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					The Death of a Salesman
   Act I: the Lowman Family &
    their American/Capitalist
    General Introduction
                                            Other Examples of
        Arthur Miller                       Success in Capitalism
        The American Dream
                                            Willy/Biff vs.
        The development of capitalism
        The play and its Style
                                            End of Act I: High
    Starting Questions and General          Hope and Inherent
     Questions                               Problems
    Stage Directions
    Willy Lowman –his Present
    Linda’s Role
    Biff vs. Happy – their Dreams
     and Efforts
    Willy Loman’s Dream, its
     Sources and Influence
General Introduction --Arthur Miller
     interested in father-son relationships,
     critiques the American Dream;
     his conflicted relationship with his uncle,
     Manny Newman, also a salesman.
     ―Newman imagined a continuous
     competition between his son and Miller.‖
    married Marilyn Monroe in 1956; they
     divorced in 1961
    Politically active; in support of
     Communist party during the time of red
    Another famous play, The Crucible 激情年代
General Introduction (2) American Dreams
   Americans’ (or immigrants’) dream of success
    which ―should be‖ easy and quick ―as long as‖ you
    work hard (esp. material success and social
    climbing; e.g. ―Two Kinds.‖)
   Related concepts: self-made man; US as the
    New World promised by God; freedom to expand
    (to go West and explore new frontiers).
   Related signs of success: car, suburban house
    (with a backyard), furniture and machines
   Criticism:
        contradictions between idealism and materialism
        other factors of success ignored (luck, family
        background, toughness and even dirty-dealing)
        hiding the reality of inequality.
 Today’s examples: Dot-com boom
and illegal immigrants (boat people)
General Introduction (3) Development of
Capitalism (Industrial  Electronic/Media)
    19th century 20th century: social mobility or the
     rise of the middle class and the fall of aristocracy
     (e.g. Pride and Prejudice  Pygmalion);
    Mechanical Reproduction;  alienation of workers
     and then everyone (Salesman)
    Improvement in the means of transportation and
     mass communication (―The Man in a Case,‖
     ―Yellow Sky‖ ―In the Station of a Metro‖)
    Abstraction of money and social values (e.g.
     ―₤1,000,000 Bank-Note‖)
    Continuous Expansion of the capital the
     commercial world and increasing desire of the
     consumers (―A&P‖)
     buying things on credit and mortgage
General Introduction (3) Development of
Capitalism (Industrial  Electronic/Media)
    buying things on credit (installment plan
     or mortgage) e.g. cars and houses
         p. 1211 (they owe 120 dollars by the 15th—
         fridge, carburetor, washing machine, roof)
         p. 1230 (fridge broken all the time, insurance
         premium, car, house mortgage)
     Willy's only relief is that after twenty-five
     years he has finally paid off his home
General Introduction (4)
   Death of a Salesman (1949) –consider the
    first great American tragedy.

       Setting: New York City and Boston in the late
       The places mentioned: New England, the West,
        Texas, Florida, Africa, Alaska.
       Major Issues:
          American Dream -- What are their dreams?
           Where do these dreams come from? And
           how are they broken?
          Father-Son Relationships
          ―Lowman‖ – as a tragic hero?
       Styles: Expressionism
Expressionism & Stage Direction
    Miller once said that "Any dramatic
     form is an artifice, a way of
     transforming a subjective feeling
     into something that can be
     comprehended through public
     symbols." (Introduction to
     Collected Plays from the Viking
     version p. 156)
    Pay attention to
       the expressions of subjective
        Thru’ public symbols
Act I: Plot Summary
   Willy Loman returns to his New York home;
    expression of fatique, d worries over Biff;
   Biff and Happy talk about the past and their
    present problems, which ends Biff’s decision to
    visit Bill Oliver, and ask the latter for a job.
   Flashbacks:
       1207 1) Willy talks to Biff and Happy when they
        were in high school; Biff is popular then, but
        Bernard warns him that he may fail his math.
        Strong father-son bond.
