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The Death of Salesman

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					The Death of a Salesman
    Requiem and Conclusion
Outline
   Starting Questions
   The Requiem:
       Different Views of Willy Loman
       The Survivors
   Arthur Miller’s “Tragedy and the Common Man”
   Willy’s “tragedy”:
       The Work of the Environment
       His Character
       Different Kinds of Success
   Critique of The American Dream
   The Play as an Example of Expressionism
Starting Questions
1.   What do you think are the functions of Requiem?
2.   Is Willy Loman a tragic hero who acts and wins
     our esteem? Or is he a victim? A victim of his
     own character or of a system of exploitation and
     ruthless competition?
3.   How about the other Loman characters?
4.   Why is this play an example of Expressionism?
5.   And a critique of the American Dream?
Requiem –formal, somber, a-temporal
   Stage Direction: (the only transition from car
    crash to Requiem)
       Music: a frenzy of sound  A single cello string a dead
        march;
       Lighting: leaves and daylight.
       Wall-line – crossed
       Flowers put “at the limit of the apron (a space for the
        past and Willy’s imagination).
       Characters: put on mourning dresses (no resistance; no
        surprise a sense of fatality)

   Requiem: a mass at which people honor and pray
    for a dead person
      Willy Seen from Different Perspectives
      //self-revelation
Willy and the Survivors
 Happy and Biff: 1) criticisms= reveal their own
short-coming; 2) confirm, idealize the part of Willy
they themselves identify with.
Happy –
        defiant and angry, “had no right to do it. …We would’ve
         helped him.”  empty promise
        “He had a good dream.” Happy promises to maintain
         Willy's dream and his fight.
         Happy is the last one to leave the stage with the flute
         music and images of apartment buildings.
   Biff –
         realistic: "He didn't know himself.“
         Forgetting that the stoop was constructed from stolen
         materials, Biff muses fondly, "there's more of him in
         that front stoop than in all the sales he ever made."
Willy and the Survivors (3)
   Charley --generous? Or over-sentimental?
       "Nobody dast blame this man. [. . .]
     And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He
       don’t put a bolt to a nut, he don’t tell you the law or
       give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue,
       riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start
       not smiling back – that’s an earthquake. Nobody dast
       blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It
       comes with the territory.” (1264)
Charley: 1) self-contradictory, both realistic about,
and forgiving and generous to Willy.
2) Reveals the lack of foundation or substance to
Willy’s dream and capitalism as a whole.
(more later)
Willy and the Survivors (3)
  Linda –
 ”I can’t understand it.”
        disagrees; cannot understand Willy’s need of
        self-dignity.
   “I can’t cry.”
        disapproves of him; numbed after the first
        shock.
    “And there’ll be nobody home. We're
    free and clear," she says to Willy,
    sobbingly.
       free from mortgage & pressure; from family
        members.
Arthur Miller’s “Tragedy and the
Common Man”
   Background: tragedy = Greek tragedy
   Tragedy depicts the downfall of a noble hero or heroine,
    usually through some combination of hubris (pride), fate,
    and the will of the gods.
   The tragic hero's powerful wish to achieve some goal
    inevitably encounters limits, usually those of human frailty
    (flaws in reason, hubris, society), the gods (through oracles,
    prophets, fate), or nature. Aristotle says that the tragic
    hero should have a flaw and/or make some mistake
    (hamartia).
   Ending: The hero need not die at the end, but he / she
    must undergo a change in fortune. In addition, the tragic
    hero may achieve some revelation or recognition about
    human fate, destiny, and the will of the gods. Aristotle
    quite nicely terms this sort of recognition "a change from
    ignorance to awareness of a bond of love or hate." (source)
   Audience’s response: pity and fear; catharsis
Arthur Miller’s “Tragedy and the
Common Man”
   Background: tragedy = Greek tragedy
                                            (source)
   Few tragedies nowadays due to
       the paucity of heroes among us.
       the skepticism of science
  the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy
  in its highest sense as kings were.
 Reasons: 1) In the light of modern psychiatry,
  the situations of Oedipus and Orestes can be
  applied to everyone in similar emotional
  situations.
2) The mental processes of kings shared by the
  lowly.
3) tragedy of the highbred character is remote from
  common people.
Miller’s views of Modern Tragegy of
the common man
   Definition: “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. [. . .] the
    underlying struggle is that of the individual
    attempting to gain his ‘rightful’ position in his
    society.”
   The flaw: his inherent unwillingness to remain
    passive in the face of what he conceives to be a
    challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful
    status.
   Terror –from this total examination of the
    "unchangeable" environment
Miller’s views of Modern Tragegy of
the common man (2)
 In the tragic view the need of man to
  wholly realize himself is the only fixed star,
  and whatever it is that hedges his nature
  and lowers it is ripe for attack and
  examination.
 Wrong concept of tragedy it implies
  more optimism
       Tragedy requires a fine balance between what
        is possible and what is impossible.
       Optimism: perfectibility of man
    Modern Tragedy
 Willy – circumstances & personality;
 Different concepts of Success
 Hope in Linda and Biff –resilience
and improvement
The circumstances
   Willy's family background
       Three models: Father Loman, Ben and Dave
        Singleman
       The lack of a father who is around.
       Ben’s opportunism
       Dave Singleman – a loner of the past
   American Capitalist/Industrial society
    and the American Dream
       Willy outdated.  Yet he tries hard to
        maintain his sense of dignity.
Personality
 Blind: Cannot face his own and his son
  shortcomings, nor their conflicts;
 Cares a lot about the empty appearance
  and social connections;
 Dignified: cannot “walk away,“ continues to fight
  for his position; cannot bend himself to work for
  Charley.
 A loving father  reconciles with Biff when
  he finds that Biff loves him.
Kinds of Success (1)
1.   In the business world:
     1.   Charley’s – money in the pocket; growing
          up/becoming a man or adult;
     2.   Bernard’s –passing the test ( education);
          lawyer; playing tennis; one friend with a
          tennis court at home;
     3.   Howard – owns a company, with a variety of
          playthings (camera, handsaw, a recorder for
          only 150 dollars, children and wife recorded).
    Ben– go to far away places [e.g. the West,
     Alaska, Africa] for gold and diamonds
Kinds of Success (2)
    Willy’s – both success in the biz world and on
     the field
    1. The physical:
         Winning the football game;
         building things [e.g. what Willy does to his house--
          as Biff describes it in the Requiem]
    2. Business world
         well-liked
         Earning money to pay for the mortgage
    3. Pride and Idealism  Mythic dimension: Biff
       as Adonis, Hercules
    4. Family togetherness.
Critique of the American Dream
   Americans dream of success
        which “should be” easy and quick “as long
        as” you work hard
        Ben – easy and quick success
       Materialism + Idealism –money + the
        world of Nature
        Willy and Biff – their dreams of working
        on a ranch and planting.
       Male aggression & expansionism
           Women as target of possession, access to
           power and revenge (e.g. Willy and Happy)
           wives – supportive but without subjectivity
Expressionism
   an artistic style in which the artist attempts to
    depict not objective reality but rather the
    subjective emotions and responses that objects
    and events arouse in him.
   Methods: through distortion, exaggeration,
    primitivism, and fantasy and through the vivid,
    jarring, violent, or dynamic application of formal
    elements (e.g. stage directions).
    one of the main currents of art in the later 19th
    and the 20th centuries, and its qualities of highly
    subjective, personal, spontaneous self-expression
    are typical of a wide range of modern artists and
    art movements.(source)
Symbols re. Willy’s Dream: A Review
   Willy’s house vs. apartment buildings, etc. [e.g. the first
    stage direction]
   Properties and Possessions:
       Football and the sneakers with U. of V on them.
       the house and the mortgage, Things {Fridge, car, vacuum
        cleaner ] that are broken/falling apart
       Linda's stockings
       Tennis
        of power and status: wire recorder and pen
   Nature and The West –
        Seeds/plants/trees; light of green leaves
       Working with tools/one's hands [e.g. Willy's argument with
        Charley towards the end of Act I: :A man who can't handle
        tools is not a man." "hammer a nail"]
   Roads -- [being on the road] Cars/boats/trains: [e.g.
    Willy's Red Chevvy; Willy compared to "alittle boat looking
    for a harbor" by Linda; Ben's taking the train.]
In painting: EDVARD MUNCH’s
“Scream”

