Arthur Miller, winner of many literary and dramatic awards, is an incredibly influential force in American drama. His plays deal with issues common to every society. He makes the audience face fault, weakness, and ignorance; subjects we would typical
Alice Griffin believes that Miller’s plays are important internationally (xii). He belongs to an international theater rather than a regional theater (Heilman 170). His plays are staged and studied by students to understand American life in Russia, P
and, Iceland, Brazil, Italy, France, Germany, Czech Republic, and China to name a few (Griffin xi). Miller’s works thrived in England. The University of East Angelia named it’s center the Arthur Miller Centre (Griffin 1). They can relate to the sense
f identity, honor, recognition, and familial love (Griffin Preface). In a production in Beijing, Miller explained to a Chinese actor playing Biff the son’s feelings of guilt and “painfully requited” love for his father, the actor understood as it is v
y Chinese (Morath 79). The phenomenon of Death of a Salesman has been the same all over the world. Audiences all have a sense of their life story of their father, uncle, or brother (Griffin 35). In real life Miller had an Uncle Manny who had two sons
ho were in competition with Miller and his brother. Manny ended his own life because he failed at business. Miller’s personal history is demonstrated in his sensitive and passionate writing in Death of a Salesman (Griffin 41).
The Crucible (1952) was originally intended to be called Those Familiar Spirits, referring to a spirit that a witch presumably sends out to torment her victims. However, the well area at the bottom of a blast furnace is known as the crucible, it is whe
the molten steels collects being entirely broken down due to immense heat. Miller thought that this was a precise metaphor for what happened in Salem. Crucible also means a harsh trial or examination. John Proctor’s integrity was surely investigated.
He chose to die instead of confessing to being evil. According to Raymond Williams, The Crucible is a powerfully successful dramatization of the notorious witch trials of Salem. It is technically less interesting than its previous ones because it is b
ed on a historical event which is explicit enough to solve, the difficult dramatic problems which Miller had originally set himself. Miller brilliantly expresses a particular crisis “the modern witch hunt” in his own society, but it is not often, in ou
own world, that the issues and statements so clearly emerge in a naturally dramatic form (13). Miller used the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century, to make an indirect, but assertive comment upon McCarthyism in American life (Richard Watt, Jr. 536).
In 1953, when the play was produced, the United States was in social and political turmoil. Joseph McCarthy a Senator from Wisconsin and the play in comparison were both significantly politically infamous. The Senator was responsible for the investiga
ons to find communists in the State Department, Hollywood, and the U.S. Army. These investigations created fear and suspicion within our society. McCarthy was eventually found guilty of misusing his authority (Watts vii). Before being found guilty S
ator McCarthy accused the Democratic administration of sheltering and helping Communists in the American government. It was a fearful time similar to that in Salem. The United States government called McCarthy’s activities witch-hunts. In The Crucibl
Miller mentions that McCarthy accuses individuals of being Communist if they opposed him. Any government official who criticized his hearings was soon found to be defending himself against the charge of being involved in a Communist conspiracy. Miller
mpared McCarthy to the Salem judges in a broad sense (Cliffnotes 52). In 1953 The Crucible was attacked as a comparison to the current Senate “witch hunts.” Critics said it was not a good play at that time, however, later it was found to be superior.
he House Un-American Activities Committee summoned Miller to a hearing. Miller refused to name others as communist sympathizers. He also said that he would only take responsibility for himself and not others. Miller was fined and given a thirty day s
pended jail sentence because he spoke out like John Proctor in The Crucible (Griffin 7). During the McCarthyism period witnesses refused to answer questions and when they did they were scorned (Bentley 302). Thousands of people who refused to answer q
stions and confess were executed during the seventeenth century. Authorities believed that “believing in witches was extensive in America and Europe” (Cliffnotes 44 – 45). Eric Bentley provides us with information that “Arthur Miller had tried to apot
osize this heroic refusal to speak in dramatic literature (The Crucible). In real life, unhappily, such refusal was rendered suspect and ambiguous by its whole background in the life and hates of the Communist Party” (302).
Cushing Scott states that, “Miller has argued for (the) historical truth (of the play), pointed to its contemporary parallels, and defined its transhistorical subject as a social process that includes, but also transcends, the Salem witchcraft trials a
the anticommunist investigations of the 1950’s” (128). However, Miller was interested in the witch trials before he opposed McCarthyism however. He decided to write the play telling about the fear and hysteria McCarthyism caused. His play makes clea
the facts from the past that sinners and guilty people were mistaken for witches in Salem (Bu*censored* 128 -129). Elsom writes that Arthur Miller wrote about witch-hunting in Salem but it was really an indirect commentary on Joe McCarthy and the congression
sub-committees investigating un-American activities. (140) Joe McCarthy probably thought of Arthur Miller as a
“dangerous communist subversive,” but in Europe he was regarded to be agreeably “left wing” (Elsom 139). After a few years McCarthy had died and the committees were dissolved. The Crucible was included in schools as a modern classic. “A political jou
alist might have summed up Arthur Miller’s achievement like this: he had helped to rally the moderates against the forces of extreme right-wing reaction” (Elsom 140).
