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Death of a Salesman

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Shannon Wong

on 20 January 2013

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Transcript of Death of a Salesman

DEATH of a Salesman BIO HISTORICAL CONTEXT summary setting the American Dream so what? recommendation Introduction: Death of a Salesman: tragedy about dreams vs. reality.
Critique of the American Dream, materialistic American society of the late 1940s.
Willy Loman: average guy who hides failures as he strives to be a "success." What Really Goes on in Willy Loman's Head -a psychoanalytic criticism- Repression and denial lead to an unhappy life. ID: so driven to feel wanted and well-liked that he succumbs to his innermost desires and cheats on his wife with The Woman. SENILITY FAILURE Emotional and mental instabilities Character Willy Loman As the PROTAGONIST:
Struggles to find self-validation amidst his unrealistic dreams.
Goal: be well-liked and gain material success.

Insecure and delusional: disguises anxiety and self-doubt with arrogance.
Clings to the American Dream: anyone attractive and well-liked can make it big.

Chooses to alienate his son rather than face reality.
Downward spiral: losing a grip on reality and on time.
Escapes into the past: seems crazy and senile.

To himself: misguided values about success + pride and self-deception --> wrong life path.
Too prideful to accept Charley’s job offers.
Self-deception keeps him hounding Biff.
At the very end, Willy kills himself. Linda Loman Willy's doting wife.
Refuses to see through husband's lies.
Mission: protect Willy's emotions and dreams.
Doesn't know the full picture.

Happiness and freedom = material wealth.
Shows concern about basic morals. Biff Loman Protagonist: shows personal growth.
Willy's eldest and favourite son.
Hotshot in high school, but failed to graduate.Couldn't hold a job due to compulsive stealing.
34 years old.

Biff initially attempts to achieve Willy's materialistic dreams: “I realized what a ridiculous lie my entire life had been” --> values the truth.
Says Willy made him so arrogant that he can't handle taking orders from a boss.

The American Dream is not every man's dream.
Wants to be seen and loved for who he is.
Wants his dad to being delusional.
America can't understand those who value simple pleasures over the rat race. TIMELINE 1915 2005 1930's Happy Loman BIFF LOMAN Tries to keep the lies alive.
Amoral: steals friends' girlfriends, lies to get dates, keeps secrets from family, always phony.
Blindly pursues father's ideas of material success. Grew up with same parenting, values, and pressures. HAPPY LOMAN Recognizes and rejects the lies he has been living for his dad.
No tolerance for falsehood.
Looks at himself honestly: working with his hands makes him happy. FOIL to Biff. Charley FOIL to Willy
Neighbor and a voice of reason and practicality.
The character Willy is always measuring himself against.
The “guide mentor”, but Willy rejects his advice.
Willy criticizes him and can't understand why he is successful.
Generous and helpful: offers Willy advice, money, and a job.
Willy demonstrates jealousy of his success, leads him to dismiss Charley's valuable suggestions and warnings. TRAGEDY of Willy Loman's version of the American Dream: Good looking, charismatic, and well-liked men deserve success and will naturally achieve it. Theme: American Dream of financial success and happiness is insurmountable for many people, and can often diminish any respectable values an individual may have. Willy desires to live a comfortable and successful life.
Believes that being well-liked and hardworking will allow him to reach his dreams.
Idolizes those who have achieved his version of the American Dream.
On his brother, Ben: “The man knew what he wanted and he went out and got it!”
On another salesman, Dave Singleman: “remembered and loved…by so many different people”. Willy's attempts at success ultimately fail --> tries to cover his failures up with lies & excuses.
Lies to his wife about earnings:
Tells her that he profited two-hundred dollars, but only grossed “about a hundred and eighty.”
Blames this on the fact that “three of the stores were half closed for inventory in Boston. Otherwise [he] woulda broke records”.
Lies about future:
“I am building something with this firm, and if a man is building something, he must be on the right track”.
“You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away - a man is not a piece of fruit.” + BUSINESS DREAM = Happiness and Success HISTORICAL DREAM Politicians & TV personalities have achieved the current American Dream.
None of them were very hardworking, compared to average middle class working American.
2004 Survey:
One-third of Americans insisted they were not living the American Dream.
Half of them saying it wasn’t attainable.
American Dream's existence is frivolous: provides hardworking people with false hope of achieving success. Constant dissatisfaction Desires to attain true happiness are never actualized How can one reach true happiness? Great read! Miller born in Manhattan, New York. 1928 Moved to Brooklyn. Great Depression 1949 Death of A Salesman published. Death of A Miller. WWII had just ended and the United States had begun an unmatched era of economic prosperity
This is when the American dream really came to fruition.
Biff realizes that he can only be happy working out on the farm with animals, something that is a stark contrast to his father’s visualization of what a successful life is.
Because of Willy’s intent belief in the American dream, he is never satisfied with his son or with himself.
Miller is saying that blind faith in the American Dream inspired a materialistic and shallow lifestyle that obscured personal truth and morality, which ties in nicely with the theme that we will be discussing later on. ego and superego fail to deter him from questionable behaviour. WWII ends. 1945 Willy Loman is a salesman at the Wagner Company. He supports a family of four.

Willy values popularity and friends more than anything, and he has very high expectations for himself and his family as he pursues the typical American dream during his younger years.

His life slowly diminishes to the point where he is disappointed with his old, senile present self.

Willy becomes frustrated and is unable to endure the disappointment, which leads to his suicide.

At his funeral, no one is present, and he dies a pathetic and a forgotten man. The play takes place during the 1940s, in a home in Brooklyn, New York. The Lomans' house is boxed in by apartment buildings.

The big intimidating buildings are shown to choke the more natural beauty that once surrounded the Lomans' home, which adds to the character's feelings of confinement and desire to escape.

The Loman house dominates the set, highlighting Willy's longing to provide for his family.

All of the action takes place within a 24 hour time period, with the exception of Willy’s funeral.
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