An analysis of the significance and the dramatic impact of the "restaurant scene" (P79-87) in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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Nam T Nguyen        Page         English Coursework

An analysis of the significance and the dramatic impact of the “restaurant scene” (P79-87) in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

        In 1915, Arthur T. Miller was born in the city of New York, where his family business was ruined after the stock market crash of ’29. This had a continuous affect on his life and work. The half-Austrian, half-American playwright wrote Death of a Salesman in 1949, at the age of 34. Along with his other acclaimed plays (including All My Sons and The Crucible): Death of a Salesman includes his common themes of corruption, society’s deterioration, the “Great American Dream” and lost values.

        Set in the Mid-20th century after the Second World War: Death of a Salesman is a tale of values lost to a world where they now carry little weight and of a man, in himself, lost to those values and in so doing isolating himself to the ever-changing world. Renowned as one of the best plays to ever come out of America.

        A particularly dramatic and significant scene in this attack against capitalism is the “restaurant scene”, in which a father-son bond is torn in tragedy, brotherly love is dissipated and life grinds to a halt for an old, tired man.

        The scene in general is a very significant part of the play as it acts as the final “trigger” for Willy Loman to take his own life. We know this as, in the scene that directly follows this, Willy is quoted saying: (To Stanley) “Here's some more, I don't need it anymore…” This shows us that he has (after this event) well and truly given up on this life, by stating that he will no longer be needed to use his money for he will die and in doing so provide his family with some insurance support, making this scene very significant indeed. The final trigger that I mentioned could be a number of events.

Firstly, some critics believe, the fact that Biff has realised the truth: “I was just a shipping clerk”, which Willy has shut out for countless years deep inside, is the fatal factor of Willy’s suicide: that he himself, through Biff, finally sees what his life has lived up to – nothing. We can see evidence of this in the garden scene where he tries to leave something, however small, behind as his “legacy”: “I've got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing's planted. I don't have a thing in the ground.” He has an urgent need to leave something behind and the seeds are a metaphorical representation of this.

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        Some critics feel that this scene is significant as it builds up to the next scene where Willy has a “flashback” of Biff’s discovery of The Woman, revealing to the audience for the first time the event that sparks the turmoil that Biff suffers for the next fifteen years of his life: The knowledge of his father's infidelity shatters this ideal that he has held for so long. This would patch up the “missing link” and explain to the audience how Biff went from the loving son we saw in the earlier “flashbacks” to the almost hateful adult we see ...

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