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Analyzing theme in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (Essay Sample)


Some critics argue that Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a tragedy of the common man—a point of view to which Miller contributed in the essay he published along with the play, called “Tragedy and the Common Man,” which you are asked to read along with the play. In his essay, Miller challenged the Aristotelian concept of the hero being “highly placed,” calling it “archaic.” Miller argued the “very same mental processes” are to be found in the “lowly,” in particular, “the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in the world.”
Certainly, in Miller’s protagonist, Willie Loman, note the play on words—low man—the audience watches and listens to Willie’s fears of being “nobody” opposite his desire to be “well liked.” As Miller asserts, the audience witnesses Willie experience “the fateful wound from which the inevitable events spiral,” the “wound of indignity, and its dominant force is indignation.” “Tragedy,” Miller argues, is the “consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly.”
Compare Miller’s point of view with that of David Mamet, who argues that Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a “great American domestic tragedy.” Mamet asserts the play is a tragedy because we recognize in the play’s characters “our own dilemmas” and we are “freed, at the end” not because the dramatist has “arrived at a solution,” but because the dramatist “has reconciled us to the notion that there is no solution—that it is the human lot to try and fail, and that no one is immune from self-deception.” Mamet argues that Miller’s play asks us to set aside “the delusion that we are powerful and wise,” and that we leave the play better off.
You are asked in your graded writing assignment for this module to analyze what you see as a major theme in Miller’s Death of a Salesman, especially as you witness the protagonist become overwhelmed by guilt and isolated from his family, a conflict that only escalates as Willie Loman re-experiences more and more painful memories from the past combined with more and more disappointments in his present life.
First, re-read Miller’s Acts I & II of Death of a Salesman. Use the module notes and assigned readings to further guide your analysis of the play’s theme. Clearly, the play grapples with the theme of self-awareness and family values (think “Barn Burning”) and what it means to pursue the “American Dream” among other possible themes. You also should review the two (2) New York Times articles related to Miller’s play and its themes, so ensure you review all of the following for this assignment:
•Death of a Salesman.
Miller, Arthur (1949) Death of a Salesman. ACTS I & II. Retrieved from http://www(dot)pelister(dot)org/literature/ArthurMiller/Miller_Salesman.pdf.
•“Attention Must Be Paid.”
Mamet, David (February 13, 2005). Attention Must Be Paid. [Op-Ed Contributor]. New York Times. NY: NY. Retrieved from http://www(dot)nytimes(dot)com/2005/02/13/opinion/13Mamet.html.
•Tragedy and the Common Man.
Miller, Arthur (February 27, 1949). Tragedy and the Common Man. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www(dot)nytimes(dot)com/books/00/11/12/specials/miller-common.html.
Write an essay of 500 words minimum analyzing what you see as the primary theme of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and assert why you think “attention must be paid.”
You should provide at least two (2) quotes from Act I and two (2) quotes from Act II, for no less than four (4) quotes total from the play to support your argument/s. Of course, there are many essays on this classic play, so if you use another author’s commentary on the drama, such as the New York Times articles you are asked to read in this module, make sure to cite that author’s article and to include the cited website using APA formatting.
Consult the Excelsior librarians as needed and the ADDITIONAL RESOURCES in this module for information on the required APA citation style. Before you begin your essay, make sure to read the Module Notes section noting the section on evidence and literature.
Compose your work using a word processor (or other software as appropriate) and save it frequently to your computer. Be sure to check your work and correct any spelling or grammatical errors before you post it.
When you're ready to submit your work, click Browse My Computer and find your file. Once you've located your file click Open and, if successful, the file name will appear under the Attached files heading.
Scroll to the bottom of the page, click Submit and you're done.
You will be evaluated using the School of Liberal Arts Essay Rubric. Each written assignment is worth 10% of the total course grade.


Analyzing Theme in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
"Death of a Salesman" is a play script that has been considered as Miller's most famous work. The drama's hero; the dreamer salesman Willy Loman is seen to struggle to achieve the American dream which translates to making sense of his place within the society(Miller, 1998). This paper is aimed at analyzing various themes in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman play.
According to Miller, "Death of a Salesman" play addresses the issue of loss of identity and an individual's inability to accept change within him and the society. The play is a mosaic of dreams, memories, arguments and confrontations. The play's three major themes include; contradiction, denial and order versus disorder. In the play, it comes out clearly that every member of Loman family lives in denial or perpetuates a cycle of denial for others. Willy Loman denies the fact that he is just a mediocre salesman. He is seen to strive for his version of the American dream; notoriety and success even though he is forced to refute reality in order to achieve it. Rather than acknowledging that he is not a renowned success, Loman retreats into the past and opt to relive past events and memories which rekindle memories of the time he was perceived as successful (Miller, n. d).
A good example where Loman is seen to rekindle favorable memories is when he recalls Biff's last football game simply bec...
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