       2) Willy and Linda discuss their financial problems,
        which is followed by Willy’s expressions of
        diffidence, Linda’s confirmation, the appearance of
        a woman, and then Bernard’s searching for Biff.
Act I: Plot Summary (2)
 1214 The present flashback: Happy
  tries to comfort Willy first, and then
  Charley appears and plays cards with Willy,
  while Willy imagines talking to Ben.
 1220 Ben gone; Willy goes to the bedroom;
  Linda reveals their financial difficulties to
  her sons; Linda suspects that Willy uses a
  tube to asphyxiate himself with gas.
 Biff promises to stay and try again to work;
  as they talk, Willy comes in and the four
  of them talk about their plans, argue with
  each other while showing their love.
Starting Questions
1.   the first stage direction  a) the characters Willy
     and Linda, b) the central theme of the play (e.g.
     "the fragile-seeming house," apartment buildings,
     the "one-dimensional" roof, the colors, the flute,
2.   The first dialogue between Linda and Willy:
     What is Willy like in the "present" of the
     play? What is bothering Willy? And the relationship
     between Willy and Linda? Willy's views of Biff?

3. The dialogue between Biff and Happy-- the two
   brothers are set in contrast in terms of their
   working experience, their desire and dream, and
   their relationship to their parents. How are they
   similar to each other in terms of the ways they use
   to achieve their respective dream?
Overall Questions on Act I: the
Characters’ Dreams and Efforts
 Where does Willy get his dream? How is
  Willy’s dream different from and similar to
  Ben’s? And Happy’s and Biff’s?
 How do the parents, Willy and Linda,
  educate their sons?
 How do Charley and Bernard serve as foil
  to Willy and Biff?
 What social conditions do the characters
  exist in?
Stage Direction –Symbolic of their
dream and social conditions
   the house with "one-dimensional" roof-line vs.
    the angular shapes behind it – apartment
    buildings & skyscrapers representing over-
    population and power
   Kitchen, refrigerator and 3 chairs – the center of
    life for this family
   Elements of dream –silver trophy
   Willy and the flute  ―small and fine, telling of
    grass and trees and the horizon―  see p. 1202
    Willy’s complaints about ―this country.‖
   The apron as backyard with or without wall-lines
   the colors –blue sky (suggests desire for
    freedom), angry orange (of constraint and
Willy –What’s bothering him?
   Exhausted, he drives a long way to do business.
   Outdated –
       Not well-treated by the young boss (Howard; 1201)
       cannot take American whipped cheese (1202) "How can
        they whip cheese?"
       Not well-known anymore: business now is "all cut and dried,
        and there's no chance for bringing friendship to bear--or
        personality. […] They don’t know me anymore‖ (Act 2 1234)
   Contradictory views on Biff:
        Upset by Biff’s being a farmhand, his not ―finding [himself] at
        the sage of 34.‖
        Thinks that Biff is lost, not lazy – ―In the greatest country in
        the world a young man with such - personal attractiveness,
        gets lost.‖
   Nostalgic about the past (1202 and more later) His mind
    wanders off (1200; 1203), talks to himself –or to Biff.
       e.g. 1204 ―What a simonizing job‖
Linda –Supportive, perceptive and
   Linda: ―adores‖ Willy (1199); ―iron
    repression of her exceptions to
    Willy’s behavior‖
   Serves Willy, normalizes the
    situations while she is actually
    worries about him (pp. 1200)
   Gives suggestions – rest, work in
    New York;
   speaks for her children and tries to
    improve the father-son
Linda –(2) blind and perceptive
    Her speech(1221-1225):
1.   sees Willy’s emotional changes re.
     Biff without knowing why (1221);
2.   Well respected and loved by the
     two boys;
3.   Defends Willy (21-22)—love him or
     don’t come back.
4.   Demands attention to and
     sympathy for Willy
5.   Reveals his suicidal tendencies,
     finds it a shame
6.   ―a woman‖ –seems to suspect
     something without knowing it.