Guilt… was directly responsible for the ’social compliance’ which resulted in McCarthy’s reign of terror in the 1950’s:
‘Social compliance’… is the result of the sense of guilt which
not as Rightist as people were suppose to be (Bu*censored* 133).
The Crucible made a statement for the subject of the free man’s fight against emotional terrorism to put him down. Arthur Miller was completely involved with the social and moral problems of American society and inevitably made an impact on the world.
he danger from Russian subversion was a more obvious danger than the witch hunts of innocent people in 17th century Massachusetts (Watts viii). The comparison in 1953 was harmful to Arthur Miller and his drama. The similarities of the two eras dealing
ith freedom of judgment against barbaric control remains an issue today. Witch-hunting and the evil Salem trials in The Crucible was a work of social dramatic art making a statement of evil intolerance for global history (Watts viii). Miller wrote The
rucible to prevent history frm repeating itself.
Miller does not use an ordinary plot in The Crucible. “… tension inheres in episodic conflicts rather than in an over-all advancing action. The sense of an evolving general situation, so well achieved by tight structure in The Crucible… is larg
y gone” (Heilman 151). Heilman states that Miller,
rather than uncomprehendingly suffer, he portrayed an
he made advances toward complexity of motive, and he
began to discover inner division (160).
In Salem, Massachusetts, a black slave woman and twelve teenage girls were caught dancing around a bubbling cauldron in the woods, despite the fact that dancing was not allowed by the Puritans. The Puritan government ruled the church in 1692 and relig
Fearing being hanged the girls blamed each other. Everyone in the town panicked and began accusing everyone else of witchcraft. The Puritans believed that the Devil was continually enticing man. If a person sinned they had to confess it, regret it, a
perform some act of penance. To avoid being hanged many people in The Crucible confessed to sins they did not commit. Fearing that she would be damned forever Rebecca Nurse refused to confess. Adultery was one of the worst sins someone could commit.
The Puritans also thought that anything pleasant was the work of the Devil, therefore, they were a serious and fearful group. It was an atrocious sin for children to even dance, so to avoid punishment they would pretend to be under the spell of the Dev
. The Puritans believed that a person became a witch by entering into an agreement with the Devil. They further believed that the Devil or one of his witches could take over the body of an innocent person (Cliffnotes 44 – 47). It is a complex story b
Miller makes it easier because he starts each new act telling us of the dreadful possibilities and ending each act with the possibilities happening. Miller uses a repetitive style of questions and answers forming the rhythm of the play. The story is t
d in John Proctor’s perspective (Barron’s Booknotes 7 – 8).
The director of the l958 off-Broadway revival for The Crucible drew
the consequences of the revised text and introduced ‘a
narrator,’ called The Reader, to set the scenes and give
the historical background of the play. The introduction
of a ‘narrator’ element in The Crucible is closely related
to Miller’s attempts to have a separate voice present the
author’s view of the ‘generalized significance’ of the ‘action’
in the later play (Overland 57).
The Crucible has a “series of non-dramatic interpolated passages in the first act, where the playwright takes on the roles of historian, novelist and literary critic, often all at once, speaking himself ex cathedra rather than through his character ex
ena” are concerned with motivation. “Psychological, religious and socioeconomic explanations of the trials are given… Miller has also been seen to depart from the second of his basic principles of playwriting in introducing narrative and expository p
sages into The Crucible” (Overland 57 – 60). Overland writes that Miller tends to confuse the characters with the real people with the same names from the seventeenth century, such as Parris, Putnam, Rebecca, and Francis Nurse (60).
