Miller has troubles with the HUAC/McCarthy panel hearings
1953 - Miller denied a passport
1955 - HUAC pressures NYC not to allow Miller to make a film for them about juvenile delinquency
The Saga Continued...
1957 - Miller convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to name names. And then...
1958 - US Court of Appeals overturns his contempt conviction.
But all of this could not deter the public from viewing and revering his work for generations!
Audio excerpts from NPR
Arthur Miller's Lasting Impact
The American Dream
People have the right to a decent place to live, a fair reward for hard work and recognition of their worth as human beings. This play is similar to A Raisin in the Sun in that it asks the same basic questions: Has the American Dream become an unkept promise? Is it just a mirage?
… addresses family conflict and ethics in post World War II America
takes a close look at the price paid for the “American Dream.”
charges America with creating a capitalist materialism centered around a postwar economy.
This materialism skewed the original view of the “American Dream” as envisioned by the founding fathers.
Original Title – “The Inside of His Head”
Death of a Salesman is not a “document of pessimism.”
Death of a Salesman is not un-American; it celebrates the life of Willy Loman.
Miller believes that tragedy is “inherently optimistic.”
From Classical Tragedy
Unity of time -- the final 24 hours in Willy’s life
Unity of action - the play is complete unto itself
Unity of place – the stage setting doesn’t change
Also from Classical Tragedy
the hero’s traits being a mixture of good and bad and being of higher moral worth than others in society
the concept of the hero’s flaw
the hero’s capacity to willingly endure suffering
the catharsis of the audience
The Common Man as Hero
“ Everyone knows Willy Loman.” (allusion to the morality play, Everyman .)
“ The common man is suitable for a tragic hero.”
Willy is meant to be seen as greater and better (at least in potential) than the society.
Miller’s Modern Tragedy
The hero is a common man.
The hero struggles against society.
The hero meets his downfall.
The downfall is a result of an incongruity between his own perception of the world and reality.
The hero achieves a kind of redemption in his downfall.
Willy Loman is worthy of being viewed as a tragic hero because he “is ready to sacrifice his life to secure one thing--his sense of personal dignity.”
Rose Interview with A. Miller
From Miller’s Essay “Tragedy and the Common Man”
“ the tragic hero is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity. The possibility of victory must be there in tragedy…
tragedy requires a nicer balance[than pathos] between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them and in them alone, lies the belief—optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man.
It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time—the heart and the spirit of the average man.”
Arthur Miller 1949
Miss Forsythe and Letta
Believes in chasing the American Dream although he never achieves it
Idolizes his brother, Ben
Puts Biff on a pedestal because of his success in high school sports
Becomes mentally ill when pressure of reality crushes his illusions
Loving, devoted wife
Naïve and realistic of Willy’s hopes
Emotionally supportive of Willy
Turns a “blind eye” to Willy’s infidelity
Verbally abused by her husband
Willy’s strength until his tragic death
Elder son, 34 years old
High school standout-football star, many male friends and female admirers
Academic failures lead to a life of kleptomania
Ideal career- to work outside w/hands
Fails to reconcile his father’s expectations
Younger son, 32 years old
In Biff’s shadow all his life
Relentless sex drive
Represents Willy’s sense of self importance and ambition
Often engages in bad business ethics
The Lomans’ next door neighbor
Often gives Willy financial support
Described sadly as Willy’s only friend although Willy is jealous of Charley’s success
Often mocked by Willy for being studious
He cares more about Biff’s academic success than Willy does
Compared to Loman sons by Willy; they do not measure up to his success
Willy’s deceased older brother
Appears to Willy in daydreams—but never gives Willy the answers to his questions about what it takes to become successful in life
Willy’s symbol of success that he desperately wants for his sons
Her admiration for Willy is an ego boost
She makes Willy feel as though he is special when she says, “I picked you…” when the truth is that she probably picked up a lot of men along the way.
President of the Wagner Company
Successor to his father, Frank
Not sympathetic to the aging Willy Loman and his problems with mental health
Wrapped up in himself and his success, even though he never personally achieved it; he inherited his position with the company
What does it take to become a successful salesman?
How Salesmen Spend Their Time Administrative Tasks 16% Telephone Selling 25.1% Waiting/ Traveling 17.4% Service Calls 12.7% Face-to-Face Selling 28.8% Companies look for ways to increase the amount of time salespeople spend selling.
Inside Sales Force Outside Sales Force Travel to Call on Customers Sells to Major Accounts Finds Major New Prospects Conduct Business From Their Offices Via Phone or Buyer Visits Technical Support People Tele- Marketing Or Internet Where Typical Salesmen Work Sales Assistants
Traits of Good Salespeople Self-Confidence Initiative Persistence Enthusiasm Job Commitment
As we read the play…
look for these traits in Willy, Happy and Biff Loman and you will see why they have problems succeeding in the business world. They want to live the American Dream, but look what they sacrifice in order to do so.
Look for similarities/differences between Willy Loman & Oedipus Rex, the tragic heroes. Would Aristotle believe that this play is a tragedy?