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“Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller – Review Report (Assessment)

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Updated: Jan 19th, 2022

Arthur Miller is one of the most successful playwrights of the postwar era in the United States. His play Death of a Salesman, first performed in 1949, won the Pulitzer Prize in the same year. It appears that almost every discussion of American drama of the twentieth century includes this play by Miller. It is still performed on the stage worldwide, and people meet it with acclaim, proving that its conflicts are familiar not only to the Americans. The purpose of this paper is to describe the type of sales the main character was occupied with, to analyze social and economic peculiarities of the described period of time and to find out why the main character decided to make a career in sales.

The main character of the play is Willy Loman, a sixty-three-year-old man who works as a travelling salesman. Although the author never tells us what exactly Willy sells, it becomes clear that he is very exhausted and disappointed in his current job which cannot lead him to success. The neighborhood where Lomans live also proves that Willy’s hopes and expectations in life failed. Despite his lack of success in sales, Willy believes that fame and fortune is more likely to be reached by someone who is good-looking, claiming that being smart is not enough (Miller 21). He also tends to cheat in his sales asking his lover, a secretary of his client, to help him. This is one of his main traits, and it explains clearly why he was not successful enough in his job. He lies to his wife about the money he made in sales, though it is obvious that the truth will be out as soon as his wife counts his commission. In fact, his commission is barely enough to cover family’s expenses, and he is jealous of more successful salesmen.

The story takes place after the Great Depression and the Second World War which greatly influenced the American culture and the business climate in the United States. The Depression was the reason for many people being unemployed and barely having enough to eat that caused some of them, failing to follow the American Dream, commit suicide. It was the time when many people in the United States “felt both that the country had failed them, and that they had failed personally through errors of judgment or insufficient hard work” (Hays 42). Still, the years after the Second World War were in general ones of stability and prosperity for the white middle class. When Miller’s play Death of a Salesman was written and first performed, people still remembered sacrifices of the hard times, but it made them buy new things following the notion of American dream which is one of the major attributes of American culture. It benefited business climate and caused the popularity of such jobs as a travelling salesman that could give some prosperity to an individual and it was the reason Willy had chosen it. His decision to become a travelling salesman can be explained by the wish to be a good farther and family provider because his own father, who was also a salesman, abandoned him.

After describing the type of sales the main character was occupied with, analyzing social and economic peculiarities of the described period of time and finding out why the main character decided to make a career in sales, it becomes obvious that the main character represents the mistaken American Dream. He is the victim of his environment with the wrong set of values. Personal attractiveness is more preferable to him than hard work and honesty. It leads him to the tragic death, but even his decision to commit suicide to provide his family with money might be a failure because the insurance company might refuse to pay money to the family of a self-murderer.

Works Cited

Hays, Peter L. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

Miller, Arthur. The Penguin Arthur Miller: Collected Plays. Penguin, 2015.

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IvyPanda. ""Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller - Review." January 19, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/death-of-a-salesman-by-arthur-miller-review/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. ""Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller - Review." January 19, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/death-of-a-salesman-by-arthur-miller-review/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) '"Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller - Review'. 19 January.

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