“Conflict between a man’s raw deeds and his conception of himself,” poses as the struggle for John Proctor to attain high standards. To understand the character Proctor it is important to realize his sense of guilt, which is made clear to us by Elizab
h’s remarks and his behavior. Individual tragedy to John Proctor is the back bone of the play. The first Puritans struggled to survive. John Proctor and John Hale went against the order of the Puritan society in The Crucible. Reverend Hale declares
at the Devil can delude God so he can certainly fool humans. (Cliffnotes 43). During the witch trials there would be no half way point it was either black or white. If guilty you were to be hanged. You had to remain obedient. Rebecca Nurse symbolize
a wise woman who knew her place, the place of the church and the dangers of witchcraft. The danger could be brought forth at any time within the play. The confrontations within the play were brought together in precise detail but the powerful were bro
ht to a lower level throughout the play. You could not be fearful or you would be among the guilty. Ezekiel Cheever arrested Elizabeth Proctor, even though he was on her side, because he had no other choice. Abigail Williams was described by Rebecca
“the very brick and mortar of the church.” All hell broke loose due to the evil of Abigail Williams, seeking revenge on the Proctors when John stopped the affair. Miller writes as though he belittles his characters and condemns them as he sees fit to
unt down all dwellers of the Salem society. The irony was that the purist of the citizens hunted down the innocent people and plagued them with crimes, when they themselves were now a part of the crime of the hunt. Hale was the first to come to the re
ity to oppose the view of the court proceedings and terminate his position in the court. It was better to hang innocent people than to admit to a wrong doing. Old Goodby Osborne was found guilty of witchcraft because she could not remember the commandm
ts (Cliffnotes 43). Hale later in the play realizes that this is wrong and tries to convince Proctor to flee for his life which leads to the most dramatic scene of confrontation. John Proctor is caught in the tangled web he has woven between his wife,
riends, and himself and the entire Salem community. Proctor did not want to be a part of the trials and was forced to make important decisions. He was also accused of being a witch. His destiny relies on his choices. He becomes a rebel against the c
rch and now he must sign a confession. John Hale tries to convince Proctor’s wife to get him to sign. Elizabeth replies with “I think that be the Devils argument.” Which means John Proctor knows inside himself what he will do and no one else will cha
e his mind. John Proctor mulled this over and over and he finally came to a decision. A once weak man now had the authority to make a commitment to mankind. He has chosen to die an honest man. “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from hi
” Charity and justice are major features of human relationships, both public and private. “These issues, therefore, not only frame the play, but specifically define the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor, and they largely determine the co
se of their tragedy” (Bu*censored* 135).
We recognize our own victory over evil from our Puritan past because of the struggles for justice in characters like John Proctor. The Crucible practically has all of the qualifications of a successful tragedy as Miller imagines them to be. “Yet it c
not be said to reach ‘those heights where the breath fails’ because it lacks something far more important to drama: that sense of vividly and fully imagined character that made of Willy Loman a kind of modern Everyman” states Clinton W. Trowbridge (44).
It is apparent that Danforth and Hathorne are a threat to freedom. Proctor is not a threat to freedom because he does not have the power or authority. The Puritans became dangerous and powerful in the new world. Also powerful is the richest man in Sa
m, Thomas Putnam. He gets land by having his daughter accuse others of witchcraft.
Indeed, the apparent difference between Proctor and the
Puritans serves only to stress how corrupting power can
become in the hands of a certain kind of person, the Puritan
American who is obsessed by his own guilt and driven by
the desire to determine sanctity in himself and in others, and
to make it conform to the visible human being (Bu*censored* 131).
It is ironic that Proctor is a victim of what he opposes. As well as John Proctor adding to his own disaster, the Reverend John Hale finds that in trying to solve a horror he creates a horror. “He could be a tragic hero, but his role is minor: throug
him, then, the play has a ‘tragic accent’ ” (Heilman 324 – 325).
Arthur Miller was not satisfied with the original version of The Crucible so he added additional data. Overland reports that Miller added a scene to explain Abigail’s behavior even though it was not needed (57). Miller does not accomplish artistic d
th in The Crucible “because of his inability to project seventeenth century sensibilities and thus to sympathize with them.” The play, according to many critics, “is not seriously historical and, therefore, not seriously literary or political. This pl
seems to fail to reach the social, historical, and moral depth of a great work of art, because it cannot imaginatively conjure the world that it pretends to describe” (Levin 127). The Crucible, some critics say, is a controversial and a modern virtuous
lay. Miller has created a community disturbance too far-reaching to result from an evil plot of a simple villain according to Heilman (144 – 145).
“The Crucible is an argument in favor of moral flexibility. The fundamental flaws in the nature of the Puritan elders and by extension of the McCarthyites, as Miller sees it, is precisely their extreme tendency toward moral absolutism” (Bu*censored* 129).
wants to abolish these factors. Critics say that there is a balanced cast of sinners and non-sinners who deserve our sympathy. Despite the continuing serious crimes by judges Danforth and Hathorne, there is a moral education in the characters Hale an
Parris. Goody Nurse and Giles Corey symbolize “unabated moral sanity and good will” (Bu*censored* 130). John Proctor is a basic hero who opposes evil. He was, however, indiscreet with Abigail Williams, this of course is only a fabrication by Miller. Mill
’s plays constantly
husband and wife, and their protectiveness towards their
children. Marriage can be destroyed… soured by nagging
sexual guilt (as the The Crucible),… it nevertheless remains
an emotional stronghold, the instinctive centre of people’s
lives, without which society itself falls in anarchy and
self-destruction (Elsom 140 – 141).
