize with the tragic hero. In the case of Willy Loman there