Death of a Salesman
Attention Must Be Paid to Death of a Salesperson When Arthur Miller composed “Death of a Salesman” numerous considered it a modern work of art. It has actually stimulated debate amongst academics and stirred the feelings of hundreds of countless audiences and readers alike. Nevertheless, there is a growing pattern among lots of who approach this play to condemn Willy Loman out of hand. Whole new generations of readers feel absolutely nothing for the predicament of Willy Loman; they believe his actions warrant his damage. Why is this? Has there been an essential however subtle shift in social mindsets not simply towards literature but towards life in general?
If so, does this impact the credibility of Miller’s vision as provided in “Death of a Salesperson”? This play must be viewed as something more than an invigorating academic obstacle, a pawn in the minor games of academia. It is so much more than that. Attention, attention must be paid to such an individual and such a play. Late twentieth century society has actually made the shift from agrarian and rural neighborhoods to huge city industrialization. These changes can and have been monitored; they are tangible. Small household operated organisations and farms have been gobbled up by international conglomerates.
The days of the company as a sort of surrogate moms and dad to his or her faithful staff members are over. Our world no longer has time for Willy Loman. We dispose of these people as ineffective, burdensome, and unneeded, all in the name of development. Willy Lomans are expendable products to be consumed and cast aside. This modification in societal mindsets, though maybe not as concrete, is really real. A social theory as well as a literary one is needed, therefore, to fix up Miller’s have fun with the modern-day world. Marxist literary criticism is one such theory.
It relates literature to the society which produced it and the society that consumes it. Taking a look at the ideological basis and historic context which surround the play result in a much better understanding not only of the text however of the changes in our society also. We need to begin underneath the surface area of the play, in abstraction, to search for the ideologies that control the action of the play. To the Marxist, ideology is more than a teaching or set of doctrines; it is an amorphous body of free-floating images that pervades and controls all aspects of life. Terry Eagleton presumes regarding state, “… hat literature is nothing however ideology in a specific artistic form-that works of literature are simply expressions of the ideologies of their time” (Eagleton 17). Ideology could be considered the skeleton upon which the musculature of kind, plot, and character are hung. It is the main purpose of the Marxist critic to expose and talk about any and all ideologies present in a work. In result, a Marxist literary critique tries to weaken or fracture the bones of the play. In “Death of a Salesman,” 2 significant ideologies come into direct dispute: the cult of the character and the profit motive.
The play moves from the homespun myth of the strong individualist who has actually pulled himself up by the bootstraps and into fame and fortune (i. e. Willy’s dad and Ben, his sibling) to the harsh realities of industrial capitalist society. The ideologies are not equally exclusive. They both fuel the insatiable greed at the heart of the American dream. They equate joy with financial success. Willy believes he can attain this goal with a smile and handshake. He places image prior to substance. “Be liked and you will never desire” (Death 1360).
This idea combined with a belief that the most basic and most humble can rise to the greatest heights form the core of Willy’s motivation. It is also the source of his biggest struggle. Willy becomes Miller’s ideological champion of the common man. Though he stops working, Willy challenges the fixed idea of a class system. “The advanced questioning of a stable environment is what terrifies. In no chance is the common man debarred from such thoughts or actions” (Miller 5). Miller’s champ, nevertheless, is blind to the risks inherent in his own ideology.
Willy’s manager, Howard is Willy’s ideological challenger. He embodies the growing amoral view of service: survival of the fittest, earnings at any price. “‘Cause you got ta admit company is business” (Death 1388). This ideology is an extension of mechanization. Effectiveness is the goal. As Brian Parker states, “The machine is both the cause and the illustration of Willy’s breakdown” (99 ). This performance ideology changes society into an entity that produces soulless machine-like individuals. Subjective humanity is extracted from individuals by the business world.
Miller himself states, “We have finally concerned serve the maker” (60 ). Willy lives and passes away blind. And he is not alone. Miller appears to suggest that society, under the impact of this newer crueler ideology, promotes such blindness. “His [Willy’s] damage posits an incorrect or wicked in society” (Miller 5). “Definitely the evil depend on those who perpetuate the environment, passively or actively” (Mottram 33). The displeasure this ideology expresses towards Willy exhibits the class struggle. In this manner Willy becomes a type of Marxist Everyman.
He embodies the plight of the proletariat and validates the Marxist view of history as a battle to become free from injustice. “Willy is a male to whom things occur and who reacts with bewilderment and a desperate clinging to his old faith” (Hagopian 35). Willy’s faith is in the commoner. His fate reaches tragic percentages. “The incorrect is the condition which reduces guy, perverts the draining of his love and creative instinct” (Miller 5). It appears Willy would have been happier as a carpenter or stonemason, but ideological pressure from his society blinds him and offers him false dreams.
