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Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller American Drama.

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1 Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller American Drama

2 Modern American Drama Historical Background O Great Depression (1930s to middle 1940s) O Fall in stock prices, stock market crash O American Dream O Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone regardless of social class. O After the WWII and Great Depression, Americans had a surplus of goods and services (The economic boom) O Inflation kept poorer citizens from saving any money, and small farmers faced hard times as corporate farmers were supported by the government.

3 Modern American Drama The Style O Realism is primary form of dramatic expression in the 20th century, even as experimentation in both the content and the production of plays became increasingly important.

4 O Such renowned American playwrights as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller reached profound new levels of psychological realism, commenting through individual characters and their situations on the state of American society in general.

5 O The American family, and its development and disintegration, was a recurring theme of playwrights at this time, and it would dominate much American playwriting for the rest of the 20th century.

6 Arthur Miller O Son of a Jewish immigrant family. O His father’s failure and withdrawal from the world of business had profound effect on him. (Willy Loman) O Represents his own relation with his father O Mostly interested in current events, social injustice/inequality

7 Death of a Salesman O The masterpiece of Miller, cornerstone of contemporary American Drama O It has become one of the most performed and adapted plays in American theatrical history O Portraying the universal hopes and fears of middle-class America. O Examining the myth of the American Dream and the shallow promise of happiness through material wealth.

8 Death of a Salesman O People can relate this to their own compromised ideals and missed opportunities. O The play deals in weighty emotional issues without descending to melodrama O Two acts and a Requiem part, a realist play with some elements of expressionism O When it depicts imaginary sequences and portrays for the audience the inner workings of the character’s minds and their emotions.

9 An Overview O The character Willy, his sons Biff and Happy in Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller have lived a life reflecting the common American middle- class families with their conflicts and dreams of success. The father Willy has always been under the spell of American Dream which is about to fade away in the post-war era. His son Happy thinks nearly the same with his father unlike his older brother Biff who finds his father’s dreams vain and rejects his father’s expectations on him.

10 An Overview O Death of a Salesman is a work belonging not only to the time it is written but also today. The family has always been the core of the society with its economic, educational and moral sides. If the family corrupts then the society will collapse. In Death of a Salesman, the father Willy brings up his sons disregarding the society’s norms over his dreams, he never sees that the values he believes changed and the dreams he follows do not exist anymore. He spent his entire life on believing the dream of success that never comes as it is never supported by solid reality and facts. In the end, Willy commits suicide by crashing his car and Miller concludes the lifetime tragedy with a more tragic incident.

11 Characterization

12 Willy Loman O A salesman, sixty-three years old O He cannot face the reality that he has misdirected energies and talents chasing a dream that never had any chance of materializing. O Willy’s flashbacks and fantasies comprimise a large part of the play and inform the audience about his past.

13 Willy Loman O In the scenes taking place in present time, Willy is highly emotional, unstable, uncertain at times, highly contradictory and seems worn down by life. O In his flashbacks and fantasies, Willy is a more loving father and husband, a more capable provider, he is cheerfuli light- hearted, and self-assured.

14 Willy Loman O He fails to live up, with his death, to live his family with a sizable anount of cash, namely $20,000 life insurance payoff, Willy commits suicide. O Many critics have asserted that Willy is a modern tragic hero, and that his tragedy lies in his belief in an illusory American Dream.

15 O Would you blame the society for Willy’s tragedy? If so, why? If not, why?

16 O Miller asserts that after seeing Death of a Salesman, the audience members “were weeping because the central matrix of the play is.. what most people are up against in their lives.. They were seeing themselves, not because Willy is a salesman but the situation in which he stood and to which he was reacting against him, the central situation of contemporary civilization. It is that we are struggling with forces that are far greater than we can handle, with no equipment to make anything mean anything.”

17 Linda Loman O Long suffering, devoted wife O Speaks carefully and has a quiet manner O Takes care of Willy not to raise his temper and continuosly presents a cheerful, hopeful apperance. O She has tremendous patience and serves as the family peacemaker.

18 Linda Loman O She knows the dreams of her husband and sons and knows that they are deluded but keeps bolster their fantasies believing that she is doing the best. O She represents human dignity and values: cooperative, moral, human behaviour as opposed to lawless assertion of self over all others through assumed superiority.

19 Biff Loman O Willy’s eldest son, once a high school football idol O In his mid thirties, lost his youthful confidence and enthusiasm; often appears as a troubled, frustrated, deeply sad man with a tendency to escape into dreams at times. O He was betrayed by his father at a very young age when he discovered that Willy was having an affair.

