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Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller’s Themes & Motifs Loss of identity Inability to accept personal change Inability to accept societal change Denial Contradiction.

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Presentation on theme: "Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller’s Themes & Motifs Loss of identity Inability to accept personal change Inability to accept societal change Denial Contradiction."— Presentation transcript:

1 Death of a Salesman

2 Arthur Miller’s Themes & Motifs Loss of identity Inability to accept personal change Inability to accept societal change Denial Contradiction Order vs. Disorder Appearance vs. Reality

3 Willy comes home Willy is mentally and physically fatigued “I suddenly couldn’t drive anymore. The car kept going off onto the shoulder.” Linda always provides opportunities for him to suggest that nothing is wrong with him and that he is fine. She suggests his glasses or faulty steering.

4 Linda Willy takes Linda for granted Throughout the play he constantly criticizes her and only in moments of clarity does he show his respect for her. She enables him and allows him to deny reality.

5 Contradiction Willy customizes the world to fit his ideal perception. When someone tries to disagree with him he gets insulted and becomes angry. He is tired of being contradicted. Contradicts himself – Biff is a lazy bum – hard worker; the Chevy is the greatest – worst car ever. Willy has trouble believing that Biff isn’t popular anymore. He creates Order out of Disorder when he manipulates the facts and tries to ‘fix’ biff in his own way.

6 Characterization of Biff and Happy Bedroom scene – Happy is like what Biff used to be. Biff has changed a lot from high school; Happy thinks he is more like Biff then Biff himself. Happy’s actions stem from the idea that all things are possible and all goals are obtainable. Biff is overwhelmed by his own contradictory desires – spring sprung on the farm. Biff attempts to establish order in his life by asking Happy to join him in Texas. Biff knows what he needs to feel successful – Happy does not – he has obtained material possessions (house, car etc.) but he needs to conqure women who are engaged to be married and he likes to ‘ruin’ them just to prove he can.

7 Willy’s reflection scene Football – he disapproves of stealing it at first but then he defends Biff and praises his initiative. CONTRADICTIONS This is one of Willy’s happiest memories because he is idealized by his boys This event leads to confusion in Biff’s life later on. Disorder in orderly memories. Stealing the ball first getting condones and then defended.

8 Bernard Bernard is liked but not “well-liked” He tried to help Biff with his math but is criticized by Willy, Happy and Biff. Willy tells Biff to study but revels in the fact that his boys are superior in strength and popularity compared to everyone else. Willy is living vicariously through his sons – he reveals that he is not liked and he talks to much. He explains that Biff needs to study but then waves it off – this reinforces the idea that if you’re “well-liked,” like Biff, then you’re not answerable to what everyone else is. Above commonplace. Willy and his boys

9 Denial Willy’s manipulation of reality is seen for the first time Fudges the numbers of the trip 1200 – 200 -> he is not satisfied with the trip and so he denies the reality and embellishes the number of a more favourable outcome. Linda then discusses bills that exceed his commission by 50 bucks – Willy becomes agitated and refuses to pay for the Chevy repairs because the car is garbage even though he praised it a couple minutes ago. Criticism of the car creates order over disorder because he is the ‘authority’ on something now – inability to accept the truth

10 Acceptance of Reality (p.37) Willy: But I gotta be at it ten, twelve hours a day. Other men – I don't know – they do it easier. I don’t know why – I can’t stop myself – I talk too much. A man oughta come in with a few words. One thing about Charley. He’s a man of few words and they respect him. … I’m fat. I’m foolish to look at,... I heard them say something about – walrus. This proves that Willy understands the reality but is unable to accept them. He denies failure and his inability to be well liked because this is too painful for him to accept. It is much easier to invent a reality that he is successful. Make Order out of Disorder.

11 The woman Pivotal The guilt over the affair and inability to separate Linda from the woman. He is having difficulty distinguishing the events of the present from those of the past. Stockings - orders her to throw them away. – vague apology Willy’s mental faculties are deteriorating – in Willy’s mind ALL events are happening at the same time. This is leaving him confused and bewildered – he does not know if he can make things right with his family because he cannot tell the past from the present. Bernard – Biff’s failures

12 Biff and The Woman Willy focuses on his own failure with regards to his marriage and this stimulates memories of Biff’s failure. He contradicted himself here – he defends Biff in the end and ignores the warning signs from Bernard and praises Biff.

13 Scene 8 Charley and the card game. – fusing memories – actively hallucinating. He believes he is talking to two real people that are unaware of each other and engaged in two completely different conversations. Willy refuses to acknowledge that the job opportunity in Alaska no longer exists Ben might be Charley’s character alter ego. Tries to create order from disorder – in his mind – and he accuses charley of cheating and he leaves angrily. Uncle Ben and the missed opportunity

14 Willy Demonstrates a dependance on memories and insecurities that prompt him to rearrange events


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