Symbols –in stage direction
 flute [Willy's father]– beginning of act 1,
  when Ben appears,
 Willy’s theme (1255);
 Other kinds of music--e.g.
       jarring trumpet note (1249),
       Ben's theme (1236);
       the end of act II (1263)
       End of Requiem—a noble and elegiac ending.
Essay Questions: Find a Focus Yourself
A. The Lomans’ Dreams
I. Willy
        What is(are) his dream(s) and why does he fail to
         accomplish it (them)? Are you sympathetic with
         him?
        What roles do the Woman, Linda and Ben play in his
         pursuit of dream? Does Linda have a dream at the
         end?
         Is he a complete failure, a case of senile
         incompetence, or does he gain any self-knowledge,
         self-confirmation, and retain his sense of dignity? Is
         he a hero?
II. Happy and Biff
        What are their dreams? Do they fail?
        Why does Biff steal, and Happy womanize?
        How do they respond to their father differently?
Essay Questions
B. The Lomans’ Dreams in the Capitalist
  Society
  1) How do Charley and Bernard serve as a foil to
    Willy and Biff?
   Why does Willy refuse to work for Charley?

  2) What roles do Howard and Bill Oliver play as
    representatives of the business world?
  3) Jobs: What does “being a salesman” mean? How
    is it different from being a shipping clerk or a
    lawyer?
Essay Questions
C. Expressionism in Stage Directions and
  Symbols
     How do flashbacks happen in the play? What
      are their functions?
     Besides cars, flute and rubber tube, what
      symbolic meanings do the recorder, silk
      stockings and the fountain pen have? Please
      categorize these different objects (and many
      others in the play) and then discuss their
      symbolic meanings.

				
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