How Does Miller Use The Father Son Relationships To Question The Values Of 1940's America? ("Death Of A Salesman" By Arthur Miller)

2573 words - 10 pages

In America in the 1940's, material success was preferable to anything else. Some people in 'the land of opportunities,' were experiencing immense prosperity and unprecedented wealth as social processes were occurring. It was the time when the war between capitalism and communism was occurring i.e. The Cold War, hence the era of McCarthy and un-Americanism. Here was too the time where the majority of citizens in the USA believed in the American Dream, which is the pursuit of material prosperity - that people work more hours and harder to get bigger rewards, financial freedom and the fruits of prosperity for their families. It also can be defined as an American ideal to a happy and successful life to which all may aspire to. The 1940's was also a period of mass unemployment and of an economic depression. The dream thus represented a reaffirmation of traditional American hopes in this time period for its citizens.Through Miller's play "Death of a Salesman', the relationships between Willy and his two sons Biff and Happy, and Charlie and his son Bernard, are used to reflect upon how significant the dream was for many Americans, and how it leads to either financial and spiritual harmony or distress, or even total devastation.Willy believes wholeheartedly in what he considers the promise of "The American Dream" - that a 'well-liked' and 'personally attractive' man in business will unquestionably acquire the material comforts offered by modern American life. Oddly, his obsession with the superficial qualities of attractiveness and likeability is at odds with a more gritty, more rewarding understanding of the American Dream that identifies hard work without complaint as the key to success. Willy's interpretation of likeability is superficial--he childishly dislikes Bernard because he considers Bernard a nerd. Willy's faith in his underdeveloped version of the American Dream leads to his rapid psychological decline when he is unable to accept the difference between the Dream and his own life.Willy seeks success for his sons, especially Biff. He values the principles of initiative, hard work, family, freedom, consumerism, economic salvation, competition and personal fulfillment. He has a desire to build a strong future for his sons through endorsement of these values, which were the same in 1940s America - some still exist today. However, because Miller was against some aspects of the dream such as its consequences, he makes Willy appear a man no longer capable of selling and who can only cling to idyllic fables that confuse as they elude him. He is made out to be the protagonist of the play who's a subject of tragedy. He cannot carry the burdens Miller places on him. He's deliberately also made like this to reflect the playwrights' views/opinions upon the values of 1940s America.Through creating the relationships Miller places theatregoers at the time the play was first staged/written into the shoes of the Lomans. The adulterous father, when Biff finds...

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