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Death of a Salesman An American Tragedy by Arthur Miller

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1 Death of a Salesman An American Tragedy by Arthur Miller

2 Arthur Miller Born in New York City on October 17, 1915; he died February 10, 2005. Began as playwright at University of Michigan Pulitzer Prize winner for Death of A Salesman Double winner of New York Drama Critics Circle Award

3 Timeline

4 Arthur Miller & Marilyn Monroe

5 Productions of Death of a Salesman
first sound recording of Death of a Salesman st film version US Tour st radio production Miller directs Death in China film version with Dustin Hoffman on CBS; 25 million see it!

6 50th Anniversary of the Play
Brian Dennehy and Arthur Miller, who was presented with a lifetime achievement Tony Award in 1999.

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

8 The Saga Continued... Miller convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to name names. And then... US Court of Appeals overturns his contempt conviction. But all of this could not deter the public from viewing and revering his work for generations!

9 Audio excerpts from NPR
Arthur Miller's Lasting Impact

10 The American Dream People have the right to a decent place to live, a fair reward for hard work and recognition of their worth as human beings. This play is similar to A Raisin in the Sun in that it asks the same basic questions: Has the American Dream become an unkept promise? Is it just a mirage?

11 The play …addresses family conflict and ethics 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. Original Title – “The Inside of His Head”

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

13 From Classical Tragedy
Unity of time -- the final 24 hours in Willy’s life Unity of action - the play is complete unto itself Unity of place – the stage setting doesn’t change

14 Also from Classical Tragedy
the hero’s traits 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

15 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 the society.

16 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.

17 Tragic? Yes! Willy Loman is worthy of being viewed as a tragic hero because he “is ready to sacrifice his life to secure one thing--his sense of personal dignity.” Arthur Miller Rose Interview with A. Miller

18 From Miller’s Essay “Tragedy and the Common Man”
“ the tragic hero is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity. The possibility of victory must be there in tragedy…

19 tragedy requires a nicer balance[than pathos] between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them and in them alone, lies the belief—optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man.

20 It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time—the heart and the spirit of the average man.” Arthur Miller 1949

21 Dramatis Personae Willy Loman Biff Loman Linda Loman Happy Loman
Charley Bernard Ben The Woman Howard Wagner Stanley Jenny Miss Forsythe and Letta

22 Willy Loman Father, Husband Traveling salesman
Believes in chasing the American Dream although he never achieves it Idolizes his brother, Ben Puts Biff on a pedestal because of his success in high school sports Becomes mentally ill when pressure of reality crushes his illusions

23 Linda Loman Loving, devoted wife Naïve and realistic of Willy’s hopes
Emotionally supportive of Willy Turns a “blind eye” to Willy’s infidelity Verbally abused by her husband Willy’s strength until his tragic death

24 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 Ideal career- to work outside w/hands Fails to reconcile his father’s expectations

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

26 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

27 Bernard Charley’s son Successful
Often mocked by Willy for being studious He cares more about Biff’s academic success than Willy does Compared to Loman sons by Willy; they do not measure up to his success

28 Ben Loman Willy’s deceased older brother Independently wealthy
Appears to Willy in daydreams—but never gives Willy the answers to his questions about what it takes to become successful in life Willy’s symbol of success that he desperately wants for his sons

29 The Woman Willy’s mistress Her admiration for Willy is an ego boost
for him. She makes Willy feel as though he is special when she says, “I picked you…” when the truth is that she probably picked up a lot of men along the way.

30 Howard Wagner President of the Wagner Company
Successor to his father, Frank Not sympathetic to the aging Willy Loman and his problems with mental health Wrapped up in himself and his success, even though he never personally achieved it; he inherited his position with the company

31 What does it take to become a successful salesman?

32 Types of Sales Positions and Duties
Duties/Responsibilities: selling, service, prospecting, presentations, pricing quotes, terms, expediting, orders, marketing research, advising, study, travel, meetings, paperwork. Sales Positions: route salesperson; retail sales; account rep; business sales rep; sales engineer; manufacturer’s rep; inside sales

33 How Salesmen Spend Their Time
Companies look for ways to increase the amount of time salespeople spend selling. Administrative Service Calls Tasks 12.7% 16% Telephone Selling 25.1% Face-to-Face Selling 28.8% Waiting/ Traveling 17.4%

34 Where Typical Salesmen Work
Outside Sales Force Inside Sales Force Conduct Business From Their Offices Via Phone or Buyer Visits Travel to Call on Customers Sells to Major Accounts Finds Major New Prospects Technical Support People Sales Assistants Tele- Marketing Or Internet

35 Traits of Good Salespeople
Enthusiasm Persistence Job Commitment Self-Confidence Initiative

36 As we read the play… look for these traits in Willy, Happy and Biff Loman and you will see why they have problems succeeding in the business world. They want to live the American Dream, but look what they sacrifice in order to do so. Look for similarities/differences between Willy Loman & Oedipus Rex, the tragic heroes. Would Aristotle believe that this play is a tragedy?

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