Death of Sales Man -Marxism Approach

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Why must attention be paid? Since the play's debut, amazingly over 50 years ago now, that has been the central question : must we pay attention to the demise of Willy Loman? Even Willy's name seems to be a gauntlet thrown down in the face of the critics. Where traditional tragedy deals with the high born, the fall of royalty, Arthur Miller quite consciously structures his drama around the fall of a lowly man, a two-bit salesman. But the answer to the question, as is so often the case, is all in how you ask it.

You see, if the question is, can the life and death of a salesman be tragic?, then, of course, the answer is yes it can. Nor does it require that he be a "great" man, but it does require that he be a good man. The problem with trying to imbue this play with the aura of tragedy is not that Willy Loman is a little man, it's that he's not a good man : he's not much of a salesman; he cheats on his wife; he lives vicariously and unfairly through his eldest son, Buck, then makes excuses for that son's pathological misbehavior; he virtually ignores his second son; he's a real bastard to friends, neighbors and extended family; and so on. Perhaps I missed something, but what quality is it in Willy that should make us regret his departure?

Arthur Miller, who is one of the last unrepentant Marxists, obviously sees Willy as a victim of capitalism. Willy has bought into the American Dream and it has destroyed him; after a lifetime of toil in the system, he is being disposed of now that he is no longer productive. The problem with this is that, much like Jay Gatsby (see Orrin's review), Willy has simply failed to understand the promise of that dream. He believes that the recipe for success is to be "impressive" and "well-liked" and for your children to be identical to you in manner and aspiration. Toward that end, he is all back-slapping, forced humor,
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