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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller


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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

  1. 1. Arthur Miller October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005
  2. 2. Biography <ul><li>Arthur Asher Miller, the son of a women's clothing company owner, was born in 1915 in New York City. </li></ul><ul><li>His father lost his business in the Depression and the family was forced to move to a smaller home in Brooklyn. </li></ul><ul><li>After graduating from high school, Miller worked jobs ranging from radio singer to truck driver to clerk in an automobile-parts warehouse. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Best Works <ul><li>Miller is perhaps best known for several of his earliest works, most notably &quot;Death of a Salesman&quot; and &quot;The Crucible”. </li></ul><ul><li>In both works, the past works upon the present, but in dramatically different ways. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Tragedy <ul><li>A modern tragedian, Miller says he looks to the Greeks for inspiration, particularly Sophocles. &quot;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 ,&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Miller writes. &quot;From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his 'rightful' position in his society.&quot; </li></ul>
  5. 5. Tragic Hero <ul><li>Miller believes. &quot;It is time 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 spirit of the average man .&quot; </li></ul>
  6. 6. hes' a human being, (protagonist) <ul><li>In the play, Miller writes, &quot;Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But hes' a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him.&quot; Protagonist : Willy Loman Antagonist : In a broad sense, competitive America society </li></ul>
  7. 7. <ul><li>DEATH OF A SALESMAN (1949) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Playwriting <ul><li>&quot;When I began to write,&quot; he said in an interview, &quot;one assumed inevitably that one was in the mainstream that began with Aeschylus and went through about twenty-five hundred years of playwriting.&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>(from The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller , ed. by Christopher Bigsby, 1997) </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>The play is a scathing critique of the American Dream and of the competitive, materialistic American society of the late 1940s. </li></ul><ul><li>The storyline features Willy Loman, an average guy who attempts to hide his average ness and failures behind delusions of grandeur as he strives to be a &quot;success.&quot; </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Death of a Salesman relates the tragic story of a salesman named Willy Loman, whose past and present are mingled in expressionistic scenes. </li></ul>
  11. 11. <ul><li>What is Expressionism? </li></ul>
  12. 15. Background of Expressionism <ul><li>In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche presented his theory of the ancient dualism between two types of aesthetic experience, namely the Apollonian and the Dionysian ; </li></ul>
  13. 16. <ul><li>A dualism between the plastic &quot;art of sculpture&quot;, of lyrical dream-inspiration, identity , order, regularity, and calm repose, and, on the other hand, the non-plastic &quot;art of music&quot;, of intoxication, forgetfulness, chaos, and the ecstatic dissolution of identity in the collective. </li></ul>
  14. 17. <ul><li>The analogy with the world of the Greek gods typifies the relationship between these extremes: two godsons, incompatible and yet inseparable. </li></ul>
  15. 18. <ul><li>According to Nietzsche, both elements are present in any work of art. The basic characteristics of expressionism are Dionysian: bold colours, distorted forms-in-dissolution, two-dimensional, without perspective.( to depict the inner emotions) </li></ul>
  16. 19. Title <ul><li>Willy is the salesman throughout the play, and he is the character that ultimately dies, but the title can be seen as figurative, rather than literal. </li></ul><ul><li>. The complete title of the play is Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem . </li></ul><ul><li>The first word of the title refers not only to the death of the main character, Willy Loman, but also to the death of his career and his hopes for a better life for himself and his family. </li></ul><ul><li>&quot; Requiem means rest . Requiem refers to a song for the dead. </li></ul>
  17. 20. Time Shifts ---- Style <ul><li>It does this by having a scene begin in the present time and adding characters onto the stage that only Willy can see and hear, representing characters and conversations from other times and places. </li></ul>
