Professor Usha Wahwani
1, April 2013
A Detailed Look at Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman has been accepted worldwide as one of the greatest American dramas to premier in theatre. The story behind the play is based on Miller’s interactions with his Uncle, a salesman whose efforts to obtain the “American Dream” and pass his success on to his two sons becomes his main focus. Miller’s life during the preparation of Death of a Salesman provides the spark and inspiration needed to pen a literary classic. Almost five decades later, Death of a Salesman’s themes is still relevant in today’s society.
Arthur Asher Miller was born October 17, 1915 in Harlem, New ...view middle of the document...
Miller would leave his alma mater but keep strong ties with the University of Michigan, establishing several awards in theatre and dramatic writing named after the talented author. Miller’s career as a writer spans over 70 years. Many consider Miller to be one of the best dramatists of the twentieth century.
In 1949 Arthur Miller would begin working on Death of a Salesman. This unique play from Miller is a mash-up of memories that make up the last twenty four hours of Willy Loman’s life. The play focuses on a man unable to accept changes in himself, his family, and the world around him. Miller uses emotions audiences can relate with, which promotes self reflection with his audience. People can really relate to the sense of failure and overwhelming guilt that led to Mr. Loman’s demise. Miller uses this character to shatter the myth that material wealth can truly bring happiness. Death of a Salesman probes the “American Dream” and whether the “dream” (economic prosperity) is truly available to anyone who works diligently. The “dream” also places an emphasis on “material wealth” that overshadows everything else that may provide happiness in a person’s life. Death of a Salesman opened on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre. The play would go on to receive the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. After premiering on Broadway in February 1949, Death of a Salesman would run for seven hundred forty two performances. The play would also be revived four times and receive the Tony Award for Best Revival three times.
Miller used ideals in the play that closely reflected issues plaguing society during the 1940’s. The Great Depression and World War II really shaped the ideology of the 1940’s. President Roosevelt would introduce new policies in the 1930’s to help soften the blow but that did not completely eliminate poverty nor did it solve the issues with the economy. Nearly forty percent of all American families lived impoverished lives. Because of the war the Armed Forces recruited nearly ten million men, all sons and fathers. Families were suddenly forced to maintain with the absolute minimum. Even the country shut down production of consumer goods to meet the needs of the war. The changes brought about an increase in industrial production. The labor force significantly increased. Almost a third of the country had a disposable income for the first time, a drastic change from nearly half of Americans suffering from poverty a year before. After the war the goal simply became developing an economy capable of providing an adequate livelihood to all its citizens, the...