His station in society, his desire to pass away the death of a salesperson prevent him from genuinely understanding himself, his wife or his kids. “The play’s method therefore requires the audience to end up being Willy Lomans for the entire duration of the play, to sympathize with his circumstance in a manner they might not do in reality”(Parker 101). The future Miller presents does not bode well for the state of the commoner. Delighted’s attitude towards life is an unfortunate foreshadowing of his fate. “He [Willy] had the excellent dream. Its the only dream to have- to come out top man” (Death 1425).
Unwittingly, Delighted will continue the cycle of dominance by trying to emulate and vindicate his father. Willy’s brother Ben makes use of others, rather than send to the fate of the common man. Ben is an old world imperialist. Driven by greed, he exploits the earth as well as others. “When I was seventeen I strolled into the jungle, and when I was twenty one I walked out. And by God I was abundant” (Death 1369). Ben’s credo seems to be: you can not save anybody but yourself. When he returns to go to Willy, he needs to be informed that his mother passed away years earlier.
Ben’s strength originates from his monetary state; he gains the power to exploit by becoming rich. He provides Willy a possibility to share in his strength, however Willy declines. Willy chooses the stability of his incorrect dreams. He wants to make his million in the city. The city, however, does not have the very same exploitative power taken by Ben from the world at big. There is no leader spirit, no jungle to tame in the city. In both locations hard work can bring success, but the success and influence of city occupants like Charley appear little when compared to the power Ben carries with him any place he goes.
Linda is really prominent in Willy’s decision to remain. She is a source of security, strength, and assistance for Willy. The outcomes of her help, nevertheless, contribute to Willy’s destruction. She pins all her hope on his false dreams. Rather than deal with the possibilities of failure, she convinces herself his dreams will come to life. She blinds herself to Willy’s weakness and tempts him to dream. (Bliquez, p. 78) “To acquiesce in all of Willy’s weak point is to be a failure as a partner and a mom, and to share in the obligation of her husband’s fall” (Bliquez 78).
Instead of reinforcing Willy, Linda boosts Willy’s dreams. Without concern, Linda likes Willy. But her love and her pride blind her. It is possible to read Linda as a Marxist figure within the play because she understands the importance, the worth, of Willy (the proletariat), even though she has an influential role in his suicide. However a more subtle review of Linda Loman is also possible. She was as soon as seen as a pinnacle of strength, the archetypal caring and loyal better half (reminiscent of Penelope in the Odyssey). Linda, however, is an essential consider Willy’s destruction.
While performing her role as the passive and caring spouse, she reaffirms the misogynist concept of females’s ancient responsibility for the fall of guys (Eve, Helen of Troy). Like Willy, society is partially responsible for her loss of sight. Society promotes such loss of sight and even shows it as a trait to be admired. Linda’s fault is preceded, nevertheless, by society’s. Maybe the patriarchy present in society tries to use Linda as a scapegoat for its own failures. Since Linda is the only female character of compound in the play, much obligation can be heaped on her (and women in basic) for the terrible predicament of males.
It is possible that Linda, the one time heroine and seeming tower of strength, might really be admired for her capability to exempt guys from duty for their own actions (Bliquez 78). Biff’s self discovery late in the play demonstrates a various way to struggle against this bleak world view. A trigger of self-awareness can be seen in Biff, the wanderer returned home. By the conclusion of the play this stimulate has actually blossomed into self-realization. Biff starts to designate higher meaning to his life, indicating beyond monetary standards.
He gets a sense of self worth, while likewise understanding his constraints in the workaday world all too well, unlike his daddy. “Pop! I’m a cent a lots and so are you” (Death 1421). There is hope that through this procedure of self-realization, Biff can prevent conference Willy’s fate. “Death of a Salesman” is historical because the types of characters and language they use are items of a particular day and age. Its ideological significance, however, can transcend its place in history. From a Marxist perspective, the play is a broad based attack of commercial society as a whole. As John Hagopian states, “… he play does specifically isolate the capitalistic type of society as its target” (42 ). The true disaster of this play is not so much embodied in the lifeline of Willy Loman as it is in the insidious world which promotes whole generations of lost souls like Willy. The contemporary world should accept a minimum of partial obligation for those like Willy who lead pitiful lives and suffer ridiculous deaths. This would usually be the conclusion of a Marxist reading of “Death of a Salesman”: that it is an effective indictment of industrial capitalism as an entire with Willy Loman (low guy) representing the awful fate that awaits us all. So long as modern guy develops himself as valuable just because he suits some niche in the machine-tending pattern, he will never know anything more than an useless doom.” (Miller, p. 60) It is simple, however, to fall under the trap of assigning easy ideological influence to literature. The play ought to not be streamlined or vulgarized in such a way. To do so is to forget the poignant realism of the play in favor of a specific ideological program. “… ‘vulgar Marxist’ criticism, which tends to see literary works simply as reflections of dominant ideologies” (Eagleton 17).