Biff and Happy-(1203--)
& Their Dreams & Efforts
   Similarities: lost, confused      Happy – self-deceiving 
   Nostalgic – old beds,              seemingly more content;
    ―dreams and plans‖                 controls his bashfulness
   Attractive to women when           now.
    young;                              seek revenge against
   Still keeps empty dreams of        his superiors by taking
    success –about having a            their women out.
    ranch; about getting              Biff – (now) wears a worn
    married to a girl; about           air; less successful;
    running a company ―The             unhappy about being a
    Lowman Brothers‖ 1205-             clerk or a cowboy * 1204-
    1206  without knowing             05
    how to do it.                     (past) introduces Happy to
   ―Bill Oliver‖ as a possible        women.
    rescuer  think big; The          Interested in handiwork or
    Lowman Line 1226;                  farm work (1225) ―we don't
                                       belong in this nuthouse of a
Willy vs. Biff/Happy p. 1207
   Simultaneity (1204-          Happy defends Willy,
    07) –Willy missing the        ask Biff to talk to
    past and Biff/Happy           him, while Biff
    talking about the past.       criticizes him 1203;

          "There are no flashbacks in this
          play but only a mobile
          concurrency of past and
          present.. ." Arthur Miller
   Willy Loman’s Dream, its
    Sources and Influences
Dream – in His Son &
Source: Ben and the Flute
Influences: Biff and Happy
Dream (1): His Son & Salesmanship—
What is he proud of?
   Biff – polishes the car carefully; Adores and is
    close to his father; good at playing football
    (1209-10); adored by many boys and girls (1211)
    p. 1228 –‖Like a young god. Hercules -- something like
      that. […] God Almighty, he'll be great yet. A star like
      that, magnificent, can never really fade away!‖
   House & car– adding a hammock, work on the
    ceiling and the front stoop
   Salesmanship – ―well-liked‖ 1209 –
   Self-deceptive – actually he is not making enough
    money (1211), nor is Biff getting anywhere
   His sense of diffidence and guilt – 1212-13
       talks and jokes too much; like a walrus; has an affair.
Willy Loman’s Dream (2): Source --Ben
   Willy Ben: "There was a man started with the
    clothes on his back and ended up with diamond
    mines" (?)
   Ben --"Why, boys, when I walked into the jungle,
    I was seventeen. When I walked out I was
    twenty-one. And, by God, I was rich― (1218)
   "Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You'll never
    get out of the jungle that way" (1219)
   Ben’s – imperialist capitalist (plundering in a
    foreign land)
   Loman--"It's Brooklyn, I know, but we hunt too"
Willy Loman’s Dream (3) The Flute
   "It is small and fine, telling of grass and trees
    and the horizon" 
    Willy’s father 1218
       "great inventor" who would "stop in the towns and
        sell the flutes he'd made on the way."
       "With one gadget," Ben tells Willy, "he made more
        in a week than a man like you could make in a
   Willy’s Father’s – in the age of mercantile
    capitalism: an untamed natural man and the
    westward-bound pioneer; the artisan, a great
    inventor, and a successful traveling merchant; he
    sold what he made.
   Willy does not remember him except as an image.
   Willy – industrial capitalism, where the role of
    traveling salesman gets less important.
-Ben, how should I teach
      Willy as a Father
Willy Loman’s Teaching (1) Jungle Spirit
   His gift (1208) : a punching bag with Gene
    Tunney’s signature
   Believes in names and reputation:
       Biff expresses his hatred of the business world because
        "They've laughed at Dad for years (1225)... ―. Willy
        responds in a characteristic manner: "Go to Filene's, go
        to the Hub, go to Slattery's, Boston. Call out the name
        Willy Loman and see what happens! Big shot!" (1225)
   "That's just the spirit I want to embue them with!
