This play Death of a Salesman is based in the early twentieth century and takes place in New York City/Brooklyn with some brief parts in Boston. Throughout the play it seems that the economy is in hardship. Good jobs were few and far between. Arthur Miller’s play is a collection of memories displayed in a montage from the life of salesman Willy Loman. As each memory unfolds it is apparent that Willy Loman has made poor choices and has had difficulty accepting them as well as finding a strong identity for himself. This is reflected onto his wife Linda and sons Biff and Happy.
Willy’s professional life is also greatly affected. Willy has a tough time with change and it comes across when he continually fabricates reality to his family and one friend. Miller portrays order versus chaos along with the perception that these characters lives can be dramatically altered and defined by a single event. Following Willy Loman throughout the play it is revealed that he, in present time, has a diminished mental state as he jumps from present day to flash backs, memories and dreams along with having conversations with his brother who is not really there.
Miller definitely made his characters relatable to people. These typified characters have reflective properties that allow the audience to compare it to their own troubles in life because of the overwhelming feelings felt throughout the play. Miller uses his characters to display strong life changes like emotions, controversy, depression, regret and feelings of failure. All of these characteristics can correlate to every type of audience and it is easy to allow yourself to be flooded with sympathetic and empathetic mind-set for each character and having reflective thoughts throughout the play.
Willy Loman is the play but each character has highly typified qualities. All the characters are connected to Willy and their actions reflect to Willy’s interactions. His life engulfs the entire performance. He is the salesman and driven by desires of wealth, success and respect from his family and peers. Willy yearns for attention and respect but never earns it. Much like his attitude, the play revolves around him. He has one friend and a poor relationship with his wife and two sons. Linda is the sad wife, mother and woman living in anguish and fear, which she chooses never to get away from.
She is a good companion and dedicated wife undeservingly to Willy, and a mediocre mom at best. Linda is aware her husband is depressed and suicidal but allows herself to stay in a constant state of denial to cope. Biff is the oldest son and golden child to Willy. He is the spark that ignites Willy’s excitement for life. The majority of Willy’s flashbacks and memories are of Biff. Young Biff respects and adores his father until this image is horribly crushed and destroyed when Biff finds out about Willy’s affair. Biff goes form idealizing his father to despising him.
All of which dramatically changes Willy and Biffs lives. Happy is a young cookie cut version of his father, but lives in the shadow of his older brother. Happy, like Willy, lives in a constant state of fabricated illusions. He always tends to make something out of nothing and in doing so exaggerates the reality of what his life is really like. Happy is always looking for his fathers approval and sadly no matter how much he lies, never can live up to be equal to Biff in his father’s eyes. Happy becomes self-diluted and a womanizer a true mirrored image of Willy.
Miller bases Death of a Salesman around the question; Can a man/person accept change and failure? The dramatic actions that display this in the play are acts of rage, denial and conflict. Sadly the dramatic action is self-contained in this play when Willy finally goes through with killing himself at one last attempt to make his situation right. Miller does an excellent job reaching the audience to maintain interest by displaying a common man who makes mistakes and continuous poor and failed attempts to fix his problems. Even at Willy’s end his suicide does not effectively right his wrongs.
The entire play Death of a Salesman is an order and chaos flow, but when the play really takes its enticing turn is when Biff discoveries his fathers dark secret of having an affair and then sees his own father give a strange woman stockings that should have been for his mother Linda. After this incident is shown the play takes a dramatic domino affect with the rest of Willy’s memories. You start to really see the downfall of Willy and Biffs’ relationship, hopes, and dreams as well as the disarray of the Loman family.
It then eventually eads up to the climax when Biff finally confronts Willy with the rubber hose and then tells Willy he will not have any pity, and goes onto confront the entire family about living in denial. The only resolution that comes from all of this that Biff finally comes to terms with whom he really is and where he wants to go. Death of a Salesman has a very serious, depressing and empathetic tone. This tone is highly consistent throughout the entire play. It never changes, but audience is continuously reminded of it whenever Willy goes into another flashback.
Throughout the play you feel and see the theme of denial, contradictions and disarray. All three of these correlate together to create a very illusionary atmosphere. Ironically Willy’s old red Chevy truck keeps appearing in his memories and flashbacks because this is the one real thing that gave him some sort of peace, fulfillment and happiness in his chaotic unrealistic life. The ways the Miller deliveries the dialogue, vocabulary and tempo of Death of a Salesman allows the audiences to relate because it allows for a good understanding what it is to live an average ordinary everyday life filled with trials and tribulations.
The vivid descriptions of the surrounding sets up an unelaborated setting, costumes and make up. The light flow of music and sounds along with more of a darker set then a bright one leads a very significant role to help develop the dramatic action in Death of a Salesman. Not only do all these features help the audience paint a more accurate picture, view more then is show on set, but it also helps to build the appropriate perspective that Arthur Miller wants to establish while telling his story building up to the Death of Salesman Willy Loman.