  18. 21. <ul><li>The characters will also be allowed to pass through the walls that are only obeyed to in the present as told in Miller's stage directions in the opening of ACT 1. </li></ul>
  19. 22. Dramatic Techniques <ul><li>Flashbacks would show an objective image of the past. </li></ul><ul><li>Miller's mobile concurrences show highly subjective memories. </li></ul>
  20. 23. <ul><li>What is Stream of consciousness? </li></ul>
  21. 24. Stream of consciousness <ul><li>As Willy's mental state deteriorates, the boundaries between past and present are destroyed, and the two start to exist in parallel. </li></ul>
  22. 25. Stream of consciousness <ul><li>About the writing of the play, Miller says, &quot;I wished to create a form which, in itself as a form, would literally be the process of Willy Loman's way of mind.&quot; </li></ul>
  23. 26. Reality and Illusion <ul><li>Throughout the play the Lomans in general cannot distinguish between reality and illusion, particularly Willy. </li></ul><ul><li>Willy cannot see who he and his sons are. He believes that they are great men who have what it takes to be successful and beat the business world. Unfortunately, he is mistaken. In reality, Willy and sons are not, and cannot, be successful. </li></ul>
  24. 27. Willy dies self-deceived. <ul><li>Willy believes that to be well liked is the means to being successful. This is an illusion that Willy lives in. </li></ul><ul><li>On the literal level, Willy very often lapses into a flashback and appears to be reliving conversations and situations that occurred years ago. This itself is an inability to see reality. </li></ul>
  25. 28. The Dangers of Modernity <ul><li>Death of a Salesman premiered in 1949 on the brink of the 1950s, a decade of unprecedented consumerism and technical advances in America. Many innovations applied specifically to the home: it was in the 50s that the TV and the washing machine became common household objects. (Run for More Money) </li></ul><ul><li>Willy Loman's career - traveling salesmen are rapidly becoming out-of-date. Significantly, Willy reaches for modern objects, the car and the gas heater, to </li></ul>
  26. 29. The Dangers of Modernity <ul><li>Willy Loman's career - traveling salesmen are rapidly becoming out-of-date. </li></ul>
  27. 30. Madness <ul><li>Madness is a dangerous theme for many artists, whose creativity can put them on the edge of what is socially acceptable. </li></ul>
  28. 31. Cult of Personality <ul><li>He believes that it is not what a person is able to accomplish, but who he knows and how he treats them that will get a man ahead in the world. </li></ul><ul><li>This viewpoint is tragically undermined not only by Willy's failure, but also by that of his sons, who assumed that they could make their way in life using only their charms and good looks, rather than any more solid talents. </li></ul>
  29. 32. Nostalgia <ul><li>The dominant emotion throughout this play is nostalgia, tinged with regret. </li></ul><ul><li>All of the Lomans feel that they have made mistakes or wrong choices. </li></ul><ul><li>Can you give me examples? </li></ul>
  30. 33. Opportunity <ul><li>America has long been known as a land of opportunity. Out of that thinking comes the &quot;American Dream,&quot; the idea that anyone can ultimately achieve success, even if he or she began with nothing . America claims to be the land of opportunity, of social mobility. Even the poorest man should be able to move upward in life through his own hard work. </li></ul><ul><li>Miller complicates this idea of opportunity by linking it to time, and illustrating that new opportunity does not occur over and over again. </li></ul><ul><li>Can you tell me how? </li></ul>
  31. 34. Growth <ul><li>The members of the Loman family are stuck with the same character flaws, in the same personal ruts throughout time. </li></ul>
  32. 35. Growth <ul><li>Willy does not recognize that his business principles do not work, and continues to emphasize the wrong qualities. </li></ul><ul><li>Biff and Happy are not only stuck with their childhood names in their childhood bedrooms, but also are hobbled by their childhood problems: Biff's bitterness toward his father and Happy's dysfunctional relationship with women. </li></ul>
  33. 36. Growth <ul><li>In a poignant moment at the end of the play, Willy tries to plant some seeds when he realizes that his family has not grown at all over time. </li></ul>
  34. 37. Unrealistic Expectations <ul><li>Throughout his career, Willy has been an average salesman at best. However, he has always thought himself far above average. Consequently, he has always expected more than he deserves. </li></ul><ul><li>He has always expected Biff to become a high achiever, as he was as a football player in high school.  </li></ul>
  35. 38. Know Thyself <ul><li>The words on the ancient Greek temple at Delphi advised, &quot;Know thyself.&quot; But Willy continually fails to recognize his limitations. He does not know himself. Consequently, he constantly overreaches himself and thus constantly fails </li></ul>
