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Death of a Salesman
Transcript of Death of a Salesman
Born in 1915 in Harlem, NYC
Second of 3 children to Polish Jewish immigrant parents
Father owned a successful clothing manufacturing business
Wealthy and respected family
Lost everything in the Wall Street Crash of 1929
Miller had to deliver bread every morning before school to make ends meet
"The most compelling images of success were Ben, Dave Singleman, and Biff. The entrepreneur, the renowned salesman, and the star high school athlete represented possibilities in life to which Loman could not attain. They were surrounded men. [...] Biff was surrounded by admiring classmates and [...] cheering crowds and brilliant sunlight. [...] Singleman was surrounded by the affection of customers and fellow salesmen. Ben [...] was surrounded by the mustery and power of his enterprising audacity."
"The American Dream is the largely unacknowledged screen in front of which all American writing plays itself out," Arthur Miller has said. "Whoever is writing in the United States is using the American Dream as an ironical pole of his story. People elsewhere tend to accept, to a far greater degree anyway, that the conditions of life are hostile to man's pretensions." In Miller's more than thirty plays, which have won him a Pulitzer Prize and multiple Tony Awards, he puts in question "death and betrayal and injustice and how we are to account for this little life of ours." - NEH.gov
In Death of a Salesman, how does Miller question "death and betrayal and injustice and how we are to account for this little life of ours?"
By Arthur Miller
Presentation by Caroline Lu & Sina Golkari
"'How may a man make of the outside world a home?' What does he need to do, to change within himself or in the external world, if he is to find 'the safety, the surroundings of love, the ease of soul, the sense of identity and honor which, evidently, all men have connected in their memories with the idea of family?'"
"Throughout the play, the Lomans, especially Willy and Happy, show off their fake economic prosperity and popularity, hiding their actual failures behind the seemingly successful image."
"Willy, instead of placing focus on one's hard work and determination, holds on to the flimsy idea that one's luck, connections and innate traits such as personal attractiveness will guide them to success."
"To the reader, Willy Loman is seen as a man who is denied success, despite his grand dreams and aspirations. Society may seem cruel, but at the same time Willy is too troubled to notice the people who care about him."
". . . it is certainly possible that his family’s dissension eventually leads to his demise. . . . While his Dad’s betrayal leaves an emotional wound, Willy was no better to his own son. Biff discovers his father’s infidelity, which ultimately ends up costing Biff a chance to attend a premier university. Willy so badly wants his son to succeed, but he is the primary reason for his son’s failure."
"Arthur Miller portrays Willy Loman as a man who talks himself and his small achievements up, to try and cancel out or cover up his insecurities. . . . The characters in Death of a Salesman are actually 'lost.' They try to present themselves as more successful and confident than they really are, yet their true characters are eventually revealed."
"Highlighting the failure of Willy Loman in the most candid sense, this [Jacobson, 250] emphasizes that Willy's primary goal, to be well liked, not only ended in failure, but also was a distorted objective."
"In Irving Jacobson’s 'Family Dreams in Death of a Salesman,' the author describes the reason why Willy Loman doesn’t respect his brother Charley, in the same way he respects Ben, 'he has succeeded in business, but no aura of magic power surrounds him or his advice' (252)."
"The lack of respect and the sense of marginalization Loman receives from coworkers and colleagues drives his self-inflation in front of his children."
"Willy shows that his home isn't a place where he can set aside his pride, be at ease, and rely on his family [...]."
"Just as sex ultimately drives the Loman family apart, it also seems to bring the Loman brothers together at certain points in the text."
"When Death of a Salesman opened in 1949, Brooks Atkinson wrote in his New York Times review that you had written a superb drama. He went on to say, "Mr. Miller has no moral precepts to offer and no solutions of the salesman's problems. He is full of pity, but he brings no piety to it." Is there more of a moral message in Salesman than Atkinson saw there?" -NEH.gov
What is the significance of this scene? How does this scene epitomize Willy's attempts to succeed as a caregiver for his family? How does it highlight his failures to do so and the emotions tied to his failures?