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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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Title: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Author: Bruce Wentzell Last modified by: HP Created Date: 6/25/2013 3:02:53 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller


1
Death of a Salesmanby Arthur Miller
2
Death of a SalesmanIntroduction to the Play
  • First performed in 1949, premiering in
    Philadelphia
  • Won the Pulitzer Prize, achieved critical acclaim
    and ran for 742 performances on Broadway
  • Considered to be playwright Arthur Millers
    masterpiece
  • Examines the myth of the American
    Dream
  • The work mixes realism and emotional
    issues without descending to melodrama

3
Death of a SalesmanAbout the Playwright
  • Arthur Miller was born in New York in 1915
  • Miller worked his work through the University of
    Michigan during the Great Depression
  • Among his other works, The Crucible (1953) is
    well known for its satirical view of the McCarthy
    hearings and the Red Scare

4
Death of a SalesmanAbout the Playwright (cont)
  • Miller was accused of being Communist, but his
    conviction was overturned on a technicality
  • Miller was briefly married to movie star Marilyn
    Monroe
  • Arthur Miller died in 2005

5
Death of a SalesmanPlay Historical Perspective
  • View the play in the context of the Great
    Depression of the 1930s and the end of World War
    II in 1945
  • While all but nonexistent today, traveling
    salesmen were common during the era
  • Television had been invented but not yet
    ubiquitous, the most frequent sources of
    entertainment were radio, movies and staged plays

6
Death of a SalesmanPlay Historical Perspective
(cont)
  • Audiences continue to be drawn to the pathos of
    the protagonist, Willy Loman
  • The play is considered a recognized element of
    American culture

7
Death of a SalesmanThemes
  • Appearances vs Reality Willys frequent
    flashbacks suggest he is losing grip on reality.
    What appears to be true, or wishes to be true,
    often is not
  • Individual vs Society Willy fails because he
    cannot stop living in a reality that does not
    exist, which dooms him to fail in the reality
    that does exist
  • Individual vs Self Willys perception of what
    he should be is continually at odds with what he
    is
  • The American Dream Willys lack of education
    dooms him to failure. Seen as an indictment of
    the American Dream as represented in the 1920s

8
Death of a SalesmanStyle
  • The play is set in the urban areas of New York
    and Boston
  • While grounded in realism, the play includes
    expressionism, specifically when it depicts
    imaginary sequences and characters internal
    thoughts and emotions
  • The play is cyclical rather than sequential, told
    often through flashbacks
  • The play is largely the representation of what
    takes place in the mind of Willy Loman during the
    last two days of his life

9
Death of a SalesmanEra Historical Perspective
  • The end of World War II in 1945 created an
    unprecedented period of economic growth in the
    United States
  • Housing and non-farming incomes grew, but the
    economic situations of the poor did not
  • Inflation caused economic challenges and lowered
    the value of what little money the poor were able
    to save

10
Death of a SalesmanEra Historical Perspective
(cont)
  • Economic growth resulted in many consumers using
    credit for the first time. Until this era,
    individuals paid cash for major purchases other
    than their homes
  • The onset of the Cold War led Americans
    to prove that capitalism was a more
    effective than Communism
  • Rather than being motivated by a strict moral
    code, many Americans became more concerned with
    what others thought of them

11
Death of a SalesmanMajor Characters
  • Ben Willys brother, who appears only through
    Willys imagination
  • Bernard Charleys son and Willys only
    supporter outside the family
  • Biff Willys elder son, a former high school
    football idol who caught his father in an affair
  • Charley Willys only friend who eventually
    becomes Willys sole source of cash
  • Happy The younger of Willys two sons who grew
    up in the shadow of his brother

12
Death of a SalesmanMajor Characters (cont)
  • Linda Willys long-suffering yet devoted wife
    the only major female character in the play
  • Willy The salesman around whom the play is
    constructed

13
Death of a SalesmanEssential Questions
  • Identify Willy Lomans personality and character.
    What influences have shaped his views? How does
    Arthur Miller convey Willys outlook and
    emotions?
  • How do Biff and Haps adult lives show the
    influence of their childhood as seen in
    flashbacks?
  • How does Willys love of what he terms
    personality conform to Howards idea that
    business is business?
  • How does Miller begin and end flashbacks,
    memories and hallucinations and why?
  • To what extent is Willy responsible for Biffs
    difficulties in life? Find examples of Willys
    hot air in the play.

14
Death of a SalesmanThe End
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