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The function of flashbacks in Death of a Salesman.

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English Hayley Porter 12NH Throughout Death of a Salesman flashbacks are used continuously, typically to present the audience with the Loman family's background and show deterioration. In act one we see the first flashback at the beginning of the play. As the play starts to go into flashback the backdrop changes from the present 'Apartment houses' and the 'surroundings become covered in leaves.' The first sign of the Loman's happy past. Willy is talking sense and telling Biff to watch his schooling, giving him good advice, and then he shows his wealth, polishing the car talking about the hammock that Willy is going to buy, to the punch bag that Willy bought his sons. This all seems too good to be true and as the flashbacks are taking place throughout the play we begin to see a tragic hero uncovered, Willy. The flashbacks show his highs from the past but the reality now is his present, and his falls. As the flashback begins to uncover, We see that the past is arriving on stage before the present has left. ...read more.


We see the betrayal of Willy toward Linda when the Woman mentions the stockings, 'Thanks for the stockings, I love a lot of stockings.' We see Ben arrive in the next flashback; Charley and Willy are playing a game of cards. This flashback is interrupting and causes confusion to the onset characters present. Willy at this point is becoming seemly mad to Charley, as Willy is mixing up Charley and Ben. As Ben enters a flashback the stage directions note that his 'music' is being played. As he becomes more apparent so does the music, 'First distantly, then closer, closer.' Ben is alone with Willy and this shows the pressure that Willy is under. At the end of this flashback we see Willy walking through to the present. Willy is arguing with nobody only the past and this is used as a device for the characters present Bernard and Jenny to show what effect Willy is having on people, 'Your father gets all upset everytime he comes', Willy has inhabited another existence, talking to himself. In act two there is the most significant flashback of the play, this explains why Willy and Biff fell out. ...read more.


They show that a successful dream is in the air that being Bernard. The costumes, make-up moods and hair are also different in the past as the play presents a younger character for example, 'Biff, in his high-school sweater.' The Loman family are happier in the past and so we hear, 'The gay music of the boys.' The backdrop changes frequently. We see this primarily in the first flashback page 15 when the skyscrapers change to trees and leaves. This shows the environment, which the Loman family used to live in. The function of flashback in Death of a Salesman has proven to be successful. It helps to show the contrast between the past and the present, an insight into Willie's behaviour, and also explains the decline that Willy is experiencing in throughout his life. The variety of moods, location and atmosphere throughout the play and its flashbacks make it easier for the audience to comprehend and get an in sight into the characters personality. This play makes it easy for the audience to relate to the characters and their lives. What the Loman's are going through is a part of reality of which many people have to deal with everyday and so by incorporating flashbacks into the script makes the theme more accessible to understand. ...read more.

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