Proctor does in some ways represent an enemy to the community because he does not like the representative of the church. He doesn’t go to church regularly and did not take his sons to be baptized. Moral judgments are made by the good people and Salem’
leaders. “The courts condemn the “witches,” to be sure, and this act is the most flagrant example of over-zealous righteousness in the play” (Bu*censored* 130). The town is unmerciful in its destruction of witchcraft.
This, in dramatic terms, is expressionism, and correspondingly
process, needing complicated grouping and plotting to make it
emerge; it is rather, the consciousness of a whole life. Thus the
expressionist method, in the final form of the play, is not a casual
experiment, but rooted in the experience. It is the drama of a
single mind, and moreover, it would be false to a more integrated
- or less disintegrating – personality (Williams 11 – 12).
Through the years expressionism has become sensitive to the experience of weakening. It can be categorized in two ways, personal and social. “The continuity from social expressionism remains clear, however, for I think in the end it is not Willy Loma
as a man, but the image of the Salesman, that predominates,” maintains Williams. The social theme in the alienation of Willy is his transition from selling goods to selling himself. He becomes the merchandise which will at some time become economicall
useless. The convincing sense of Death of a Salesman is one of false awareness, “…the conditioned attitudes in which Loman trains his sons – being broken into by real consciousness, in actual life and relationships. The expressionist method embodies
his false consciousness much more powerfully than naturalism could do” (Williams 12). Slang is used perfectly in the play because it is a result of their lifestyle.
In 1950 Death of a Salesman was attacked in America as part of a communist movement threatening the American way of life and capitalism. Stage productions and movie shows were closed because Senator Joseph McCarthy accused individuals in this field o
Death of a Salesman is one of the lasting plays of our time. It’s strength lies in the ability to evoke sympathy and pity rather than fear and incite anger and controversy (Trowbridge 43). Probably the most significant comment about Death of a Salesm
is not its literary achievement but the impact it has had on readers and viewers in America and overseas. Its influence continues to grow in world theatre (Jackson 36). Death of a Salesman has been described by Professor Francis Fergusson as “poetry
n the theatre” (Jackson 35).
It is a myth which projects before the spectator an image
of the protagonist’s consciousness. The playwright attempts
to reveal a tragic progression within the consciousness of the
protagonist. He employs, as the instrumentation of vision, a
light, color, and pattern; rhythm and movement (Jackson 35).
The most important asset that playwright Arthur Miller holds is his knowledge of the theater. He knows that plays must deal with matters of interest to the public. It is almost impossible to not be impressed with a play by Miller because they are writ
n realistically. “A play,” according to Miller, “ought to make sense to common-sense people… the only challenge worth the effort is the widest one and the tallest one, which is the people themselves” (17). In Tom F. Driver’s writings he states that,
We must remember that the only success both popular and critical Miller has had in this country is Death of a Salesman” (20). He does have weaknesses in his writings. Miller has too narrow a view of man in society. He has not investigated human natu
fully, restricting him to a specific social theory. Miller’s idea of the real world in which humans must deal is limited and how he sees life is not extensive. He does not possess the curiosity that would help him to solve problems.
One might say that he sees the issues too soon, sees them in
their preliminary form of social or even moral debate, but
not in terms of dramatic events that disturb the audience’s
idea of basic truth, which is the foundation for it’s moral attitudes.
