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The Dramatic Genres of Realism and Naturalism %20NATURALISM.htm.

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1 The Dramatic Genres of Realism and Naturalism %20NATURALISM.htm

2 The Genres of Realism and Naturalism n Ignore classical conventions of drama n Use prose dialogue instead of poetry n Have their roots in existentialism, positivism, socialism, and Darwinism n Include detailed stage directions n Offer a scientific, psychological examination of life

3 The Genres of Realism and Naturalism n Playwright’s role is that of the detached observer n Emphasizes importance of environment on man’s actions n The single individual is not always presented as the central character

4 The Genres of Realism and Naturalism n Reflect commonplace incidents of common man in contemporary society n Present characters as finding life to be unhappy and dull n Tend to emphasize the ugly

5 Death of a Salesman (P. 1445) by Arthur Miller ( ) First performed in 1949

6 Death of a Salesman n One of the best known literary expressions of the disillusionment of Americans in 30’s and 40’s n Reflects discovery that the “American Dream” was illusion, possibly destructive

7 Plot n What conflicts exist? –Person vs. person –Person vs. environment –Person vs. self –Person vs. God n Person vs. environment is the most significant conflict in the play. The demands of American society ultimately destroy Willie. n How many plots are there in the play?

8 Setting n Both hostile (in the present) and friendly (in past memories) n The setting spans 3 locations –The cities where Willie sells –Willy’s house in the present –Willy’s house in the past

9 Characterization Major Characters n Willie Loman –Low man –Protagonist? –Traveling salesman –Devoted husband and father (like Oedipus) –Insecure and proud (like Othello) –Copes by having an affair –Longs for guidance –Longs for the past –Has a tragic flaw

10 Major Characters n Linda –The supportive wife –Keeps Willie locked into his job –Passive aggressive? –Finally speaks the truth to the boys n Biff –“Like a boy” –Wanderer –Thief –Free in the end n Happy –Willie’s clone –Won’t leave his job –Believes in the American dream –Likes women

11 Minor Characters n Uncle Ben –Signifies an unattainable dream –Represents missed chances –The only connection Willie has with his father –Willie’s confidant n Charlie –The concerned neighbor –Successful business man n Bernard –Charlie’s son –A successful attorney

12 Title n “The very title Death of a Salesman both declares the significance of a salesman’s death and finds value in its ordinary anonymity” (Cardullo 1). Cardullo, Bert. “Death of a Salesman and Death of a Salesman: The Swollen Legacy of Arthur Miller.” Columbia Journal of American Studies. Accessed 1/21/07 from

13 Symbolism n Willie’s house –Action moves in and out of house just as it moves in and out of Willy’s troubled mind –Porch, yard and ceiling represent Willie’s missed destiny: to work with his hands –House, the goal of the American dream: a trap for Willie n Biff’s thefts –Football, suit, and pen represent worlds in which Biff longs to achieve success

14 Symbolism n Names and Characters –Loman = Low man –“Biff” parallels “Ben” in sound and length n Biff achieves what Ben represented –“Happy” parallels “Willie” in sound and length n Happy follows Willie’s tragic example n He represents Americans’ flawed idea of happiness n Other symbols –The red Chevvy –Linda’s stockings –Others?

15 Realistic and Naturalistic aspects of this play n Portrays common man n Uses colloquial dialogue n Has a suburban setting n Emphasizes the importance of environment on an individual n Society is the antagonist

16 Theme n Discuss possible theme statements


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