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"Death of a Salesman" - Critical Analysis

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Critical Evaluation

How to find a style that would at one and the same time deeply engage an American audience, which insisted on a recognizable reality of characters, locales, and themes, while opening the stage to considerations of public morality and the mythic social fates—in short, the invisible? Miller knew little about the theater when he arrived in Ann Arbor from his home in Brooklyn, but during these formative college years, he became aware of German expressionism, and he read August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen, whom he often acknowledged as major influences on him.

Christopher Bigsby has pointed out that Miller always remembered the effect that reading Greek and Elizabethan playwrights at college had on him Critical Study However, Miller was markedly affected by the social-protest work of Clifford Odets. Most important for Miller, Odets brought to American drama a concern for language: Tennessee Williams is another playwright whom Miller frequently credited with influencing his art and the craft of his language.

Moreover, Miller practiced what he had learned and espoused. When he graduated from Michigan and started his work with the Federal Theatre Project in , he wrote The Golden Years, a verse play about Montezuma. In a letter to Professor Rowe, he reported that he found writing verse much easier than writing prose: Also, he explained that much of Death of a Salesman and all of The Crucible were originally written in verse; the one-act version of A View from the Bridge was written in an intriguing mixture of verse and prose, and Miller regretted his failure to do the same in The American Clock Bigsby, Critical Introduction However, Miller found an American theater hostile to the poetic form.

In the s, Maxwell Anderson was one of the few American playwrights incorporating blank verse into his plays, and the English theater witnessed some interest in poetic drama in the s and s, most notably with Christopher Fry and T. Further, Miller came of age at a time when American audiences were demanding realism, the musical comedy was gaining in dominance, and commercial Broadway producers were disinterested in verse drama.

Struggling with how to accept this reality, Miller accommodated his natural inclination to verse by developing a dramatic idiom that reconciled his poetic urge with the realism demanded by the aesthetics of the American stage. Thus he infused poetic language into his prose dialogue. Trees are an excellent illustration of how Miller uses literal and figurative meanings. Two references in act 1, scene 1, immediately establish their importance in the play.

Although these trees merely seem to distract Willy from driving, he also indicates their connection to dreaming. He complains to Linda about the apartment houses surrounding the Loman home: Remember those two beautiful elm trees out there? When Biff and I hung the swing between them? Throughout the entire play, trees—and all the other images connected to them—are complicated symbols of an idyllic past for which Willy longs in his dreams, a world where Biff and Hap are young, where Willy can believe himself a hot-shot salesman, where Brooklyn seems an unspoiled wilderness.

Throughout the play, Miller significantly expands upon the figurative meaning of trees. Where are you guys, where are you? The woods are burning! We realize that since Willy is so associated with his dreams, he will die when they burn.

Once aware of how tree images operate in the play, a reader or keen theatergoer can note the cacophony of other references that sustain the metaphor in other scenes.

Miller similarly uses boxing in literal and figurative ways throughout the play. Hap responds to Biff with the first sports reference in the text: Sometimes I want to just rip my clothes off in the middle of the store and outbox that goddam merchandise manager. As an athlete, Biff, it seems, should introduce the sports metaphor, but, ironically, the sport with which he is identified—football—is not used in any extensive metaphoric way in the play.

Thus Hap expresses his frustration at being a second-rate worker by stressing his physical superiority over his managers. Unable to win in economic competition, he longs to beat his coworkers in a physical match, and it is this contrast between economic and physical competition that intensifies the dramatic interplay between the literal and the figurative language of the play.

In fact, the very competitiveness of the American economic system in which Willy and Hap work, and that Biff hates, is consistently put on physical terms in the play.

A failure in the competitive workplace, Hap uses the metaphor of physical competition—boxing man to man—yet the play details how Hap was considered less physically impressive than Biff when the two were boys.

As an adult, Hap competes in the only physical competition he can win—sex. Perhaps knowing that they cannot win, the Lomans resort to a significant amount of cheating in competition: The boxing metaphor also illustrates the contrast between Biff and Hap. Boxing as a sports metaphor is quite different from the expected football metaphor: Thus the difference between Biff and Hap—Hap as evoker of the boxing metaphor and Biff as a player of a team sport—is emphasized throughout the text.