Miller is a playwright who wants morality without bothering to
Man must be made to create his values and live up to them
According to Harold Bloom, Miller is not an articulate writer but he is not a bad writer either. Miller articulates, in language that can be appreciated by popular audiences, certain new dimensions of the human dilemma (Jackson 36). Both Death of a Sa
sman and The Crucible if properly staged are very effective dramas. Death of a Salesman is the best of the two, ranking as one of the half-dozen crucial American plays. There are still many other questions about the staging of the play that can not be
bsolutely answered correctly. Each person will have different ideas as to why Miller used the music the way he did, about the way he uses language, about the comic lines and how they should be read, about the order of the scenes, and about the change f
m the present to a scene from the past because of the use of a certain word and phrase (Schneider xx). “Yet its literary status seems to me somewhat questionable, which returns me to the issue of what there is in drama that can survive indifferent or ev
poor writing” (1). “Thus with all our efforts, and good intentions, we have not yet achieved a theater; and we have not, I believe, because we do not see life in historic and dramatic terms” (Kernan 2). “Our greatest novelists and poets continue not
see life in historic and dramatic terms, precisely because our literary tradition remains incurably Emersonian, and Emerson shrewdly dismissed both history and drama as European rather than American” (Bloom 2). Whether the play is a narrative or a lyr
al one the American style usually leans towards romance and musing, or something bizarre, rather than drama. “Miller, a social dramatist, keenly aware of history, fills an authentic American need, certainly for his own time” (Bloom 3). Bloom question
if it has the aesthetic dignity of tragedy, but no other American play is worthier of the term, so far (5). The author has captured a kind of suffering that is universal, probably because his hidden model for this American tragedy is an ancient Jewish
e. Willy Loman is not Jewish, but there is something about him that is and according to Bloom, “the play does belong to that undefined entity we can call Jewish literature. The only meaning of Willy Loman is the pain he suffers, and the pain his fate
uses us to suffer. His tragedy makes sense only in the Freudian world of repression, which happens also to be the world of normative Jewish memory” (5). In the Jewish environment everything has already happened and nothing can be new again because the
is a meaning in everything and everything hurts. That order known to Jewish memory is the secret strength of Death of a Salesman and the reason for its ability to endure shrewd criticism. Miller wonderfully states that Willy’s decision to die happens
hen “he is given his existence…his fatherhood, for which he has always striven and which until now he could not achieve.” Willy is really a good man who only wanted to earn and have the love of his wife and sons. Willy is dying throughout the play n
because he wants to be successful but by the common desire to be loved even though he feels he does
Deciding if Death of a Salesman is or is not a tragedy is determined by the reader or viewer interpreting it. “Is Willy, for instance, a born loser, or is he a game little fighter who, having been sold a bill of goods about the American Dream, keeps s
gging it out against unequal odds” (Weales xvi)? It is often believed that tragedy only happens to people of higher status. In Barrett H. Clarks writings he states that Miller believes that the common man experiences tragedy as well as kings. Miller
els that this should “be obvious in the light of modern psychiatry, which bases its analysis upon classific formulations, such as the Oedipus and Orestes complexes, for instance, which were enacted by royal beings, but which apply to everyone in similar
motional situations”(Popkin 537). Tragedy is the result of man’s total duress to judge himself justly according to Miller (Popkin 537).
John Gassner calls Willy a “loud-mouthed dolt and emotional babe-in-the-woods… and if so, does his love for Biff somehow let him transcend that characterization” (xvi)? Willy has been called a “low-man” by Schneider, a “common man” by Eleanor Clark,
“victim” by Wiegand, a “poor, flashy, self-deceiving little man” by Ivor Brown, a ’schizophrenic’ by Hynes, and a ’social-martyrdom image’ by Raymond Williams. “Clurman is interested in him as a salesman, but Fuller, who has understandable interest in
alesmen, prefers him as Everyman.” Weales also writes that “Bierman, Hart, and Johnson find a basis conflict between the salesman and the man in him” (xvii). Willy has a complex personality and all of these things at once. It is because of all the fa
s and lies, the realities and fantasies that Willy has the potential to actually kill himself. He does not realize whether he is condemning or defending himself when he speaks (Weales xvii).
Many readers feel that the play is about Biff and that it is a play about a son’s troubles with his father. “Willy’s recognition of Biff’s love does not alter his basic self-delusion about success, the audiences attention, sympathy, concern turn to Bi
, who… finds his ‘true self,’ finds understanding, pushing Willy out of the spotlight” (Clurman and Gassner xvii). Schneider states that
For me, the Requiem of the play is ironic, the gathering
of people who never understand Willy at all, and how
much more effective it would be if Biff’s ‘I know who I
am, kid,’ were taken as still another sample of Loman
self-delusion, the true legacy (the insurance being the false) of Willy (xviii).
Dillingham believes that Linda adds to Willy’s plight, but according to T.C. Worsley Linda is the perfect wife. Willy’s wife interacts with all the people in his life. She cares for their children Happy and Biff. She washes and mends the clothing and
rries about paying bills. She loves and admires Willy (Griffin 49). Most of the critics believe that Linda is the character that the audience should admire. Robert Garland feels that she is “the one character in the play who could see clearly what wa
going to happen. There is no doubt about what that means in the context of the play. It is not necessary to decide, that Linda is the central character in ‘Salesman,’ but it is important to decide just what her function is in the play” (xix). Accordi
to Schneider the lesser characters should not be ignored. Of importance is Happy’s feeling of guilt because he hates his older brother, Biff. It is questionable whether Charley, Bernard, Howard, or Ben are acceptable character or stereotypes. “If the
lay belongs, as Gassner says it does, in the tradition of American realism, then those characters may stand out as unreal, stock. If, however, Miller’s borrowing of expressionistic techniques allows him to use a type character when he needs one to make
point, they may be functioning legitimately within a particular scene” (Schneider xix).
