Death of A Salesman Questions and Answers
Q. 1. Comment on the theme of Reality vs. Illusion in Death of A Salesman.
Ans. Illusion versus reality is a major theme in the play of Arthur Miller because Loman family are all unable to separate reality from illusion to some degree. Willy, the main character, who is mainly suffer from this ailment. Willy’s dreams and self-image, however, are not the only forces working against him in achieving success. Reality represented by society is also another force working against him. Willy’s hope dream to get a job in New York and a good salary is destroyed by reality that Howard fires him. Howard tells him that “there just is no spot here for you”. He expects that he would be rewarded a job in New York and a good salary after his long service with Wagner’s company, thirty-fiveyear service, but when he faces the reality that he is seen to be of no use his hope is shattered.
Willy’s dream of establishing his own business also crashes with reality. Willy is unable to achieve his dream of having his own business as he tells his boys: “Tell you a secret, boys. Don’t breathe it to a soul. Someday I’ll have my own business, and I’ll never have to leave home any more” (1.30). He also tells Linda: “You wait, kid, before it’s all over we’re gonna get a little place out in the country, and I’ll raise some vegetables, a couple of chickens…”
We notice that Willy dreams of establishing his own business one day and of having a house of his own in the countryside where he would be more comfortable. But he is unable to achieve this dream, because business is slowing down as it is indicated by his speech to Linda: “My God, if business don’t pick I don’t know what I’m gonna do!”. up
Willy’s hope for Biff to be successful is also destroyed by the reality of nothing. Willy looks at his son as great, successful boy, when in reality he has not achieved all that he hoped. He has gone west to work on a ranch. Willy also believes that Biff is doing big things out west while Biff is nothing. However, at the end of the play Biff is the only family member who is able to realize what is real and what is not. Biff realizes who is, and that is not a successful business man. He likes and wants to work out west, and he has come to accept that. He does not want to live up to all the dreams of his father, he knows who is. He also realizes who Willy is. He says Willy is “a dime a dozen,” showing that Willy followed the illusion of the American dream and now he realizes this and he knew that he would not to be like Willy. He would live his own life. Willy’s dream of popularity, i.e. being well liked, also crashes with reality. He notices that people do not like him, as mentioned in his talk to his wife Linda: It means
“You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me”. We noticed that when Willy chose the sales profession because he wanted to be loved as he tells Howard: . I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. ‘Cause what could be more satisfying than to be . remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?”
Willy’s discovers that people do not like him and this is not easy for him because it works against his wish. What is more annoying to Willy is what he tells Linda about when he was in one of his business trips: “. . . salesman I know, as I was going in to see the buyer I heard him say something about-walrus. And I-I cracked him right across the face. I won’t take that. I simply will not take that. But they do laugh at me. I know that”. Here, Willy was made fun of by the others. Thus, his dream of popularity collides with reality, too. Finally, Willy expectation of a massive funeral also collides with reality. He expects to have an impressive funeral when he dies. In Act-2,Scene-5, he tells his brother Ben (as he is hallucinating):
the funeral-straightening up: Ben, that funeral will be massive! They’ll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the old timers with the strange license plates-that boy [Biff] will be thunder-stuck, Ben, because he never realized-I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey-I am known, Ben, and he’ll see it with his eyes once and for all. He’ll see what I am, Ben! He’s in for a shock, that
We can notice that Willy dreams of a funeral like that of Dave Singleman which he tells Howard about in Act-2, Scene-1: “when he [Singleman] died hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral”. In Willy’s funeral, however, only five people attend namely, Linda, Biff, Happy, Charley, and Bernard. Linda gets surprised and wonders “Why didn’t anyone come ?…. But where are all the people he knew? Maybe they blame him.” Charley responds to her wonder saying “Naa. It’s a rough world, Linda. They wouldn’t blame him”.
Q. 2. Critically comment on Death of A Salesman as an absurd drama.
Ans. Human beings have been seen as isolated creatures in a strange world with no truth value or meaning. This is an aspect of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus existential philosophy. On the theatre, the existentialists set the people in abnormal surroundings and put the dramatist in new context, this is according Miller, (1915-2005) was one of the most famed writers of the absurd, has a to Sartre’s works. For Camus, the absurd is the true state of existence. Arthur experience in form of drama and other literary fields. Miller is consider as an developed social mind comes as a result of his experience. He expresses this author who is influenced by the context of the modern times. In his drama Death modern concepts. The hero is presented to be lasting element, he suffers and the of Salesman, he has rejected some of the old traditions and changed them with audience learn from his suffering. Miller explores in his writing the existential of isolation and alienation..
Willy Lowman, in Death of A Salesman, is a man who is alienated and lives in isolation and the isolation is what drove him to his suicide. He is the perfect example of a man alienated by a society that is controlled by money and power. Further, “he had the wrong dream. All, all wrong…He never knew who he was” (Act II). Willy Loman is a man trying to realize the American Dream. However, his failure to achieve it lies in his inability to waver from his belief in its promises (Dennehy). The phrase ‘Absurd Drama’ coined Martin Esslin’s book ‘The Theatre of Absurd’. The term is useful as “A device to make certain fundamental traits which seem to be present in the works of a number of dramatists accessible to discussion by tracing the features they have in common.” By ‘Absurd’, Camus meant a life lived solely in a universe which no longer made sense because there was no God to resolve the contradictions. According to this philosophy that Beckett created his famous play ‘Waiting for Godot’. Miller mentions in this drama the belief in God who punishes man for his mistakes. The characters at absurd drama are distinguished by their vagueness and presented as puppets to convey the theme. The absurd drama theme touch the deep level of the audience’s minds. It guide the audience to get the sense of nonof the events and to get fun with absurdity (Hussain).