Moreover, the action of the play relies on the clash of dreams between Biff and Willy. Yet Hap, the second-rate son, the second-rate physical specimen, the second-rate worker, is the son who is most like Willy in profession, braggadocio, and sexual swagger.

As a traveling sales man, Willy spends much time driving great distances in his car. After arriving home early from a highly unsuccessful sales trip, Willy berates his car and blames it for his inability to bring home enough money to pay outstanding bills.

Willy rationalizes to himself that if the car had only been reliable, his trip would have been much more successful and he would have been better liked. This rationale holds no water considering that the few weeks Willy This research report examines various characters in each of these works. Both the film and novel are explored and Ivan in Tolstoy' Free will, on the other hand, speaks to the concept of having full authority over ones aspirations and ultimate direction, reflect Net-savvy that instead of a generation gap, theres a "generation lap" in which older generations feel threatened by the N-Gens fac This 9 page paper examines the way in which three different directors approach Shakespeare.

It looks at Kenneth Branagh's producti The three major themes within the play are denial, contradiction, and order versus disorder. Each member of the Loman family is living in denial or perpetuating a cycle of denial for others.

Willy Loman is incapable of accepting the fact that he is a mediocre salesman. Instead Willy strives for his version of the American dream — success and notoriety — even if he is forced to deny reality in order to achieve it. Instead of acknowledging that he is not a well-known success, Willy retreats into the past and chooses to relive past memories and events in which he is perceived as successful.

For example, Willy's favorite memory is of Biff's last football game because Biff vows to make a touchdown just for him. In this scene in the past, Willy can hardly wait to tell the story to his buyers. He considers himself famous as a result of his son's pride in him. Willy's sons, Biff and Happy, adopt Willy's habit of denying or manipulating reality and practice it all of their lives, much to their detriment.

It is only at the end of the play that Biff admits he has been a "phony" too, just like Willy. Linda is the only character that recognizes the Loman family lives in denial; however, she goes along with Willy's fantasies in order to preserve his fragile mental state.

The second major theme of the play is contradiction. Throughout the play, Willy's behavior is riddled with inconsistencies. In fact, the only thing consistent about Willy is his inconsistency. From the very beginning of Act I, Scene 1, Willy reveals this tendency. He labels Biff a "lazy bum" but then contradicts himself two lines later when he states, "And such a hard worker. There's one thing about Biff — he's not lazy. Willy's inconsistent behavior is the result of his inability to accept reality and his tendency to manipulate or re-create the past in an attempt to escape the present.

For example, Willy cannot resign himself to the fact that Biff no longer respects him because of Willy's affair. Rather than admit that their relationship is irreconcilable, Willy retreats to a previous time when Biff admired and respected him. As the play continues, Willy disassociates himself more and more from the present as his problems become too numerous to deal with.

The third major theme of the play, which is order versus disorder, results from Willy's retreats into the past. Each time Willy loses himself in the past, he does so in order to deny the present, especially if the present is too difficult to accept.

How did Willy’s brother Ben make his fortune?

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The following paper topics are based on the entire play. Following each topic is a thesis and sample outline. Use these as a starting point for your paper. Death of a Salesman encompasses two.

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Essays and criticism on Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman - Critical Evaluation.

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Critical Essays Major Themes in Death of a Salesman Bookmark this page Manage My Reading List The play is a montage of memories, dreams, confrontations, and arguments, all of which make up the last 24 hours of Willy Loman's life. CRITICAL ANALYSIS-DEATH OF A SALESMAN -ARTHUR MILLER Arthur Miller (Oct Feb ) was, in all probability, one of the greatest playwrights of contemporary history He is also one of the greatest critics of contemporary American society, as his .

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Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Also, he explained that much of Death of a Salesman and all of The Crucible were originally written in verse; the one-act version of A View from the Bridge () was written in an intriguing mixture of verse and prose, and Miller regretted his failure to do the same in The American Clock () (Bigsby, Critical Introduction ).