Willy is a victim of ignorance. Willy “the protagonist is still only a man to whom things happen, who is not capable of even a belated understanding, and who is seen in a vocational and technological rather than a broadly human context” (Heilman 143).
nd according to Heilman, Miller “wrote pathetic drama, the history of an undivided character experiencing pitiable obsolescence” (160). Miller tracks suffering to the ancient cause, ignorance and he follows Loman’s progress from ignorance, suffering, t
enlightenment. “As in Classic tragedy, the price of this ‘Odyssey’ is death, but, through his personal sacrifice, the protagonist redeems his house, and promises to his posterity yet another chance.” Loman’s suicide, as in traditional tragedy, is a con
adiction to his victory over the circumstances (Jackson 35).
Arthur Miller structured Death of a Salesman to show Willy Loman’s pleasures, dreams, and hopes of the past. Thus the central conflict of the play is Willy’s inability to differentiate between reality and illusion. In the opening of the play numerous
otifs are presented. The first being the melody of a flute which suggests a distant, faraway fantasy: Willy’s dream world. This is playing in the background as Willy enters carrying his burdensome traveling suitcases. He has been a traveling salesma
for the Wagner Company for thirty-four years. Willy left that morning for a trip and has already returned. He tells his wife Linda that he opened the windshield of the car to let the warm air in and was quietly driving along when he found himself drea
ng. Later when Linda suggests taking a ride in the country on Sunday with the windshield open, he realizes that the windshields don’t open on new cars and he was remembering the 1928 Chevy, alluding to his life being an illusion. Linda would like Will
to work in New York so he would not have to travel, but he refuses as he is, “vital to New England.” This is another illusory motif; the reality is in fact that Willy is a hindrance to the company. He tells Linda he is, “vital to New England,” to cove
up his inability to get a position in New York. Willy asks Linda about his boys, Biff and Happy, who are home for the first time in years. He can not understand why Biff, thirty-four years old, can not find a job and keep it. After all, Biff possesse
so much, “personal attractiveness,” yet another motif. To Willy a person must not be liked, but well-liked. When a person is well-liked the entire world opens up for him, as it did for David Singleman, a salesman who was so loved and respected that he
ent to a town, picked up a phone, and placed order after order. When David Singleman died at the age of eighty-four buyers and sellers everywhere attended his funeral, but that was a time when selling depended on the salesman’s personality and not the
oduct. Willy sees all the, “personal attractiveness,” in Biff and expects him to have a successful career. Willy complains he feels all cramped and, “boxed-in.” The bricks and windows in the city make him feel too closed in and nothing grows anymore.
e remembers a good time in his life when the boys were young and flowers were growing in the backyard, but now the outside forces are smothering him and he makes useless attempts to plant things in the backyard.
The focus switches from Billy to the two boys talking up in their bedroom. Biff tells Happy what he has done in the last fourteen years and the reason he does not keep a job is because when spring rolls around he feels he has to move on to another pla
. Happy talks about having an apartment, a car, and plenty of girls – all the things he has ever wanted – but he is still lonely. This is because he has never bothered to find out what he really wants. Biff says men built like them are meant to work
tside in the open air and they should meet a steady girl to marry. Biff wonders if a man, Bill Oliver, would remember him. He had stolen a carton of basketballs once, but Happy assures Biff that he was well-liked by Oliver, a philosophy they learned f
m their father. Downstairs, the boys can hear their father talking to himself and the focus is brought back down to Willy who is reminiscing a time in 1928 when he came home from a trip and the two boys were polishing the car.
