Death of a Salesman Postwar America, a new American Empire? Capitalism and materialism
Postwar America ‘[T]here was a smell in the air of a new American Empire in the making, if only because, as I had witnessed, Europe was dying or dead, and I wanted to set before the new captains and the so smugly confident kings the corpse of a believer.’ (Arthur Miller, Timebends, p.184.)
Capitalism: ‘this pseudo life that thought to touch the clouds by standing on top of a refrigerator, waving a paid-up mortgage at the moon, victorious at last.’ (Timebends, p.184.) Capitalism
Tragedy ‘The possibility of victory must be there in tragedy. Where pathos rules, where pathos is finally derived, a character has fought a battle he could not possibly have won. The pathetic is achieved when the protagonist is, by virtue of his witlessness, his insensitivity or the very air he gives off, incapable of grappling with a much superior force.’ Arthur Miller, ‘Tragedy and the Common Man’ (New York Times, February 27, 1949, repr. in The Theatre Essays of Arthur Miller).
Salesman and Streetcar What connections can you draw between Salesman and Streetcar? Consider themes, characters, staging. Are these connections the result of the temporal period (1940s) or for some other reason/s? Is Salesman a play of its time?
Act Three How do the past and the present interact in this scene both in what is said and in the staging used (lighting, sound, etc.)? What kind of effect/s is Miller trying to create by linking the past and present in this way? How does the language of the characters reflect the ideas of the play? Consider in particular the imagery used, repetition, key phrases used elsewhere in the play? What insights do the stage directions give us into character and motivation?