Certainly, most Marxist critics are repulsive Marxists. Eagleton suggests that a subtle more scathing critique can be attained through Marxism. This second review undermines the first apparent attack, and ultimately casts doubt on the credibility of Marxist criticism itself. Repulsive heavy-handed Marxists make Miller’s play one sided, one dimensional. 3 easy observations refute these claims and offer the play included measurement. Howard, Willy’s godson and company, is not a monster. He has an infatuation with gadgetry and a proud love of his kids not unlike Willy.
If this were truly a repulsive Marxist commentary, Howard would be more an oppressive tyrant than a self consumed daddy. Willy must also accept some of the obligation for his downfall. His blindness is partly self caused. His character is not completely dominated by the oppressive capitalist environment. Not all people suffer the fate of Willy Loman. Charley and Bernard strive, and they not just endure, they flourish in Willy’s world. Capitalism is therefore applauded and penalized within the play (Parker 103-4).
The most devastating blow dealt to a vulgar Marxist interpretation is the discovery of a paradox essential to the supposed message of the play. Arthur Miller is caught in the middle. On one hand, Miller seems to pick up the banner of Marxism and march with the proletariat. For this reason he was called to affirm in front of your home Committee on Un-American Activities. “Among the concerns asked me by the chairman of that committee was, ‘Why do you write so unfortunately about this nation?’ It is really a Stalinist concern, if you will, and there are countless Americans that share the chairman’s feelings” (Miller, p. 23). Miller’s complicity with financial metaphors and intentions, nevertheless, stand in direct opposition to his Marxist tendencies. Economic requirements are used as ethical and visual ones. Cash is the only viable service presented to issues in the play. More cash makes an act more appropriate. Charley provides Willy money. Ben tries to lure Willy to Alaska with the guarantee of cash. Biff tries to redeem himself by making more cash. Linda equates cash with flexibility. “I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there’ll be nobody house.
We’re free and clear. We’re complimentary” (Death 1426). Ultimately money is equated with self worth. Willy ends his life due to the fact that he deserves more dead than alive. Self worth is not something one can get from a neighbor or give to a child. The only rational option that occurs to the characters is a financial one. Only Biff look for greater worths, worths beyond the dollar sign. These higher worths are financially constructed impressions. A standard tenet of Marxism is that “life is not determined by awareness, but awareness by life.” (Eagleton 4).
Equated by Miller in his play: economics are not figured out by morality, morality is identified by economics. Even the language chosen by Miller is economic in nature. Why, for instance, does Biff select the phrase, “Pop! I’m a dime a lots and so are you” (Death 1421)? By acknowledging his vulnerability to manage his own identity in the face of economic forces, Biff’s (and thus Miller’s) ability to critique the system is marred. Historic necessity demands new ideas from art, yet Arthur Miller does not present a single opposing ideology in his play (Eagleton 17).
Instead he legitimates the really ideology that he tries to review. According to his own meaning “Death of a Salesperson” is not a catastrophe due to the fact that of Miller’s complicity with economic dominance. “No catastrophe can ever happen when its author fears to question absolutely everything, when he relates to any organization, routine, or custom-made as being either long lasting, immutable, or inevitable” (Miller 6). Marxist literary criticism is at its greatest, therefore, when it tries to describe art and its relationship to ideology (Eagleton 18).
To Leon Trotsky, art was not a simple extension of ideology. “The belief that we require poets, willy-nilly, to blog about absolutely nothing however factory chimneys or a revolt against capitalism is absurd” (Eagleton 43). A Marxist critique can bring brand-new and exciting insights, however it is limited by the truth that it too is ideologically bound. Marxist critics suggest or mention the latent Marxist propensities of Miller because of the play’s obvious attack on capitalism. Marxism has an ideological program of its own; it looks for to replace Miller’s financial doxa with a doxa of its own.
Even with these constraints, the concerns Marxist criticism raises about Miller’s world and our own are believed provoking and even extensive. To be of value, its questions must be put into ideological perspective. Though not in the most apparent way, Marxist criticism does offer ample reason of the merit of “Death of a Salesperson”. Through an admission of our own ideological frailty not so unlike Arthur Miller’s or Willy Loman’s, we can see the nature of their tragedies, and also the nature of the catastrophe that might await us all.
Whether or not Willy has the stature of Oedipus, the possibility of finding out exists. Because such texts provide us with the opportunity to learn from them, attention should be paid. Selected Bibliography Bliquez, Guerin. “Linda’s Function in ‘Death of a Salesman'”. “Modern Drama, X”. (February 1968), p. 383-86. Rpt. in The Merrill Studies in Death of a Salesperson. Walter J. Meserve, ed. Columbus: Charles E. Merrill Publishing, 1972. Eagleton, Terry. Marxism and Literary Criticism. Excellent Britain: University of California Press, 1976. Hagopian, John V.