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Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller


Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller The American Dream: At what cost? About the Playwright: Arthur Miller Born in New York City on October 17, 1915 Began as playwright ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Death of a Salesman Arthur Miller

Death of a SalesmanArthur Miller
  • The American Dream
  • At what cost?

About the PlaywrightArthur Miller
  • Born in New York City on October 17, 1915
  • Began as playwright at University of Michigan
  • Pulitzer Prize winner for Death of A Salesman
  • Double winner of New York Drama Critics Circle

Millers Legal Troubles
  • Suspected of being a Communist sympathizer
  • Death seen as un-American
  • Miller has troubles with the HUAC/McCarthy
  • 1953 - Miller denied a passport
  • 1955 - HUAC pressures NYC not to allow Miller to
    make a film for them on juvenile delinquency

The Saga Continues...
  • 1957 - Miller convicted of contempt of Congress
    for refusing to name names And then...
  • 1958 - US Court of Appeals overturns his contempt

Millers Assertions
  • Death is not a document of pessimism.
  • Death is not un-American it celebrates the life
    of Willy Loman.
  • Miller believes that tragedy is inherently

From Classical Tragedy
  • Unity of time -- the final 24 hours in Willys
  • Unity of action - the play is complete unto
  • the tragic herowith a twist

Also from Classical Tragedy
  • the heros traits, esp. being a mixture of good
    and bad and being of higher moral worth than
    others in society
  • the concept of the heros flaw
  • the heros capacity to willingly endure suffering
  • the catharsis of the audience

Initial Themes
  • Addresses family conflict in post World War II
  • 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

Death of a Salesman and the American Dream
  • Death of a Salesman is considered by many to be
    the quintessential modern literary work on the
    American dream, a term created by James Truslow
    Adams in his 1931 book, The Epic of America. This
    is somewhat ironic, given that it is such a dark
    and frustrated play. The idea of the American
    dream is as old as America itself the country
    has often been seen as an empty frontier to be
    explored and conquered. Unlike the Old World, the
    New World had no social hierarchies, so a man
    could be whatever he wanted, rather than merely
    having the option of doing what his father did.
  • The American Dream is closely tied up with the
    literary works of another author, Horatio Alger.
    This author grew famous through his allegorical
    tales which were always based on the
    rags-to-riches model. He illustrated how through
    hard work and determination, penniless boys could
    make a lot of money and gain respect in America.

Themes in Death
  • Willy Loman as a modern tragic hero
  • An individuals search for meaning and purpose in
    life (not Willy, but Biff)
  • failure in pursuit of success
  • Mans need to leave a thumbprint somewhere in
    the world.
  • An examination of the materialistic values of

More themes in Death
  • The love of a father for a son and a son (Biff)
    for a father
  • The conflict between father and son
  • The question of who shall wield the power?
  • the problem of communication

Add Themes
  • Abandonment The not-so-positive transient
    nature of mankind
  • Betrayal Willys primary obsession (Biff)

  • Seeds opportunity for growth, but will not
    always germinate.
  • Diamonds Material tangible wealth
  • The Womans Stockings betrayal and infidelity.
  • The Rubber Hose Suicide
  • Alaska, AfricaThe American West success and

Characteristics of the Tragic Hero
  • "A man doesn't become a hero until he can see the
    root of his own downfall."
  • Aristotle
  • Six Characteristics of the Tragic Hero
  • Nobility or wisdom (by birth)
  • A flaw or error of judgment (Hamartia)
  • A reversal of fortune (perepetia)
  • The discovery or recognition that the reversal
    was brought about by the hero's own actions
  • The audience must feel dramatic irony for the
  • The character's fate must be greater than

A few key traits of the T.H.
  • Usually evokes empathy
  • Has a weakness, usually pride
  • Something has gone awry in his/her life
  • Usually faced with a very serious decision he
    must make
  • Noble in nature
  • Must understand his mistakes
  • Likely doomed from the start
  • Begins his journey as no better or worse than
    the rest of us

The Common Man as Hero
  • Millers thoughts
  • 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 his society.

Millers 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
  • The hero achieves a kind of redemption in his

Act 1
  • An air of the dream clings to the place, a dream
    rising out of reality.
  • How does this serve to foreshadow Willy Lomans

Major Characters
  • Willy Loman
  • Biff Loman
  • Linda Loman
  • Happy Loman
  • Charley
  • Bernard
  • Ben
  • The Woman
  • Howard Wagner
  • Stanley
  • Jenny
  • Miss Forsythe and Letta

Willy Loman
  • Father, traveling salesman
  • Believes in chasing the American Dream although
    he never achieves it
  • Pins his failed hopes on his sons, Biff and Happy
  • Becomes mentally ill when pressure of reality
    crushes his illusions

Biff Loman
  • Elder son, 34 years old
  • High school standout-football star, many male
    friends, and female admirers
  • Academic failures lead to a life of kleptomania
  • Represents Willys vulnerable, tragic side
  • Fails to reconcile his fathers expectations

Linda Loman
  • Loving, devoted wife
  • Naïve and realistic of Willys hopes
  • Emotionally supportive of Willy
  • Willys strength until his tragic perishing

Happy Loman
  • Younger son, 32 years old
  • In Biffs shadow all his life
  • Relentless sex and professional drive
  • Represents Willys sense of self importance and
  • Often engages in bad business ethics

  • The Lomans next door neighbor
  • Successful businessman
  • Often gives Willy financial support
  • Described sadly as Willys only friend although
    Willy is jealous of Charleys success

  • Charleys son
  • Successful lawyer
  • Often mocked by Willy for being studious
  • Compared to Loman sons by Willy they do not
    measure up to his success

  • Willys deceased older brother
  • Independently wealthy
  • Appears to Willy in daydreams
  • Willys symbol of success that he desperately
    wants for his sons

The Woman
  • Willys mistress
  • Her admiration for Willy is an ego boost
  • Biff catches Willy with her in a hotel room
  • Biff loses faith in his father due to infidelity

  • WILLY I'm not interested in stories about the
    past or any crap of that kind because the woods
    are burning, boys, you understand? There's a big
    blaze going on all around. I was fired today.
    BIFF (shocked) How could you be? WILLY I was
    fired, and I'm looking for a little good news to
    tell your mother, because the woman has waited
    and the woman has suffered. The gist of it is
    that I haven't got a story left in my head, Biff.
    So don't give me a lecture about facts and
    aspects. I am not interested. Now what've you got
    so say to me? (from Death of a Salesman)
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