“Death audience the truth about his twisted life

“Death of a Salesman”, a play by Arthur Miller written in 1948, is a drama intended to give the audience a look into the thoughts of Willy Loman, a volatile, aging salesman, who, in attempts to become someone, finds himself struggling to stay afloat in a new, competitive world. Miller takes hold of multiple techniques to expose Willy one layer at a time, showing the audience the truth about his twisted life he had led. In doing this, Arthur Miller successfully composes an accepted explanation for the state of Willy’s mind the opening of the play finds him in. The techniques used by Miller are needed to show the audience just why Willy might be driven to suicide, and without them, critics would be left wondering how old Willy Loman could be capable of killing himself. Beginning in the first section of the first scene, the basics for Willy’s character is set in motion for the entire play. Page eight stage directions show Willy as an exhausted, aging man who is struggling under his work, “…lets his burden down,” (Miller, 8). Although it seems as if this character Miller has thrown at the audience may be uninteresting, his writing soon contrasts this thought when Willy shows an optimistic side with the line, “I’ll start out in the morning. Maybe I’ll feel better…,” not reminiscent of a beaten man (Miller, 9). Another trait of Willy Loman that allows the audience to witness his many layers of complexity is his profound thoughts spoken aloud during the play. “I have such thoughts, I have such strange thoughts,” (Miller, 9). A character that developed quite suddenly in the beginning of the play is Willy’s wife, Linda. Again the stage directions on page 8 introduce the audience to her as “Most often jovial, she has developed an iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior.” (Miller, 8). Already, the audience here is quite aware of the strange ways in which Willy acts, as well as the coping mechanisms Linda uses. The techniques Linda uses to allow herself comfort with Willy’s outlandish behavior is the technique of ignorant bliss. “Maybe it was the steering”, “Maybe it’s your glasses.” (Miller, 9). She is constantly attempting to create situations in which her dearest is not crumbling before her eyes; without these conclusions, Linda would not fit into the plot as well as she does, with consistent denial of her Willy’s mental condition, adding to another realistic factor to the play.Another imperative role in the formation of the play and the development of characters is language. Quite uniquely, Death of a Salesman doesn’t often us dramatic speech, but rather, a form of speech common in lower and middle class America at the time. Using this speech, Miller pins the Loman family as a common, lower middle-class family, relatable to the audience. In doing this, Miller throws away the common language used in dramas and adds to the realistic feel of the play. However, in stating this, Miller, by no means, uses the same type of speech for every character. Instead, he assigns multiple personalities and roles to different types of languages, based on the state of mind the character is currently in. In this light, the most obvious examples of the use in this type of speech lies in the characters of Willy and Linda.Willy, throughout his lines uses a very simple type of speech, causing the audience to view him as an “everyday Joe”, and relate to him more. One feature of his language that often draws attention to itself is his constant use of clichés: “That is a one-million-dollar idea!” (Miller, 50) this obviously reflects his job as a salesman and the advertising phrases he has to use when selling. It also gives light to Willy’s naïve lack of cynicism, which is what compelled him to put so much faith into Biff when he was young, and stills makes him fail to see the flaws of Biff and Happy’s new plan. Willy’s apparent inarticulacy is revealed when he reverts to the use of imagery to express his inner emotional turmoil: “the woods are burning” (Miller, 32). Another instance of Willy making use of this image to avoid having to communicate his current crisis verbally, is during his desperate conversation with Howard: “You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away – a man is not a piece of fruit!” Miller again shows signs of Willy’s cliché-style restricted code as well as his inability to put his thoughts into words.Language is an essential feature of Linda’s character, because being the only female in the household, and therefore also the physically weakest, language is her only means of effective communication. She reveals her authoritative personality when she expresses her inner-most feelings towards Willy: “I don’t say he’s a great man… …but he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid.” (Miller, 44) This shows that she understand what her husband is going through, and the despite his evident failures, she still supports and loves him. Linda also reverts from using colloquial English here and starts speaking in a more unnaturally lyrical manner. This is shown by her inversion of sentence structure: “…attention must be paid!” (Miller, 44) Here she also acknowledges the fact that Willy is just an ordinary man, but insists that he should not be persecuted because of it. A final instance of Miller’s use of language to portray characters is concerning Ben Loman. Ben, Willy’s older brother and a symbol for his missed opportunities in life, repeats the same phrase several times: “…when I walked into the jungle, I was seventeen. When I walked out I was twenty-one. And, by God, I was rich!” (Miller, 41) This lack of variation exposes his melodramatic characteristics as well as his superficial approach towards life. This is something the audience is aware of, but goes by blindly for Willy: “…was rich! That’s just the spirit…” (Miller, 41), another example of his naivety.Irony, in particular dramatic irony plays a large part in explaining the way certain characters act on stage. The most perceptible of these is Biff’s superior knowledge about Willy’s affair with “the Woman”.  