20 Biff Loman O Biff, who steals things as an adult, blames gis father for not giving him the proper guidance when he was caught stealing as a child. O He also blames his father for instilling in him the belief that success lies in the accumulation of wealth. O He is very unhappy and cannot enjoy doing the outdoor labor for which he has a talent.

21 Biff Loman O He has a great love for Willy and that creates in him tremendous confusion and emotional turmoil. O He ultimately decides to try to show Willy that his dreams and fantasies are false. He observes that Willy “never knew who he was” and that he “had the wrong dreams.”

22 Happy Loman O The younger of Willy’s sons; he has grown up in the shadow of his older brother. O In his early thirties, even-tempered and amiable, a womanizer O He appears more content than Biff but at the play’s end he is drawn into his father’s illusions. O “I ‘m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain.”

23 Ben Loman O Willy’s older brother, for Willy, he is the embodiment of success. (owner of timberlands in Alaska and diamond mines in Africa.) O He appears in scenes which take place in Willy’s imagination. O Powerful, a great adventurer, he is everything Willy dreams of becoming.

24 Ben Loman O His primary role in the play is to serve as a sounding board for Willy. O The audience gains a better understanding of what drives Willy and of his inner thoughts. O Willy, excited by his brother’s stories, responds: “That’s just the spirirt I want to imbue them [Happy and Biff] with. To walk into a jungle!”

25 Charley O Willy’s only friend, and his sole financial support, loaning him “fifty dollars” a week. O He is a succesful businessman and tries to save Willy from his dreams, he offers Willy compassion and support. “The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you’re a salesman, and you don’t know that.”

26 Bernard O The son of Charley, Willy’s only friend and supporter outside of his family. O He was quite, dependable but a top student. O As an adult he displays the intelligence, self- confidence, and perception that have helped him become a succesful attorney. O He contrasts sharply with Biff and Happy.

27 Other Characters O Howard Wagner Willy’s boss who rejects Willy and ultimately fires him. O The Woman -Willy has an affair with her. He gives her expensive nylon stockings which were rare after WWII. -She appears in flashback scenes, which serve as a piercing painful reminder to Willy.

28 Other Characters O Stanley; the waiter at the restaurant O Letta; prostitute O Miss Forsythe; prostitute O Jenny; Howard’s secretary

29 Themes O Appearance vs Reality -Willy is having difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what he wishes real. (Delusions) -Willy imagines conversations with his dead brother, Ben, which demonstrates his fragile grip on reality. -Biff and Happy think of themselves superior to others without any real evidence.

30 Individual vs Society O Willy struggles to win over clients and become a true success. He worries incessantly about how he is perceived by others, and blames his lack of success on variety of superficial things; O Such as; the fact that he talks too much so people do not take him seriously.

31 Individual vs Society O Willy’s failure is as a result of his inability to see himself and the world as they really are: O Willy’s talents lie in areas other than sales, and the business world no longer rewards smooth-talking, charismatic salesmen, but instead looks for specially trained, knowledgeable men to promote its products.

32 American Dream O Willy’s quest to realize what he views as the American Dream –the “self-made man” who rises out of poverty and becomes rich and famous- is a dominant theme in Death of a Salesman. O In 1920s, the American Dream was represented by Henry Ford, who has a great success in the automotive industry.

33 American Dream O Also in 1920s, a career in sales was being hailed as a way for a man without training or education to achieve financial success. O Pamphlets, lectures and courses promoting strategies for improving the skills of salesman were widely distributed and these strategies focused on teaching salesman how to effectively manipulate their clients. O However in 1940s, the job market and the prevailing belief have changed and salesmen required specialized knowledge and training in order to succeed.

34 O Compare the concept of American Dream in Death of a Salesman with Philadelphia Here I Come.

35 Extra Information on the Play O Miller includes instructions that the only substantial part of the set should be the Loman home, and all other locales should be merely hinted at by using changes in lighting or setting up a few chairs or a table. In this way, the audience can clearly see which events on stage are taking place in reality, and which events on stage are taking place in reality, and which are taking place inside of Willy’s mind.

36 Extra Information on the Play O Miller’s method of flashing back and forth between the past and the present, and between the imaginary and the realistic, allows the audience to witness how a lifetime disappointment, delusion, and failure have led to the current situation, and shows facets of each character that would not have been revealed if only the present- day occurences had been portrayed.

37 O Because of the way the play is constructed, the audience can see what the characters have become and what experiences, thoughts, and emotions led them to their present state.

38 THE END


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