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Linda Loman and the Cult of Domesticity In Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman - Essay Example

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Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, depicts a family unit tightly bound by the constraints of patriarchal dynamics. The dominant focus of the males' roles and relationships contrast sharply with the masculine assumption (as well as the mother's submissiveness to) the common household stereotypes of "the cult of domesticity," which provide the predominant guidelines for women in this era…
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Linda Loman and the Cult of Domesticity In Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman
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Download file to see previous pages Miller's archetypal portrayal of Linda Loman therefore represents both a general example and a figurehead for her social status: lower middle class suburban white domestics. Alienated from her husband Willy, Linda tries to accommodate his role of the head of household, despite the fact that she must see to the actual running and repair of the home. She accepts a subordinate role and lives vicariously through his dreams: as Miller describes her "she admires him his massive dreams and little cruelties (are) reminders of the turbulent longings within him which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow" (Miller 12). With her dreams confined to the house and her life defined by what her husband can provide, it is no surprise that Linda constantly seeks to support Willy self-image and delusions while attempting to create a level of harmony between him and their two children. Paradoxically, these same restraints of patriarchy and cult of domesticity drive Willy's motivations as well, for he is obliged to both be the provider and secure a sheltered reality for Linda safe from the outside world. Thus, Linda's fate is completely entwined with Willy's. She ultimately symbolizes the model of many domestic ideals yet at the same time provides a warning to women everywhere of the dangers inherent in being sheltered from the rest of society.
To fully understand the extent with which Linda's psychology has been entrapped, one must first examine both the tenets of the cult of domesticity (COD) and then the methods with which these qualities were reinforced by society. The COD is framed by four main elements: domesticity, submissiveness, purity, and piety. While this last element in not overtly present in the play (given that the general religion of America is regarded as Protestant Christianity), it is present through the concept of faith, through Willy's faith in the Business World, Linda's faith in her husband, and the faith of both in the established order of the family unit. It is the slow erosion of these faiths' that bring about the psychological crises in the plot. Linda is generally regarded by family members as 'pure' in sexual experience and fidelity, as exhibited by the boys using her for a model of their ideal wives and by Willy's concern in providing for her (her faithfulness constantly provoking guilt over his own infidelity). Likewise, while other female characters in the play are strong and independent depictions, they are suspicious in that they have broken away from the traditional domestic role. As such, they are morally questionable, with an aura of promiscuity about them illustrated all the more by Willy's affair and by the boys frequent conquests. Linda completely fulfills the qualification of submissiveness, through such examples as removing Willy's shoes for him in the very first scene, to pandering to his ego by calling him "the handsomest man in the world.." (Miller 37). The COD has instilled women with the notion that they need a "protector;" it is therefore Linda's role to not only see to her husband's every comfort while at home, but she must also bolster him mentally and emotionally so that he can go out and face the world. As far as domestic rule, Linda is revealed to be in charge of the actual operation ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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