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The Play Death Of A Salesman By Arthur Miller

1326 words - 6 pages

The play Death of a Salesman, written by Arthur Miller, is about an average salesman living in Brooklyn, New York in the 1940’s named Willy Loman. Willy firmly believes in the American dream and is living his life aspiring to gain the wealth and materials associated with those of higher status in society. This American dream tears apart his family and the end result is his own demise. Glengarry Glen Ross, by David Mamet, has a plot similar to Death of a Salesman in that it is about salesmen and it shows the effects of capitalism on people and society. A difference between the two, however, is that Glengarry Glen Ross includes a group of salesmen working a firm who are trying to win a sales ...view middle of the document...

In Death of a Salesman, the tragic hero is Willy Loman, an average working stiff in Brooklyn, New York, rather than someone of high status. The reason for this is that Miller believes that the common man’s downfall will still arouse feelings of pity and fear in the audience because anybody can suffer a tragedy and the audience would get emotional. The traditional thought and misconception with tragedy is that, “tragedy has to be allied with pessimism. [Miller thinks] tragedy implies more optimism in its author than a comedy and must include the possibility of victory and have a balance between what is possible and what is impossible” (Miller). Modern tragedy concludes that the downfall of the protagonist to be during the modern times (or in this case, the capitalistic era) with the cause being his own flaw. The tragic flaw in Death of a Salesman is that Willy didn’t know who he really was as a person and according to Miller, “is his inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge with his dignity, his image of his rightful status” (Miller). Modern tragedy also adds irony to Aristotle’s nature of tragedy. This irony is represented in Death of a Salesman by an ordinary man who has small dreams and it ultimately results in a miserable finale.
Klages has seven main characteristics of modernism and Death of a Salesman captures many of them. Death of a Salesman has a clear plot and clear characters, a subjective writing style (readers see the world through Willy’s eyes and know what is going on in his head), shows a clear distinction between high culture (or the elite) and low culture (or those less well off). Modern writers, “try to uphold the idea that works of art can provide the unity and coherence and meaning which has been lost in most modern life; art will do what other human institutions fail to do” (Klages). In Death of a Salesman, Willy represents a normal working American who is low on the totem pole when it comes to the capitalist hierarchy so within the capitalist system, Willy’s life has little meaning. Therefore, the capitalist institutions failed to provide Willy a meaningful life and Miller tries to give Willy’s life meaning within the story. Millar thinks about contemporary America and the challenges that the nation faces regarding capitalism in his play when he warns the audience to do something meaningful with their lives rather than chase after wealth and materialistic items that capitalism has encouraged.
The plot in Glengarry Glen Ross is centered on a group of middle-aged salesmen trying to win a competition because those in third place or below are fired. We only get information about Shelly Levene’s outside life and that picture is pretty meek. He...

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