Describing auditory sensations in text is often very difficult. Nevertheless, Arthur Miller in his play "Death of a Salesman" and F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel The Great Gatsby. Music is a very useful method of communicating in prose because it can give off a sensation to the reader that mere text or dialogue cannot. Although the authors use drastically different types of music, one using popular music and the other using solo instrumental music, both authors are very effective. The authors use music ironically in order to undermine the classical masculinity of their characters.
Both Willy and Gatsby are originally portrayed as prime examples of traditional masculinity. Wilily is ...view middle of the document...
Willy is unable to face reality and come to terms with the statues of his own life.
The flute is played in Willy's moments of nostalgia. The same flute that played its mournful melody at the beginning of the play also brings Willy's fanciful and joyful memories. The flute appears while Willy is talking to Charley. Willy fondly calls the flute "Ben's music" and describes fondly a series of trips that he took with his father and Ben where his father would sell the flutes he made. Ben says "And we’d stop in the towns and sell the flutes that he’d made on the way. Great inventor, Father. With one gadget he made more in a week than a man like you could make in a lifetime." To which Willy responds, "That’s just the way I’m bringing them up, Ben—rugged, well liked, all-around.” Willy's love his family, portrayed through the feminine tone and happy melody of the flute, start to emasculate Willy by showing his sensitivity, a trait that is traditionally thought of as womanly. The flute also hints at Willy’s apparent inadequacy and incompetence. His idealization of both his father and brother for their apparent success is mainly due to his inability to succeed in his own right. Willy is unable to fulfill traditional male role of breadwinner, exhibiting his comparative weakness and feminine nature in relation to his brother. In order to make up for his relative weakness, Willy attempts to raise his sons, especially Biff, to fill the shoes of his father and brother. When Biff does not live up to his Father’s expectations, Willy is crushed, realizing his failure as a father.
In addition to portraying Willy's relative inadequacy, the flute also portrays his ever-increasing senility. The moments of nostalgia give way to moments of senility. The music of the flute preludes the fits of senility that plague Willy throughout the play. Firstly, the flute music appears in the background while Willy is flashing back to talking to Biff about his current success in high school. Willy responds to this conversation as if it is actually happening. Another instance of this sort of confusion occurs after Willy gets home from work one day. Miller writes:
He breaks off in amazement and fright as the flute is heard distantly.
LINDA: What, darling?
WILLY: That is the most remarkable thing.
LINDA: What, dear?
WILLY: I was thinking of the Chevvy. [Slight pause.] Nineteen twenty-eight . . . when I had that red Chevvy—[Breaks off.] That funny? I coulda sworn I was driving that Chevvy today.”
Willy is often separated from reality and it is difficult for the reader to figure out whether Willy is responding to present or past events. The flute contains a duality in which it portrays the best of the past and the current difficulties. Because the music is present in both, Willy has difficulty delineating past from present. For Willy,...