Eradam describes the Theatre of the Absurd as representing the sense of senselessness of the human life and inaccuracy of the mind image for the concrete image as emerging poetic language from these images. The Theatre of the Absurd is a reaction to the lack of faith from contemporary life and an attempt to emphasize on the beauty and purity by guiding man to face the ultimate realities in his life. The Absurd Theatre leads the man to new life by waking him up to avoid the existence that has become silly, mechanical and imperious. Absurd drama aims to change the surrounded world further from the limits of human abilities. It leads man far from static life to new innovative form of life. According to Zhu, the absurd drama is a reflection of suffering, cruelty and danger in real life. This reflection forms an atmosphere of the devaluation of life in modern society and losing an identity in it. Human being in modern society feel lonely, frightened and despairing. Therefore, emptiness becomes the true essence of their daily lives and their minds full with Isolation and absurdity. The modern society produce the Theater of the Absurd to reflect the people ignorance of the real meaning and destination of their lives. They feel lonely and helpless because their suffering of little care or concern. Theater of the Absurd is unique in its ability to express the original and true features of this society..
Existentialism is the philosophy that comes up in Paris during the rise of the association represented with calling the Theatre of the Absurd as Existentialist Theatre of the Absurd. Therefore, they are associated with each other. This theatre by Esslin. The Existentialist philosopher, Albert Camus, advocates the work which labels absurdism as Existentialist. The absurd drama is defined as: concept of “absurdism”. Absurdism is called Existentialist in the Franz Kafka’s “Lyrical theatre which uses abstract scenic effects, many of which have been taken over and modified from the popular theatre arts: mime, ballet, acrobatics, conjuring, music-hall clowning”.
Stone also narrates that Willy Loman is the protagonist of Arthur Miller’s the main unforgettable character who’s lost his Death of a Salesman play. He popularity and sales. A tragedy, depicts the downfall of the protagonist in which a tragic hero is a person of some status who falls from his or her noble position over the course of the events. However, the tragedy of Willy Loman is not represented in his falling from any noble status because he is only an ordinary salesman, Willy Lomanis, an American modern man who fulfill the drama of America. Arthur Miller chooses the salesman as a character for “the death of salesman” play to cover some aspects of the American society. The salesman in this society works for brighter future. Willy Loman considers the successful life as a matter of other opinion in him. His being well liked by people, his believing that he is in the right place in the life and personal attractiveness makes him successful. However, this illusions destroyed by the pressure of reality. The success in life comes from the person himself rather than seeking it through others opinion, the identity crises is the tragedy of Willy Loman. It is a social play, which focus on the consequence of man’s evaluate himself, and an exploration of betrayal those the supremacy of the material over the spirit.
values. It is a faith in Flashback is the core of the play, most the events are not related to the current setting. Willy go back with his memories to the times that his two sons were younger. He remember them when Biff and Happy were at high school. However, they are in their thirties at the time of the play. Miller uses different literary devices to provide hints and clues about what will occur in the future. Miller puts Willy Loman on the stage and once carry him back to his memories and other time open his mind to the future. Willy’s wife Linda tells Biff and Happy about Willy’s many automobile accidents. These accidents give hints for Willy Loman suicide because a witness says that Willy intentionally drove towards the bridge. We can say that the dominant, main theme is that Willy’s distorted idea of the American dream brings about his demise. Success can be realistic with American dream and determination. Loman believes that success is the result of being social human, so he transfers this idea to his sons Charley and Bernard and there wear able to achieve success through determination. Willy Loman was the hero that he did not come to understand himself or make the correct decisions in the end. He was willful about his deep beliefs; against of the truth which was in front of his face, and his competition sense of arrogance and jealousy prevented him from leading his life correctly. He did not at all achieve I what he wanted to, he attempted to live through his sons, but he was disappointed again that it was his. In the end, Willy reached in a grief or depression, so committed suicide. Arthur Miller is considered one of the greatest play writers in America after WWII, in this play, he focuses on the falling of a great man with high value. The works of Miller have independence of event, they stand in contrast of itself to the public matters. He recognizes his audience as a person, his play ought American tradition, but he as a playwright knows that the theater must dedicate to make sense to the common-sense people. The dominate theme in general drama of the twentieth century is a tragic apprehension about the human condition. The American drama tries to light and record the kind of crises in our times. As a result of living in a capitalist society that emphasizes material values, Miller had written a short story about a failed salesman when he was young, he transformed the story into one of the most successful dramas in the history of the America. He conveys one of the major themes in this drama, Loman denies his present and takes pleasure in his past. He believes that it is difficult to accept the present as he is and so he spent more time to restore his life system and make himself an alternative reality even if he had to live in the past only. Miller focuses on the relationship between society and the individual’s concept of self, Willy Loman has a flawed sense of self. He is obsessed not only with financial success but also, more specifically, with appearances and impressions and with an important mind and “loved” by others. Willy passes these surface values on to his sons, Biff and Happy. In a play, Biff becomes more aware of his real needs and feelings and frees himself from this upsetting concept of himself that his father caused. Miller aims to describe the real life of people in society and ordinary American family, with the effect of economic and politics changes. Willy Loman falls down, but also his family. In this idea, Miller writes about the modern tragedy rather than the classical one. He changes according to the new culture needs after 1930s, When American dream changed to be a nightmare, the chance to live in peace turn to be of despair. He conveys to us how capitalism moves people to false dreams and vaults that leads to the tragic death and reveals that America, which demands freedom and consolation, passed through dark ages of persecution and abuse. In reading Death of the Salesman, it’s important to get the message of how life should be lived, it depends on the idea of realism. Nobody can imagine and live, we should accept shocking and good, and face the worst circumstances to avoid reaching to the pessimistic end.
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