How does Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman reflect society at the time? Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:25:56
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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller deals with one mans struggle in achieving success and how outside influences such as money, family and even society influence an individual. Willy Lomans tragic character has a lot of depth to it, and to therefore understand such depth we must look in to the society that is around him and indeed the playwright Arthur Miller. Willy Loman is set apart from the rest of society as he relies upon a different set of values and motivations everyone else rests on.

From the time, that Death of a Salesman was written there were many accounts on how America was going through a post war social and economic upheaval. It was not only Arthur Miller but also Tennessee Williams who began creating a series of protest plays whilst working with radical theatre companies. The history that had gone before them formed many of the major themes that defined their characters along with the explanation of the social pressure that is exerted on them. Dignity loss and self-assurance that Miller saw as one legacy of the social crash that without a doubt left a mark on Miller, which can be seen in his creation of the character Willy Loman. This included the sense that promises made by a society that seemed so secure were betrayed. The barrier that prevented the world from becoming chaotic became fragile with the betrayal of the promises that were made.

Greed for success has eaten in to the minds of countless individuals especially those who fled to America in order to achieve The American dream. People in this civilisation are desperate to climb and do whatever it takes to achieve success no matter which they hurt in the process, this is particularly evident in the character of Willy Loman as his want of money consumes him up until the point he shamelessly commits suicide. It can be argued that Willy Loman does not choose this destructive dream because it is forced upon him by society.

The ideas that epitomize the American Dream are that which Willy Loman constantly tries to achieve; wealth, fame and overall success. The play of Death of a Salesman on the surface appears to be about one mans quest in becoming a well-liked salesman. On some levels, Willy feels as if he is obligated to fulfil this dream that society has inflicted, however looking at his character in depth it is Willy who feels trapped by this dream. The American dream is presented as the dream to have with no other been being acceptable.

Willys true dream resurfaces at certain points within the play, the dream that has been forced in to his almost subconscious mind; living on his own in the country were he can raise his family and live off the land. This dream only resurfaces when the dream he is trying to achieve (The American Dream) does not go according to plan, for instance when Willy plants seeds in his garden. Willys true dream is the same dream that his son Biff wishes to achieve in the climax of the play. It is Willy that makes this dream seem impossible for Biff to achieve as he is forcing him in to the false dream of the well liked salesman. Willys death at the end of the play appears to be out of love for his family.

He does this so that his family can have his life insurance thus completing the dream of being wealthy, he continues to have the hope that he will complete the false dream that he is living. Another prime reason for Willy Loman to carry out his own death is that he will free his sons of the burden to finish the unfulfilled dream, therefore setting them free to create his own dreams. This reflects society again as in the time that parents have continuously been pressured in to encouraging their child to succeed in life. Mike Lesage makes the very powerful statement it was society who stripped him of his dignity, piece by piece. It was society who stripped him of his lifestyle, and his own sons who stripped him of hope.

The way Willy treats his wife Linda is a direct reflection of the way in which women in society at the time would have been treated. In the United states women were not given equal rights until around the early 1970s. At this point, they were given the simple pleasure of a credit card however; they had to possess their husbands name on it. However, during the time Death of a Salesman was written women were still in the battle for fair treatment and equal rights. The way in which Miller displays this is by not including any strong female figures in the play. The repression of women in society at the time just caused them to be held back, something that a fast developing country such as America could not afford to do.

Eliza Kazan once said, Willy is one vast contradiction, and this contradiction is his downfall This reflects Willys undecided attitudes on pride, success and his affair, which therefore portrays Willy Loman as a casualty of the capitalistic concept. It becomes evident from this play how society can be very judgemental on the people within it. The protagonist, Willy Loman is used by Miller to portray the prejudice a society has on a person. Willy Loman becomes alienated in many different ways, for instance being fired from his job and the feeling that he has been segregated from his own family. All of the actions that alienate him validate the discrimination of a biased world.

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