    To walk into the jungle!" (1220)
   Competitiveness
       "Knocked 'em cold in Providence, slaughtered 'em in
        Boston" (1210)
       His advice to Biff in asking Bill Oliver for a loan, Willy's
        advice is "Knock him dead, boy" (1228)
Willy Loman’s Teaching (2)
   Permissive and not teaching them
    practical skills or the spirit of hard work:
         congratulates Biff on his initiative for
        borrowing a regulation football to practice with
        encourages the boys to steal sand from the
        apartment house so that he can rebuild the
        front stoop (1219)
       advises his sons to be well liked and make a
        good appearance in order to get ahead in the
        world (1210)
       Expects Bernard to give answers to Biff in
        exams; refuses to face Biff’s failures and
        problems. (1214  more later)
Willy’s Ways to Success –
   Human Connections --What he tells his son: ―Be liked
    and you will never want.‖ (1210)
   proper language and dress -- What is revealed in his
    talk to Linda about his weaknesses:
       A man oughta come in with a few words. (But not too many
        words—Willy himself talks too much.) (1212)
       I gotta overcome it. I know I gotta overcome it. I'm not
        dressing to advantage, maybe.(1212)
   Proper manners -- Act I, talking about how Biff should
    behaves in front of B. Oliver:
       Be quiet, fine, and serious. Everybody likes a kidder, but
        nobody lends him money.(1226)
       But remember, start big and you'll end up big. Ask for 15.
       Start off with a couple of your good stories to lighten things up.
        It's not what you say, it's how you say it--because personality
        always wins the day. (1227)
   success results from "who you know and the smile on your
    face! It's contacts ... being liked― (1237 Act 2)
Other examples of American Dream
and its acquisitiveness
   Happy: ―[His] own apartment, a car and plenty of
    women‖ (1205)
   Happy about his friend:
       He's a good friend of mine, and he just built a terrific
        estate on Long Island. And he lived there about two
        months and sold it, and now he's building another one.
        He can't enjoy it once it's finished. And I know that's
        just what I would do. I don't know what the hell I'm
        workin' for. (1205)
   I tell you ... I'm gonna take my camera, and my
    bandsaw, and all my hobbies, and out they go.
    This is the most fascinating relaxation I've ever
    found (Howard Act 2: 1233)
Willy/Biff vs. Charles/Bernard
   Charles and Bernard -- Less athletic. (1219)
       Bernard – Willy ―What an anemic‖
       ―Between him and his son Bernard they can’t hammer a
        nail!‖ (1219)
   Charley—cannot handle tools (1216)
    ―disgusting‖ to Willy.
   Charley—more practical (matter-of-fact),
    slow and clumsy in words
       says ―Don’t get insulted‖ three times (1215) (more later)
       ―There’s no bone in heartburns.‖ (1215 Willy’s
        suggestions of vitamin is useless.)
       ―When a deposit bottle is broken, you don’t get the
        nickels back.‖ (referring to Biff)
Willy/Biff vs. Charley/Bernard
   Bernard and Charley –
   Both law-abiding:
       Charley: Listen, if that watchman . . .
       Willy: I gave them[the watchmen] hell, understand. But
        I got a couple of fearless characters there.
       Charley: Willy, the jails are full of fearless characters.
       Barnard: The watchman’s chasing Biff!
       Shut up! He’s not stealing anything! (1219)
   both loyal to their friends
       ―Pity‖ in whatever he says;
       Charley –plays cards with Willy to help him relax; (Act 2)
        lends money to Willy
       Bernard – keeps asking Biff to study math with him;
        helps Biff pass the exams by cheating.
End of Act I: High Hope and Inherent
    Hope – Willy is going to Howard, and Biff, to
     Ben Oliver, in order to change their lives.
    Inherent Problems:
1.   In Biff – he steals
2.   In Willy– his malfunctioned mind, his high hope
     for Biff and reality (the rubber tube and a job
     without salary)
3.   between Biff and Willy
        Biff defends his mother 1221 (Your hair got so gray);
         1227 (Don’t yell at her, will ya)
        Against Willy ―I know he’s a fake and he doesn’t like
         anybody around who knows‖ (1223)
        Something Linda is not aware of (―Willy dear, what has
         he got against you?‖ 1228)