Seeing Inside Willy's Head in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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Seeing Inside Willy's Head in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller chose to write, in the contemporary tragedy Death of A
Salesman, about the story of an ordinary man driven by his own
interpretation of the American dream. What characterizes this play is
the way he does this : Miller breaks the boundaries of classical
conventions of playwriting by allowing the audience to enter, visually
as well as emotionally, Willy's mind in order to permit a better
comprehension of the latter's inevitable tragic fate. Hence, the
mingling of past and present in the play, essential in this role, and
the way it affects Willy's view of the world and life in general, will
be analysed.

From the start
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As a result, in Willy's mind, past and present exist on the same
level, he perceives himself both in the present and in the past,
showing a certain sense of schizophrenia in his personality. He is led
by contradictions, saying for example at one point that his son Biff
is a "lazy bum" and, very shortly later, that "there's one thing about
Biff - he's not lazy". Overwork, worry and repressed guilt have caused
Willy's mental collapse and in this state of nervous breakdown, the
notion of time is fading away. There is an evolution : the function of
memory entails a multiplicity of temporal levels, a series of various
locations : Boston, where Willy lives; New York where he goes to find
his work boss, Howard; Alaska where his brother Ben has found success;
the numerous places where Willy has travelled as a salesman…
Ultimately, Willy's memory causes his loss of any fixed identity.

In a sense, the exploded setting of the house, with its transparent
walls, its scrims, its curtains, its nearby orchestra…, is a concrete,
tangible image of an exploding consciousness, in which spatial and
temporal fragments are entwined. This emphasizes the role of the
appeasing flute, symbolic of a return to reality, which becomes more
and more necessary and urgent, and eventually futile, as the plot
unfolds.

It is important to note that the past is not…