Biff makes a comment about Willy, which to Linda who is unaware of the affair, seems like an attempt of humiliation, “Stop making excuses for him! He always wiped the floor with you.” (Miller, 43). Yet to audience who already suspect an affair with “the Woman” this comes across as perfectly justifiable statement. An example of situational irony is Willy’s comment about Bernard and Charley, saying that “they are liked, but not well-liked” Yet at Willy’s funeral when no one turn up, ironically he is the one who is not liked. This event leads the audience to believe that Willy is a victim of his own delusions.Although the lighting of the drama does not play a huge role in the minds of the characters, it is combined with other dramatic techniques such as already recognizable characters. By page 86, the flute transition music has changed to “A single trumpet note jars the ear.” This shows the development which has taken place within Willy throughout the play up until that point. He is now on his final descent and the sound of the trumpet denotes his severe disillusionment and his chaotic state of mind. This contrasts to the next transition on page 88 where there is no music whatsoever. This suggests that past and present have become so entangled with each other that Willy can no longer differentiate between the two realities. This nonexistent barrier between past and present evokes confusion in the audience, thereby helping them to associate with Willy’s current turmoil. The final scene of Act 2 ends with Willy’s death. Although the car crash does not physically take place on stage, the music itself communicates the crash. It gradually works its way up to a screaming dissonance as Willy leaves for the car, symbolizing the climax of tension inside his mind. Then as the car drives off, the music “crashes down in a frenzy of sound, which becomes the soft pulsation of a single cello string.” (Miller, 108) This not only represents the audible sound of a car crash, but also symbolizes the final release of Willy’s painfully futile struggle.”Death of a Salesman” is filled with symbols representing various themes or ideas. Probably the most outstanding of all symbols, is the piece of rubber piping that fits around a nipple of the gas pipe of the boiler. Throughout the play, this method of suicide is seen as Willy’s eventual escape from his troubles. Linda daily removal of it is for her, a sign of hope that Willy’s situation will improve. It is then out of utter respect for Willy and not wanting to offend or humiliate him, that she replaces it each time before he arrives home. Biff is the one who finally removes the piping, and confronts Willy with it. By doing this Biff takes the responsibility for Willy into his own hand. He hopes that by doing so, he can prevent Willy from his seemingly inevitable fate. The fact that Willy then goes on to kill himself in the Studebaker stresses the fact that Willy’s death was by that point was predestined, and that nothing Biff could have done, would have prevented it from happening.Willy is often preoccupied with thoughts of his affair with “The Woman”. Because the stockings given to “the Woman” are such luxury items, a sense of guilt is evoked in him each time he sees Linda with them. This happens on page 29 and causes him to relive a few moments with “the Woman”. After his momentary lapse from reality, seeing Linda mending the stockings pinches his guilty conscience. “I won’t have you mending stockings in this house!” (Miller, 31) Ridding the house of old stockings is Willy’s only way of suppressing his prevailing guilt complex about his betrayal of Linda. When Biff was young he printed “University of Virginia” on his sneakers in hope of someday being able to go to school there and becoming something better than his father. This symbol of hope was shattered when he came back from seeing his father betraying his mother, and burnt the sneakers in the furnace. This represents the end of Biff’s faith in himself; from then on he was destined to fail in life.The whole first page of the play is a detailed description of how Miller imagined the play to be staged. This alone gives light to the importance of the set. The set consists of a cross-section of the Lomans’ house, surrounded by “towering, angular shapes” representing the industrial office and apartment blocks encircling them. The fact that the house is a cross-section, allowing the audience to see into the life of a family, symbolizes the audience’s capability of “seeing” inside Willy’s mind. “The way they’ve boxed us in here… …There’s not a breath of fresh air in the neighbourhood!” (Miller, 12) The encirclement of the office and apartment blocks, an image for capitalism, represents Willy’s psychologically claustrophobic feelings of confinement in an unfamiliar expanding capitalist world. The house is set up in a way that two scenes can take place simultaneously, allowing for smooth transitions between scenes. This merges all the action in an act, into a single scene, mirroring the way the mind thinks in a single flow of thoughts. “Whenever the action is in the present, the actors observe the imaginary wall-lines…” (Miller, 7). Miller uses “wall-lines” not only to distinguish between past and present, but also as a symbol for the way Willy imagines the past. By not observing the conventional way of moving around the house, Willy reveals the degree of distortion which time has imposed upon his past. It gives the past a sort of vague surrealistic quality, and also symbolizes Willy unconfined frame of mind in the past. The walls in the present therefore stand for the barriers which he has built between himself and happiness. At the end of Act 2 (Miller, 109), after Willy kills himself in the Studebaker, Charley, Bernard, Biff, Happy and Linda are all gathered in the kitchen, and “all move toward the audience, through the wall-line of the kitchen.” By doing so they indicate that, now, after Willy’s death, the barriers have been broken, and Willy can finally be “free and clear”.One of the most impressive theatrical techniques Miller uses in the play is Willy’s tendency to have simultaneous occurrences of past and present. These are not the same as flashbacks, because they take place actively opposed to a flashback which is merely passive. In the play, Death of Salesman, Willy Loman actually re-lives time periods of his life in a way, more real than reality itself. One of the most interesting aspects of the drama is Miller’s choice to show multiple acts of imaginary scenes that Willy is imagining. In these imaginary scenes, Ben and ‘the Woman’ are the sole additional characters shown; the use of this imagery sheds light on any significance these two roles hold in person, and the weight they hold over his conscience. The technique used to show Willy’s past, mixed up with the present show an effective method used by Miller to allow the audience to see into the mind of Willy. Techniques used by Arthur Miller attempt to create a more realistic drama, confronting the audience with a series of features, leading them to believe the on-stage drama. The representation of characters is presented as realistic as can be, with a basic English used relatable to its location and era of time. The realism used in this sense is relatable to the audience and is vital to the audience recognition of Willy Loman as a realistic character. Along with the lighting, Miller expresses his play in basic English, allowing Loman to take an expressionistic role in the play, forcing the audience to consider the entire character of Willy to be believable in a sense of suicidal tendencies. Miller combines these seemingly contradictory expressions by bringing a sense of realism to the protagonist’s mind, creating a situation in which this is uniquely creative.

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