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Gender In Death Of A Salesman By Arthur Miller And Churchill´S Cloud Nine

1634 words - 7 pages

In my essay I’ve decided to examine how gender is presented on stage in Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” and Churchill’s “Cloud Nine”. More specifically, I will be looking at how both playwrights express the gender role of patriarchy in their male characters, Willy Loman and Clive. Gender, unlike the biological differentiation of sex, is a social condition that forms the basis of being a “male” or “female”. The role of patriarchy, as described by (renown feminist) Gerda Lerner, is “the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family” (1). This identity issue has since become very popular with play writers of sexual and gender politics in theatre, ...view middle of the document...

I believe Elaine Aston summarizes it well in her book “Caryl Churchill” by stating that the characters are “oppressed by the imperialist roles assigned to them by Clive”
In contrast, Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” feels he has the right to dominate his household through being a successful breadwinner. Willy seeks comfort by identifying himself with the old American dream, a pioneer who is self-sufficient, can protect his home, whilst still being a provider for his family. Hence, any time his authority questioned he either reverts to lying or vicious outbursts. This could be the main reason for the altercation between Linda and Willy when he spots her fixing old stockings. In his first response he shouts at Linda saying, “I won’t have you mending stocking in this house! Now throw them out!” The reason for Willy’s anger is because he’s unable to buy her new stockings and so the action of fixing them is an insult to his own ability as a provider. He tells her to throw them away because letting Linda fix them would mean he’d have to accept that he’s not a successful salesman and therefore has no right to dominate his own household. In this scene I feel Willy should shout as aggressively as he can because anger is often linked with personal weakness. Hopefully this would present a more dimensional performance showing that he’s not actually angry with Linda, but that he’s upset at own inabilities, which are further highlighted when he see he her fixing the stockings a second time. On this occasion, however, he accepts it because he can no longer convince himself of his dream to be the perfect provider. Bigsby describes Willy as “a man who wishes his reality to come into lines with his hopes”, in his book “Arthur Miller: A Critical Study”. I think this reflects the domination Willy thinks he holds is just his own illusion to what he thinks a man’s place is in society. This is not too dissimilar from Clive’s ignorance of family life. Both men are so fixated with the role of patriarchy in the household and what society thinks of them that they never form a true connection to any of their own family members in reality.

The father, son relationship is another aspect of both plays that have become dysfunctional due to the role of patriarchy.
In “Cloud Nine” Clive’s son, Edward is put under an enormous amount of pressure to be someone he’s not. Being the authoritative and dominating figure that Clive is, he sets the rules for all his family because he believes it’s in his own right. In Roberts’ “About Churchill” she says the expectation of Edward is someone who “needs to be manly and idolize his father”. I believe this is not completely true, on several occasions Edward displays many character traits that are not traditionally masculine. When Clive finds his son with his sister’s doll, he simply states, “Yes, it’s very manly of you Edward, to take care of your little sister. We’ll say no more about it.” Clive is completely ignorant to the fact that...

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