  36. 39. <ul><li>An American resident experiences a sense of confinement. </li></ul><ul><li>What do you think Linda and Willy feel themselves confined to? </li></ul>
  37. 40. Freedom and Confinement <ul><li>Linda and Willy long to escape both the physical confinement of their home and the economic confinement of their limited income, home mortgage, and bills. </li></ul><ul><li>They idolize far away lands such as Alaska and Africa as places of literal and figurative escape. </li></ul><ul><li>Biff also finds New York to utterly confine him and can only imagine happiness and freedom working with his hands in the wide open West </li></ul>
  38. 41. <ul><li>What is success? </li></ul><ul><li>Is it related to happiness? </li></ul>
  39. 42. Success <ul><li>&quot;Success&quot; starts being a relative term. You’re only successful if you’re more successful than other people you know; your car is only good if it’s better than the one next door. </li></ul>
  40. 43. Setting <ul><li>Most of the action is set in Willy Loman’s home and yard in New York City. </li></ul><ul><li>Only one scene regarding Willy’s affair, occur in a hotel room in Boston. </li></ul>
  41. 44. Setting---house <ul><li>The Lomans’ house is boxed in by apartment buildings, adding to the characters’ feelings of confinement and desire to escape. </li></ul><ul><li>The house is small and fragile, like the characters in this play. </li></ul>
  42. 45. <ul><li>What about the tone of the play? </li></ul>
  43. 46. Tone of the Play <ul><li>The tone appears to be mocking of Willy’s blind acceptance of a very hollow, materialistic version of American Dream. </li></ul>
  44. 47. <ul><li>Do you find conflict in the play? </li></ul>
  45. 48. Conflict <ul><li>Willy Loman, like so many other American men of the last century, is in conflict with society, his family, and himself. </li></ul><ul><li>In his struggle to compete in materialistic America, he comes up short; society beats him down. </li></ul><ul><li>In his effort to communicate with his son Biff and mold him into a success, he fails. </li></ul><ul><li>In a war with his own inner self, he refuses to accept what he is–ordinary, average, unremarkable. Ultimately, Willy's inner and outer conflicts destroy him. . </li></ul>
  46. 49. Plot Analysis <ul><li>Act I </li></ul><ul><li>Willy comes home early from his work trip because he is no longer able to drive. For a traveling salesman, this means he also can’t do his job. Things are falling apart and money is a problem . </li></ul><ul><li>His wife, Linda, encourages him to ask his boss for a non-traveling job. </li></ul><ul><li>Willy’s mental health isn’t so good, and his sons are noticing that he’s talking to himself more than is socially acceptable . Willy’s mental wanderings are preoccupied with Biff’s aimlessness and inability to find success in business. </li></ul><ul><li>To please his dad, Biff decides to ask a former employer, Bill Oliver, for a business loan the next day in order to start a small business. </li></ul><ul><li>As a result, both Willy and Biff go to sleep with a plan and high hopes of the next day bringing financial and business success. </li></ul>
  47. 50. Plot Analysis <ul><li>Act II </li></ul><ul><li>The following morning, Biff leaves to talk to Oliver and Willy heads to his boss’s office to ask for a job transfer. Oliver refuses to see Biff for more than a few seconds and Biff definitely doesn’t get a loan. Biff realizes that he was totally deluded and steals Oliver’s pen . </li></ul><ul><li>Willy has approached his boss to get a non-traveling job, and has totally failed. He ends up begging to keep his original traveling gig, but is fired instead . </li></ul><ul><li>Depressed about his failed dreams of success, Willy attempts to hide from his son’s failures as well. Biff continues to try to force the truth on his father. </li></ul><ul><li>The argument ends with Willy understanding that Biff loves him. However, Act II still ends with Willy’s suicide </li></ul>
  48. 51. Plot Analysis <ul><li>Requiem </li></ul><ul><li>The Requiem takes place at Willy’s funeral. </li></ul><ul><li>Biff declares that his father pursued the wrong dream and didn’t know himself. Biff refuses to live life as his father did. </li></ul><ul><li>Happy , however is defensive and buys into his dad’s misguided dreams. </li></ul><ul><li>Linda , on the other hand, can’t figure out why her husband killed himself, especially since she just made the last payment on their house that day. Linda is still clueless. </li></ul>
  49. 52. <ul><li>&quot;Why do I need to know or read this?“ </li></ul><ul><li>(How far the assigned literary text is relevant both to themselves and to today's world.) </li></ul>
  50. 53. <ul><li>Was Death of the Salesman inevitable? </li></ul>