Essay about Marxism and the Fall of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman

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In post-Depression America, the United States endured internal battles in political ideologies between capitalists and Marxists, which is the focus of Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. According to Helge Normann Nilsen, author of “From Honors At Dawn to Death of a Salesman: Marxism and the Early Plays of Arthur Miller,” the Great Depression had a profound impact in forming the political identity of Arthur Miller: “The Great Depression created in him a lasting and traumatic impression of the devastating power of economic forces in the shaping of peoples’ lives” (146). This lasting effect on Miller is embodied in the character of Willy Loman, an unsuccessful salesman whose life collapses from the strain of his competition for …show more content…
The “vagaries of capitalism” are rooted foremost in materialism and insatiable greed, qualities that are clearly displayed in the character of Willy Loman. As Miller related in a public interview, at the time of the Great Depression, “The main subject of conversation was money…How do I get some, more or less honestly” (“Miller on America” 13). Inspired to combat the forces of corruption and avarice in American free market society, Miller set out to write Death of a Salesman. Concerned for the future of America, specifically out of fear of fascism, Miller campaigned for reforms in free market society:
“Then Mr. Hitler arrived…either capitalism was at its end or it would take tremendous revisions to survive…if capitalism ended in fascism, something profound had to change, and not only within the views of the left” (“Miller on America” 13).
Miller’s play can therefore be interpreted either as an attempt to convert Americans to the system of Marxism, or as a message to capitalists that corruption and greed must be avoided at all costs if America is to remain intact. The debate among critics as to the true intentions of Miller in Death of a Salesman extends beyond the character of Willy; readers and critics alike find the character of Charley to be both enigmatic and useful when examining Miller’s criticisms of capitalism.
According to Nilsen, Miller designed his characters in a way that reveals the corruption of the American free market. She states: “He portrayed his