The play ‘Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller depicts contradiction arisen in the industrial society and personal values shared by a new man. Through the characters of Willy Loman and his sons, Miller criticizes society and its false values, consumerism and mass culture. Stylistic devices and unique vision of economic development help Miller to unveil social changes and new traditions influenced by new culture.
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Staging and settings are important for this play because they help to create unique images and atmosphere of the play. Using staging differences, it is possible skillfully portrays his epoch and unveils low traditions and false morals of mass society. Also, Miller uses diction and syntax to create emotional tension and tragic tone. The hero suffers internally with a show of strength to the world and the effects that this has upon him. Rhetorical questions are another remarkable feature of his writing style: “And what goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent” (Miller 1999, p. 61). The very act of outward strength and happiness is in reality an appeal for help from the world. For instance, if the setting of play is changed to later historical period, it would loose its originality and unique appeal. Also, Miller unmasks consumerism using settings of a big house and sale company. If these settings are changes, the audience would not understand the meaning and importance of sales and consumer culture (Bloom 1988).
Miller makes a unique combination of characters, setting/staging, plot, structure, style and imagery. Miller criticizes society and mass production. He underlines that the America became standardized relying on mass production and consumption patterns. New production methods and automation resulted in the first fully operational economy of scale, producing low cost, high volume standardized commodities (Ardolino, 2004). This impact is evident, because consumer culture and high social position replaces code of social values and does not allow the Lomans to distinguish what is good and what is bad, what is moral or immoral, etc. Happy says: “it’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women” (Miller 1999, p. 56). For the Lomans, new culture represents universal order which has a direct impact on ‘the self’. Mass production was characterized by the rational deployment of a largely semi-skilled workforce operating special purpose designed to handle standardized production. “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates a personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want (Miller 1999, p. 59). All of these features came together in the new practice which replaced the older, relatively inefficient, method of consumption. Conformism is depicted as the substantial changes wrought by the economic reorganization on the conditions in which and from which ordinary people like the Lomans established their daily living routines thus begs the inevitable and far more problematic question of the impact of capitalism upon everyday culture. Miller vividly portrays that the establishment of hegemony over aesthetic practices during the period in question also suggests the existence of a similar cultural consensus over the issues of language, symbolic form and social meaning generally. New culture grew and involved millions of people unsatisfied with their social position. Thus, new culture did not bring happiness and moral vision limited by personal gain and false social values (Bloom 1988).
In sum, this critical approach vividly portrays that different lens (including sport) can be a good source to study social changes and aspiration of people at the definite period of time. Miller uses the concept of self as a part of self-understanding and identification with the American nation and famous American dream.
Ardolino, F. (2004). Like Father, like Sons: Miller’s Negative Use of Sports Imagery in Death of a Salesman. Journal article by Frank; Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 25 (1): 32-35.
Bloom, H. (1988). Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Chelsea House.
Miller, A. (1999). Death of a Salesman: 50th Anniversary Edition, Penguin Books; 50th Annni edition.
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