Who am I? Assessing characters in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
In this discussion, you are to complete your reading of Act II in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and view an interview of Miller wherein a particularly poignant scene is re-enacted as Willy is planting seeds in the dark and Ben appears. In this scene, Willy contemplates suicide and a funeral for himself that will be “massive” and prove to his sons that Willy is “somebody.”
Throughout Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the protagonist, Willy Loman, and his sons, Biff and Happy, struggle with being “known.” Willy in particular seems to keep reaching back into the past to “get back to all the great times” when there seemed to be “always some kind of good news coming up.” Throughout the play, Willy keeps repeating how being “well liked” is important to success, yet success seems elusive to Willy and his sons. Think about the values Willy represents to his sons and to us in the play. If an “anti-hero” is a protagonist who is not “high born,” or noble, keeping in mind that Willy is Mr. Loman, i.e., Mr. “Low man,” where is Willy going wrong? What is flawed about Willy’s emphasis on being “well liked” to be “known”? How could Willy’s values be contributing to his troubles?
As the play is coming to a close, Biff has a kind of epiphany, and tries to confront his father with a compelling question: “Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be?”
In the interview you are asked to watch, Arthur Miller mentions that there are “ultimate values somewhere” but we “don’t know how to name them most of the time” in a response to the question about why Miller writes plays. Miller’s Death of a Salesman wrestles with our system of “values” in the United States, and “moral ideals” that we should have. Miller claims he can’t write a character with which he cannot sympathize. Miller claims he can’t write somebody he “can’t like.” Miller further states that he (and we as an audience) must be able to “participate with him [the character] in his own dilemma.” Basically, Miller argues that you must see some element of yourself in the character on the stage in some way or at some point of the play, if not in total.
You are asked in this discussion exercise to describe how you align yourself in some way with a character in Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Basically, you are asked to identify with a character and discuss how and why you can identify with this character, particularly when it comes to the struggle of knowing yourself and what you need and/or sharing yourself with others, like your children or your spouse or your co-workers and helping to instill values.
For this discussion, please:
Read Act II of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Miller, Arthur (1949) Death of a Salesman. ACT II. [Premiered on Broadway in New York, recipient of 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play]. Retrieved from http://www.pelister.org/literature/ArthurMiller/Miller_Salesman.pdf
View the video: Arthur Miller and Language (1987). From Arthur Miller: An Interview. Films Media Group. (1987). Arthur Miller: An interview [H.264] [Item No. 7295]. [Miller reflects on a scene from Death of a Salesman]. Films Media Group [BBC]. NY: NY. Retrieved from http://vlib.excelsior.edu/login?url=http://digital.films.com.vlib.excelsior.edu/PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=8496&xtid=7295&loid=19200
Start by reviewing the primary posts of your peers and the reply posts of your other classmates.
Then, in an initial primary post of at least 200 words, discuss one (1) character in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman with whom you can identify, describing how and why you feel this way. Make sure you include at least two (2) quotes from the character to support and illustrate your assertion(s).