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How Far Do You View The Play "Death Of a Salesman" as Merely a Touching Portrayal of One Inadequate Human's Failure?

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Introduction

How Far Do You View The Play "Death Of a Salesman" as Merely a Touching Portrayal of One Inadequate Human's Failure? One must certainly regard "Death of a Salesman" as a tragedy, yet it is a play somewhat removed from the genre's traditional elements. The playwright Arthur Miller has succeeded in combining the usually great, king-like tragic hero with an ordinary person. The play is not limited to discussing the failings of one human being however, there are many other issues that are raised in this play and I will discuss them here in this essay. The first thing that must be addressed in this assessment is whether Willy is the only human failure in the play. Willy's sons must also be considered. Biff, for example, is said to be a "man who has not yet found himself" by his mother Linda, using this saying to describe his vast string of failures. At thirty-four years old, Biff remains rather immature, as demonstrated by his inability to hold down a job. When Biff stays at the family house, he and Happy stay in their old bunk beds suggesting a high level of immaturity in both of them. ...read more.

Middle

One could argue that Willy's inability to accept a job from Charley is merely an example of his stubbornness and pride; these can be regarded as character traits, not inadequacies. In fact, in another situation, these personality traits might serve Willy well. Arguably, however, Willy does seem to be quite mad and deluded, with his head firmly in the good times of the past. This arguably loses sympathy for Willy but then again the audience regains their sympathy for him when they learn of the hardship he is put under and of the good times in the past; they feel he is acting rather like a normal person in the same situation. The play is certainly not just about the failure of an inadequate human being(s) there is far greater depth to the story. One could argue that the play is also a critique of the "American dream", the idea that an ordinary person can just achieve success without too much effort; you just have to be "well-liked" as Willy puts it. It is Willy's obsession with achieving this dream that leads to his madness and his downfall. ...read more.

Conclusion

Despite this, Willy does fail in several areas. He fails to generate a good enough income to support a family and the situation becomes dire when he loses his job. He arguably fails as a father in that his sons are unsuccessful and when they were young he almost encourages them to steal for example. He also seems to fail as a husband in that he has an affair and he generally badly treats his wife. Willy's delusion suggests a failure to hold onto his sanity and an inability to adjust with the times. I can conclude therefore that "Death of A Salesman" is certainly a touching portrayal of Willy's failures. I disagree with the idea of the play being "merely" a touching portrayal however; it is far more than that. We certainly feel sympathetic towards Willy's downfall yet we also feel angry at his situation. Miller challenges the ideals of Capitalism and the American dream and this creates almost anger amongst the audience, who feel the rich and "great" have cheated them. Miller's use of a working class "low man" conveys the idea that every human being has dreams and ambitions not just the powerful man. His is a challenge to the Aristotelian tragedies of old in which it seemed to suggest that only the great kings could ever suffer. His challenge certainly succeeds. ...read more.

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