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Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller The American Dream: At what cost? The American Dream: At what cost?

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Presentation on theme: "Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller The American Dream: At what cost? The American Dream: At what cost?"— Presentation transcript:

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2 Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller The American Dream: At what cost? The American Dream: At what cost?

3 About the Playwright: Arthur Miller  Born in New York City on October 17, 1915  Began as playwright at University of Michigan  Pulitzer Prize winner for Death of A Salesman Pulitzer Prize  Double winner of New York Drama Critics Circle Award  Born in New York City on October 17, 1915  Began as playwright at University of Michigan  Pulitzer Prize winner for Death of A Salesman Pulitzer Prize  Double winner of New York Drama Critics Circle Award

4 Miller’s Legal Troubles  Suspected of being a Communist sympathizer  Death seen as un-American  Miller has troubles with the HUAC/McCarthy  Miller denied a passport  HUAC pressures NYC not to allow Miller to make a film for them on juvenile delinquency  Suspected of being a Communist sympathizer  Death seen as un-American  Miller has troubles with the HUAC/McCarthy  Miller denied a passport  HUAC pressures NYC not to allow Miller to make a film for them on juvenile delinquency

5 The Saga Continues...  Miller convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to name names And then...  US Court of Appeals overturns his contempt conviction  Miller convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to name names And then...  US Court of Appeals overturns his contempt conviction

6 Miller’s Assertions  Death is not a “document of pessimism.”  Death is not un-American; it celebrates the life of Willy Loman.  Miller believes that tragedy is “inherently optimistic.”  Death is not a “document of pessimism.”  Death is not un-American; it celebrates the life of Willy Loman.  Miller believes that tragedy is “inherently optimistic.”

7 From Classical Tragedy  Unity of time -- the final 24 hours in Willy’s life  Unity of action - the play is complete unto itself  the tragic hero…with a twist  Unity of time -- the final 24 hours in Willy’s life  Unity of action - the play is complete unto itself  the tragic hero…with a twist

8 Also from Classical Tragedy  the hero’s traits, esp. being a mixture of good and bad and being of higher moral worth than others in society  the concept of the hero’s flaw  the hero’s capacity to willingly endure suffering  the catharsis of the audience  the hero’s traits, esp. being a mixture of good and bad and being of higher moral worth than others in society  the concept of the hero’s flaw  the hero’s capacity to willingly endure suffering  the catharsis of the audience

9 Initial Themes  Addresses family conflict in post World War II America  Takes a close look at the price paid for the “American Dream”  Charges America with creating a capitalist materialism centered around a postwar economy  This materialism skewed the original view of the “American Dream” as envisioned by the founding fathers  Addresses family conflict in post World War II America  Takes a close look at the price paid for the “American Dream”  Charges America with creating a capitalist materialism centered around a postwar economy  This materialism skewed the original view of the “American Dream” as envisioned by the founding fathers

10 Death of a Salesman and the American Dream Death of a Salesman is considered by many to be the quintessential modern literary work on the American dream, a term created by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, The Epic of America. This is somewhat ironic, given that it is such a dark and frustrated play. The idea of the American dream is as old as America itself: the country has often been seen as an empty frontier to be explored and conquered. Unlike the Old World, the New World had no social hierarchies, so a man could be whatever he wanted, rather than merely having the option of doing what his father did. The American Dream is closely tied up with the literary works of another author, Horatio Alger. This author grew famous through his allegorical tales which were always based on the rags-to-riches model. He illustrated how through hard work and determination, penniless boys could make a lot of money and gain respect in America. Death of a Salesman is considered by many to be the quintessential modern literary work on the American dream, a term created by James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book, The Epic of America. This is somewhat ironic, given that it is such a dark and frustrated play. The idea of the American dream is as old as America itself: the country has often been seen as an empty frontier to be explored and conquered. Unlike the Old World, the New World had no social hierarchies, so a man could be whatever he wanted, rather than merely having the option of doing what his father did. The American Dream is closely tied up with the literary works of another author, Horatio Alger. This author grew famous through his allegorical tales which were always based on the rags-to-riches model. He illustrated how through hard work and determination, penniless boys could make a lot of money and gain respect in America.

