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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The stereotypical salesman: n n n Aggressive unctuous (slick) sly not always honest phony
Salesmen: How have they changed? n 1940 s 1950 s – traveled – door-todoor – large numbers n Today – rarely door-to -door – telemarketing computers – not as much traveling
Willy Loman n n Famous American character actors want to play him; challenge obsessive desire to succeed being liked/loved=success
Willy’s family n n n Sons: Biff and Happy wife: Linda= unconditional love brother: Ben= material success
Structure: “Inside his head” n Present day: 1945 – – Willy in 60’s having troubles Biff & Happy in 30’s Ben is dead n Flashbacks: 1928 – Biff & Happy in HS – Biff = football star – Ben stops by for a visit
Setting and sound n n n House: open= realism “opening up roof & looking in” lighting & sound/ costumes used to indicate flashback flute music in background
Writing: n n n How do you define success? How does society define success? What do you need to do in order to have success? What are the obstacles to personal success and how can people overcome them? Who are the people that you view as successful?
Success! n n How do you define success? How does Willy Loman define success? How does Biff Loman define success? How does Happy Loman define success?
Symbolism: Willy Loman’s back yard 1928 1945
Symbolism Apartment houses surround Loman house Block sunlight Replace elm trees
Symbolism 1928 1945
Symbolism Stockings -expensive -Linda tries to repair the holes in her stockings -mistress gets new stockings Symbolize illusion vs. reality n
Act II opens in 1945 n Willy and Linda discuss finances: Why is this scene repeated?
Willy: Mr. Fix-it – Puts up a ceiling – Builds front porch – Installs plumbing – Gardens – “Even your grandfather was better than a carpenter. . . ” – “A man who can’t handle tools is not a man. . . ”
Symbolism: ACT II: Why is the tape recorder in the scene? The tape recorder symbolizes Willy’s inability to adapt to the new technology in the business world --Willy does not know what it is --he cannot afford it --does not know how to operate it --Howard ignores Willy to give attention to his new “hobby”
Dave Singleman n n Willy’s inspiration Success until age 84 Willy says DS was “loved. ” Died the “death of a salesman” – On the train, on business – Large funeral
ACT II: n n n Howard Willy’s boss/ same age as Biff Howard treats Willy same way Willy treats Linda He calls Willy “Kid” Howard is boss b/c of his father Willy still focused on “he put his hand on my shoulder. . ”
ACT II: Ben Jungle= difficulty (business world) Diamond= Reward success
Symbolism: ACT II: n Willy wants to plant seeds: “I’ve got nothing in the ground. . . ” Nothing will grow; sunlight blocked: Willy can’t succeed
Symbolism: Act II: fountain pen -Bill Oliver’s -Biff steals it -Realizes he doesn’t want it Pen = business world Biff realizes he does not want to be in business Biff: “What am I grabbing this for? ”
“Be liked. . . ” Willy: you must be well-liked/attractive to have success. Who proves Willy’s theory wrong? Himself Biff Ben Charley Bernard Howard
Discussion questions 1. Compare Willy’s relationship with Linda to his relationship with Charley 2. Compare and contrast Biff to Willy 3. Compare and contrast Happy to Willy 4. Discuss the portrayal of women in the play: Linda, woman in Boston, Ms. Forsythe, Letta
Discussion questions: Compare Willy’s relationship with Linda to his relationship with Charley n He treats both badly: n – “big ignoramus” – “don’t interrupt. . . ” n Both are kind to him – Linda takes care – Charlie offers job n Both enable him – Linda doesn’t ? – Charlie gives $ n Charlie understands: – “Nobody dast blame this man. . . ” – Linda: “I can’t understand. . . He only needed a little salary” – Charlie: “no man needs only a little salary” Linda blames others: – “Biff, his life is in your hands. . . ” – “don’t you care. . . ”
Compare and contrast Biff to Willy n Both work with hands Willy doesn’t change – “he was a happy man Biff has self-awareness n n with a bunch of – “I realized something cement” about myself” – “To suffer 50 weeks n Biff defends Linda; of the year for a two wants to “settle down” week vacation. . . when all you really n Biff challenges both desire is to be Linda and Happy outdoors with your – “we never told the truth in shirt off. ” this house” n n Both enjoy attention Both seek approval
Compare and contrast Happy to Willy n n n Both contradict – “big. . . “nobody knows me” – “getting married. . . can never marry” Both exaggerate – Jobs, women. . . Both focus on physical – “losing weight” – “foolish to look at” Both act superior to women Neither will give up dream Both are the unappreciated younger brother n Willy works hard; Happy is lazy – 10 -12 hours day – Cover yourself n n Happy more independent Happy feels entitled; Willy has put time in
Women: victims or in control? n “pig” n n “gorgeous creatures” “ruined her. . . Can’t get rid of her. . . Women as prizes Women used for sex n n n Linda = “foundation” Woman in Boston= controls business Bernard, Howard, Ben: wives Happy: “can’t get married”
Discussion question II n DISCUSS WILLY LOMAN AS A PARENT IN BOTH THE PRESENT TIME AND IN THE FLASHBACKS TO 1928. WHAT ARE HIS STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES? BE SPECIFIC n WHAT STATEMENT IS ARTHUR MILLER TRYING TO MAKE ABOUT THE BUSINESS WORLD AND AMERICAN SOCIETY? WHOSE FAULT IS WILLY’S TRAGEDY—HIS OWN OR SOCIETY n When asked what item Willy sells, Arthur Miller has said, “Willy sells himself. ” Explain what Arthur Miller means. How does Willy sell himself to further his career? How does he sell himself to Linda? To Ben? To Howard?
? How does he sell himself: n n To Linda? Sales totals “ I would have broke records. . . ” “salary” from Charlie “I cracked him. . . ” To Ben? n n n “we hunt too. . . ” Shows off sons Shows off building skills To Howard? “I’m going to get one myself. . . ” Named him Howard’s father “I had a big year!”
WILLY LOMAN AS A PARENT n n n n Good intentions Attentive; interested Works to provide Controlling Overly involved Sees no fault stubborn
Defining statements n Willy – “Big shot” – “I am not a dime a dozen. . . ” – “He put his hand on my shoulder. . . ” – “nothing’s planted. . . I haven’t got a thing in the ground. . . ” – “a man who can’t handle tools. . . ” – “You’re the only friend I got. . . ” n Linda – “attention must be paid!” – “How can I insult him. . . ” – “Why did you have to start that? ” – “You’ve turned your backs. . . ” – I can’t understand. . .
Defining statements n Biff – “I’m like a boy” – “I borrowed it from the locker room” – “You gave her Mama’s stockings” – “We never told the truth in this house” – “What am I grabbing this for? ” n Happy – “I’m losing weight/ getting married” – “I get that any time I want” – “I can outlift, outbox. – “I’m gonna beat this. . – “It’s the only dream you can have. . .
Heroes? Willy Loman/John Proctor n n Individual vs. society Both don’t fit Both make mistakes Both sacrifice life n n Willy’s choice? Willy—wrong fit Proctor has more regret Willy’s suicide: motive?
WILLY’S TRAGEDY? HIS OWN FAULT n n n Won’t listen Won’t adapt Dishonesty Jealousy Distorted image Narrow definition of success SOCIETY’S FAULT n n n n Poorly treated workers Pressure to be #1 Looks/popularity Looks down on labor Undeserved success No reward for hard work Leaves people behind