Willy’s flashbacks are always in 1928. This is his last happy year before his break with Biff. Willy tells young Biff to be careful with the girls and then shows the two boys a punching bag he has brought home to help Biff improve his timing. The bo
are all excited and Willy notices Biff has a new football. Football is used to symbolize immaturity in Biff and Willy (Heilman 123). He asks Biff where he got it and Biff tells Willy he borrowed it from the locker room to practice. Happy says Biff w
l get in trouble, but Willy thinks the coach will “congratulate you on your initiative.” The values Willy is teaching his son about, “personal attractiveness,” leads to more thefts and ultimately to jail. While all attention is being focused on Biff,
ppy announces, “I’m losing weight, you notice, Pop.” Willy, not paying attention, says, “Try jumping rope.” According to Schneider the lesser characters should not be ignored. Of importance is Happy’s feeling of guilt because he resents his older bro
er, Biff (xix). Later Happy lays on his back and pedals his feet while saying he’s lost weight, but still no one notices the overshadowed son. Willy tells the boys that he will have his own business someday and he will not have to leave anymore. He t
ls them it will be better than Uncle Charley’s because Uncle Charley is, “liked, but he’s not well-liked.” Willy also promises to take the boys on a trip through the New England states so they can see how well-liked he is. In reality Willy knows he is
ot well-liked so he never does take his boys. Bernard enters and tells Biff they must study because his math teacher has threatened to flunk him. Since Biff has three athletic scholarships, Willy finds studying unnecessary. He would much rather see h
son practicing or socializing so he can be well-liked. He encourages Biff to cheat off of Bernard on the final exam. Willy tells his sons that good marks in school do not mean too much, but instead, “the man who creates a personal appearance is the m
who gets ahead… Be liked and you will never want.” Biff explains to Willy that Bernard is liked, but not well-liked. It has become evident that Biff is accepting all the values Willy is instilling in him and not making any of his own. This leads t
his downfall. Willy tells his boys that later in life good marks mean nothing, “Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead.” Linda comes on stage carrying a basket of
ash and Willy tells the boys to help their mother. Willy tells Linda he was great and sold 1,200 gross in Boston and Providence. Linda figures out how much they owe and Willy knows he only sold 200 gross and his commission does not cover what they owe
So he told Linda the truth. Annoyed with the need for a new fan belt for the refrigerator he says, “The refrigerator consumes belts like a goddam maniac. They time those things. They time them so when you finally pay for them, they’re used up.” He
uld like to own something before it breaks. When the boys were polishing the car, Willy calls it, “the greatest car ever built.” After he finds out he needs to buy a new carburetor for the car he has a quick change in temper, “that goddam Chevrolet, t
y ought to prohibit the manufacture of the car.” Willy can not face the reality that he is not a good salesman and can not understand why, “people don’t seem to take to me,” and why, “people laugh at me.” He guesses he talks too much, but Linda is alw
s there to reinforce his illusion by telling him how wonderful he is. She also fails to recognize his limitations and covers them up so he can keep building his illusion. Linda takes out some silk stockings and begins mending them. Willy thinks Charl
is a man of few words, yet people respect him. Willy worries about his appearance, but Linda assures him that he is handsome. While Linda is talking a woman appears in Willy’s mind. She is laughing while dressing. It is clear that Willy gets loneso
on the road because he is not as popular as he says. As the woman leaves she thanks Willy for the stockings. Willy feels guilty and upon returning to the happier illusion he notices Linda mending her stockings and tells her to stop. Bernard enters a
asks for Biff so they can study because it is a state test and he can not give Biff the answers. Willy is aggravated by Biff’s lack of studying and threatens to whip him. Then Bernard and Linda begin to criticize Biff as well and Willy abruptly turns
n defense of Biff. Willy tells Biff that he does not want him to be a worm like Bernard because Biff has spirit and personality.
Happy comes downstairs and Willy is saying he wishes he went to Alaska with his brother Ben. He says Ben at age seventeen, “walked-into the jungle and when I was twenty-one I walked out…and by God I was rich.” Happy tells Willy he is going to retir
him for life and although that is what Willy wants, he can not ask his boys for help because then he will have to realize that they are incapable of helping him. Willy tells his boys the, “…woods are burning. I can’t even drive a car.” When Willy s
s the woods are burning he means that life is closing in on him. Ben is Willy’s ideal because he had nothing and ended up rich. The jungle is woods for Willy. Ben conquered the jungle of life (in its figurative meaning) and Willy is trapped in burnin
woods. Thus time is running out on Willy. Every time we see Ben he has his watch out and says he only has few more minutes to catch the train. This emphasizes the concept of time hurrying past man. Ben utilized time while time simply passed Willy by
At this time Charley enters and sends Happy back upstairs. They begin to play cards and Charley offers Willy a job, but Willy refuses. Ben appears in an illusion and Willy is talking to Charley and Ben at the same time. Ben is Willy’s ideal success
ich Willy would like to obtain. Charley has practical success, which is not what Willy believes in, so when Ben appears in illusion Willy is anxious to get rid of Charley, this way Willy can indulge himself in his favorite daydream. Charley stands for
verything opposite of Willy’s view of life. Charley is not well-built, he has no personal attractiveness, he is not adventurous, and he is not well-liked. But Charley is successful. These are the reasons Willy can not accept a job from him. It would
ean Willy acknowledging that all his ideas in life were wrong. Charley tells Willy to forget about Biff, but Willy can not because he would have nothing left to remember. Biff’s success is Willy’s purpose to live and later it is his purpose to die. W
hout the memories of Biff and the hopes for a better future, Willy’s entire existence is meaningless. Willy insults Charley on his card playing and Charley goes home. Willy is now alone with Ben and asks Ben about their parents. Ben tells Willy that
eir father used to make and sell flutes giving more meaning to the flute being played in the background. Although this implies a similarity of a salesman quality between Willy and his father, we see that Willy pedals wares already made whereas his fat
r made his own flutes and sold them himself by piling the whole family in a wagon and driving across the entire midwest. Happy and Biff appear and Willy tells them that Ben is a genius, “success incarnate.” He wants to show Ben that his boys are magni
cent. Ben suddenly trips Biff and tells Biff to never fight fair with a stranger, “You’ll never get out of the jungle that way.” Willy sends his boys to the construction site to steal some lumber in an effort to show Ben their fearlessness and ruggedne
. The stealing of the lumber relates to Willy’s teaching of bad values and Biff’s stealing himself out of every job he will ever have. Charley’s reaction to the stealing is that the boys will get caught and be put in jail just like the other fearless
aracters. Ben says the stock exchange has fearless characters. As well as Biff’s approval, Willy would like Ben’s recognition. Willy expects Ben to praise him for having great sons but Ben merely says they are, “Manly chaps.”