11 Themes in Death  Willy Loman as a modern tragic hero  An individual’s search for meaning and purpose in life (not Willy, but Biff)  failure in pursuit of success  Man’s need to “leave a thumbprint somewhere in the world.”  An examination of the materialistic values of society  Willy Loman as a modern tragic hero  An individual’s search for meaning and purpose in life (not Willy, but Biff)  failure in pursuit of success  Man’s need to “leave a thumbprint somewhere in the world.”  An examination of the materialistic values of society

12 More themes in Death  The love of a father for a son and a son (Biff) for a father  The conflict between father and son  The question of who shall wield the power?  the problem of communication  The love of a father for a son and a son (Biff) for a father  The conflict between father and son  The question of who shall wield the power?  the problem of communication

13 Add: Themes  Abandonment : The not-so-positive transient nature of mankind  Betrayal : Willy’s primary obsession (Biff)  Abandonment : The not-so-positive transient nature of mankind  Betrayal : Willy’s primary obsession (Biff)

14 Symbols  Seeds: opportunity for growth, but will not always germinate.  Diamonds: Material & tangible wealth  The Woman’s Stockings: betrayal and infidelity.  The Rubber Hose: Suicide  Alaska, Africa…The American West: success and failure  Seeds: opportunity for growth, but will not always germinate.  Diamonds: Material & tangible wealth  The Woman’s Stockings: betrayal and infidelity.  The Rubber Hose: Suicide  Alaska, Africa…The American West: success and failure

15 Characteristics of the Tragic Hero "A man doesn't become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall." ~Aristotle Six Characteristics of the Tragic Hero:  Nobility or wisdom (by birth)  A flaw or error of judgment (Hamartia)  A reversal of fortune (perepetia)  The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the hero's own actions (anagnorisis)  The audience must feel dramatic irony for the character.  The character's fate must be greater than deserved. "A man doesn't become a hero until he can see the root of his own downfall." ~Aristotle Six Characteristics of the Tragic Hero:  Nobility or wisdom (by birth)  A flaw or error of judgment (Hamartia)  A reversal of fortune (perepetia)  The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the hero's own actions (anagnorisis)  The audience must feel dramatic irony for the character.  The character's fate must be greater than deserved.

16 A few key traits of the T.H.  Usually evokes empathy…  Has a weakness, usually pride  Something has gone awry in his/her life  Usually faced with a very serious decision he must make  Noble in nature  Must understand his mistakes…  Likely doomed from the start…  Begins his “journey” as no better or worse than the rest of us…  Usually evokes empathy…  Has a weakness, usually pride  Something has gone awry in his/her life  Usually faced with a very serious decision he must make  Noble in nature  Must understand his mistakes…  Likely doomed from the start…  Begins his “journey” as no better or worse than the rest of us…

17 The Common Man as Hero Miller’s thoughts:  “Everyone knows Willy Loman.” (allusion to the morality play, Everyman.)  “The common man is suitable for a tragic hero.”  Willy is meant to be seen as greater and better (at least in potential) than his society. Miller’s thoughts:  “Everyone knows Willy Loman.” (allusion to the morality play, Everyman.)  “The common man is suitable for a tragic hero.”  Willy is meant to be seen as greater and better (at least in potential) than his society.

18 Miller’s Modern Tragedy  The hero is a common man.  The hero struggles against society.  The hero meets his downfall.  The downfall is a result of an incongruity between his own perception of the world and reality.  The hero achieves a kind of redemption in his downfall.  The hero is a common man.  The hero struggles against society.  The hero meets his downfall.  The downfall is a result of an incongruity between his own perception of the world and reality.  The hero achieves a kind of redemption in his downfall.

