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Contested masculinities - Essay Example

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Death of a Salesman is set in the American post-depression and Post World War II era, a period where economic expansion improved the lives of Americans. During this period, national identity was tied to the perception that the US was a country laden with opportunities and anyone…
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Download file to see previous pages There is a correlation between masculine types during this period and the contemporary American male, in which masculinity is defined by success, strength, leadership and independence.
Death of a Salesman represents three types of American masculinity during the Post World War II Era. The American male during this period was perceived as being independent, adventurous, competitive, and a leader, particularly in the home and in the work-place. Willy’s mental decline illuminates the stress men inevitably felt trying to succeed in the land of opportunities and to live up to the ascribed role of man during this period. This is demonstrated through Willy’s struggles with independence and individuality in attempting to become the “self-made man” and to meet his obligation to care for his family (McDonough 27) in pursuit of the American dream. It becomes clear that industrialization and family obligations coincide, creating barriers to those ascribed roles, causing conflicts between masculine identity and reality.
The war itself forced an emphasis on the powerful male. The question was whether the American man was capable of pursuing successful careers and maintaining stable families and with these questions came the anxiety of living up to this characterization of the American man in the aftermath of the Second World War. In order to understand Wily’s struggles with this masculine type it is important to view his dilemma in this historical context.
What emerges is a generational trend through Willy’s father, his brother Ben and Dave an old salesman. Clearly the idea of the self-made man was as important to masculine social status from one generation to another in America. Willy is influenced by his father’s independence and is likewise influenced by the old salesman, although he does not pause to distinguish between the manners in which ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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