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The Original title of the play was Inside his head. In what way does Miller enable the audience to see inside Willy's head?

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Introduction

The Original title of the play was Inside his head. In what way does Miller enable the audience to see inside Willy's head? Arthur Miller chose to write, in the contemporary tragedy Death of A Salesman, about the story of an ordinary man driven by his own interpretation of the American dream. What characterizes this play is the way he does this : Miller breaks the boundaries of classical conventions of playwriting by allowing the audience to enter, visually as well as emotionally, Willy's mind in order to permit a better comprehension of the latter's inevitable tragic fate. Hence, the mingling of past and present in the play, essential in this role, and the way it affects Willy's view of the world and life in general, will be analysed. From the start of Act One, as the setting of the play is announced, an analogy between Willy's interior and his exterior, his environment, is made : "An air of dream clings to the place, a dream rising out of reality". It seems that the house embodies the essence of Willy's character : his dreams and the illusions they bring about. ...read more.

Middle

This emphasizes the role of the appeasing flute, symbolic of a return to reality, which becomes more and more necessary and urgent, and eventually futile, as the plot unfolds. It is important to note that the past is not uniform in the play, it takes different forms, each one being fundamental in understanding Willy's state of mind. Firstly, there are the scenes that are fully immersed within the past, they are the basis of what happens in the present, they provide a rational explanation of what has brought up the situation which Willy confronts. These scenes are progressive : the apparent unity of the family and their neighbours during Biff and Happy's youth, where one sees the type of education that Willy has given to his children ("And they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. The finest people."), one based on appearances and a superiority complex. This family scene is prolonged and underlines the fact that Willy's life has been centred around his children and that the education he has given them is ironically what has drawn them away from him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Willy also suffers from hallucinations : during some episode, spectators are made to understand that Willy has lapsed into a mental vision and therefore cut himself off from his immediate environment. In Howard Wagner's office, as Willy stares at the empty seat and addresses Frank, long dead and gone ("Frank, Frank, don't you remember what you told me that time?"). In his garden, as Willy discusses with Ben's ghost, and one realizes that the ghost is very much a figment of Willy's distorted mind ("The boat. We'll be late.") : he is in fact talking to himself. One also encounters at one point a "mise en abime" of the past : a memory within a memory. It occurs with the symbolic appearance of the stockings, mended by Linda, which Willy then offers to the Woman. Thus, as Willy sees his wife mending her stockings, the laughter of the Woman echoes through his mind ("The Woman's laughter is heard distantly"), therefore contributing to increase Willy's sense of guilt. The stocking is the object which brings together the two women in Willy's life, contrasting the life which he has dedicated to his family with the life he has dedicated to the American dream and its hypocritical leisure. ...read more.

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