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Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman - Essay Example

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Summary
One of the most important plays of the twentieth century, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (1949) changed the way in which people perceived the genre of tragedy…
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Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman

Download file to see previous pages... This paper shall look at these concepts through the symbols and characters that are a part of this play. Willy Loman is one of the most important characters of this play. The protagonist, his death in a sense, is the subject of the play and his characterization is an important aspect of the change that Miller seeks to effect in the genre of the tragedy. The character manages to evoke what Miller himself feels is the results that a tragedy should produce in an audience: “I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing – his sense of personal dignity” (Miller “Tragedy and the Common Man”). Loman’s dreams for Biff are a means for him to live the dream that he was incapable of living himself. Biff is, thus, sought to be turned into a reflection by Willy so that the Great American Dream is lived. This is the means through which Loman seeks to create a dignified existence. This is undercut in the play itself through the revelation of his adultery which makes the audience aware of how he is not an extraordinary man in any sense. It also exposes the hollowness of the institution of the family which is thought of as sacrosanct by the middle classes. This hypocrisy of ordinary life, common to people of different levels in life, is what Miller seeks to portray in his play.
One of the important symbols in the play is a diamond. When Ben, Willy’s brother, says, “A diamond is hard and rough to the touch” (Miller, Death of a Salesman 107), it reveals the importance that Willy attributed to monetary success. His suicide is then turned into a decision that he takes for the sake of his family. It is unpleasant; however, it has to be done for the well-being of his family. Here too, ethics and morals take a backseat as monetary concerns are given precedence. The American Dream is, thus, for Miller, one that is bereft of any moral concerns and hence, one that adopts a ruthless stance towards anyone who has not been able to achieve it. Fate, too, is something that a diamond symbolizes in the play whereby it shows how there is no concrete reason as to why Loman’s life turns out the way it does. There is, thus, a certain kind of inversion of Aristotle’s rules of tragedy while certain others are kept intact (Martin 146–7). “Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground” (Miller, Death of a Salesman 96). This line reveals Loman’s interest in leaving his mark on earth before he leaves it. It is a sign of how he wishes to transcend his mortality. It is also a pointer of how it is through his next generation in Biff that he seeks to achieve what he could not. His immense interest in seeds and growing vegetables for much of the play can be seen to be a reflection of his desire to root himself metaphorically in the earth. This is precisely what he attempts to do through his suicide. He feels that it would further Biff’s dreams, which are, in fact, his own. Another symbol that is of great significance is the stockings that are owned by Linda, Willy’s wife. The presence of the stockings of another woman is what makes Biff aware of his father’s adultery. The stockings are, thus, a symbol of adultery and Willy’s obsession with the pairs of stockings that are owned by Linda is another instance of his hypocrisy. He seems to be compensating for the mistakes ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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