19 Act 1 An air of the dream clings to the place, a dream rising out of reality.  How does this serve to foreshadow Willy Loman’s life? An air of the dream clings to the place, a dream rising out of reality.  How does this serve to foreshadow Willy Loman’s life?

20 Major Characters  Willy Loman  Biff Loman  Linda Loman  Happy Loman  Charley  Bernard  Ben  Willy Loman  Biff Loman  Linda Loman  Happy Loman  Charley  Bernard  Ben  The Woman  Howard Wagner  Stanley  Jenny  Miss Forsythe and Letta  The Woman  Howard Wagner  Stanley  Jenny  Miss Forsythe and Letta

21 Willy Loman  Father, traveling salesman  Believes in chasing the American Dream although he never achieves it  Pins his failed hopes on his sons, Biff and Happy  Becomes mentally ill when pressure of reality crushes his illusions  Father, traveling salesman  Believes in chasing the American Dream although he never achieves it  Pins his failed hopes on his sons, Biff and Happy  Becomes mentally ill when pressure of reality crushes his illusions

22 Biff Loman  Elder son, 34 years old  High school standout-football star, many male friends, and female admirers  Academic failures lead to a life of kleptomania  Represents Willy’s vulnerable, tragic side  Fails to reconcile his father’s expectations  Elder son, 34 years old  High school standout-football star, many male friends, and female admirers  Academic failures lead to a life of kleptomania  Represents Willy’s vulnerable, tragic side  Fails to reconcile his father’s expectations

23 Linda Loman  Loving, devoted wife  Naïve and realistic of Willy’s hopes  Emotionally supportive of Willy  Willy’s strength until his tragic perishing  Loving, devoted wife  Naïve and realistic of Willy’s hopes  Emotionally supportive of Willy  Willy’s strength until his tragic perishing

24 Happy Loman  Younger son, 32 years old  In Biff’s shadow all his life  Relentless sex and professional drive  Represents Willy’s sense of self importance and ambition  Often engages in bad business ethics  Younger son, 32 years old  In Biff’s shadow all his life  Relentless sex and professional drive  Represents Willy’s sense of self importance and ambition  Often engages in bad business ethics

25 Charley  The Lomans’ next door neighbor  Successful businessman  Often gives Willy financial support  Described sadly as Willy’s only friend although Willy is jealous of Charley’s success  The Lomans’ next door neighbor  Successful businessman  Often gives Willy financial support  Described sadly as Willy’s only friend although Willy is jealous of Charley’s success

26 Bernard  Charley’s son  Successful lawyer  Often mocked by Willy for being studious  Compared to Loman sons by Willy; they do not measure up to his success  Charley’s son  Successful lawyer  Often mocked by Willy for being studious  Compared to Loman sons by Willy; they do not measure up to his success

27 Ben  Willy’s deceased older brother  Independently wealthy  Appears to Willy in daydreams  Willy’s symbol of success that he desperately wants for his sons  Willy’s deceased older brother  Independently wealthy  Appears to Willy in daydreams  Willy’s symbol of success that he desperately wants for his sons

28 The Woman  Willy’s mistress  Her admiration for Willy is an ego boost  Biff catches Willy with her in a hotel room  Biff loses faith in his father due to infidelity  Willy’s mistress  Her admiration for Willy is an ego boost  Biff catches Willy with her in a hotel room  Biff loses faith in his father due to infidelity

29 WILLY: I'm not interested in stories about the past or any crap of that kind because the woods are burning, boys, you understand? There's a big blaze going on all around. I was fired today. BIFF (shocked): How could you be? WILLY: I was fired, and I'm looking for a little good news to tell your mother, because the woman has waited and the woman has suffered. The gist of it is that I haven't got a story left in my head, Biff. So don't give me a lecture about facts and aspects. I am not interested. Now what've you got so say to me? (from Death of a Salesman)


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