Linda comes downstairs to check on Willy, Willy complains about being too crowded and boxed in, and decides to go for a walk even though he is wearing his slippers. Biff comes down and asks his mother what is wrong with Willy. She tells him that when
e is away Willy functions much better, but when Biff writes that he is coming home all of Willy’s dreams begin to close in on him and he becomes agitated. Linda tells Biff not to come home just to see her because he can not be disrespectful to Willy.
ttention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.” Linda tells Biff that after thirty-four years the company has put Willy back on straight commissions. Biff thinks the company is ungrateful, but Linda tells him the company is no worse than h
two sons. She tells her sons that Willy goes to Charley every week to borrow $50.00 and tells Linda that it is his salary. Biff refuses to take all the blame and accuses Willy of being a fake. Biff calls him a fake because of the scene in the hotel
Boston, but does not tell Linda. Linda tells Biff that Willy is trying to commit suicide. Last month he had a car wreck, and the insurance company thought it may have been intentional. After the car accident, she found a rubber hose attached to the
s pipe. This is the first introduction of suicide in the play. Arthur Miller is trying to prepare the audience to accept Willy’s suicide as a result of cause and effect. Linda tells Biff, “I swear to God! Biff, his life is in your hands!” Biff says
ey all should have worked out in the open, “mixing cement on some open plain, or… be a carpenter.” Willy has just entered and represses these physical urges saying that even, “your Grandfather was better than a carpenter.” Thus Willy’s dreams make h
aim higher than his heart would like. Biff and Willy argue and Willy tells Biff not to curse in the house. Then Biff, referring to the hotel scene in Boston, asks, “When did you get so clean?” Happy tells Willy that Biff is going to see Bill Oliver.
Willy gets excited over the idea and tells Biff to wear a dark suit, to talk as little as possible, and not to tell any jokes. Willy was being realistic, teaching Biff not to be like Willy Loman, but to conduct himself as Charley would. Biff says he wi
ask for $10,000.00 and Willy tells him to ask for $15,000.00 because if you start out big you end up big. Contrary to before Willy gets caught up in his illusions and tells him to begin with some jokes because “personality” always wins the day. Not o
y is Willy getting caught up in his dreams but even Biff is beginning to believe that Oliver will lend him this large sum. When Linda puts in a few words Willy yells at her to stop interrupting. It gets to the point where Biff can’t take it anymore and
emands that Willy not “yell at her.” Subconsciously Willy takes out his own sense of guilt by yelling at his wife. Biff is upset by this, yells at Willy, and Willy leaves. Linda follows Willy up to the bedroom and Linda reminds Willy that the plumbi
needs to be fixed. Now Willy feels everything is falling to pieces. The two boys come in to say good-night. Willy falls back into his dreams and could only think of Biff’s greatness. He gives Biff more advice about what to do in the interview with
iver and Biff begins to feel the greatness in himself. While Willy is reminiscing about Biff’s greatness, Happy, feeling overshadowed by Biff, tries to get his parents’ attention by saying, “I’m gonna get married.” This serves the same purpose as “I’m
osing weight,” in the earlier scenes. Biff goes down to the kitchen and removes the rubber tubing, ending Act I on the thought of suicide.
Act II opens up with a touch of hope and joy. Willy wakes up after a good night’s sleep and finds that Biff has already left to see Oliver. Willy feels good and would like to buy some seeds to see if they will grow in the backyard because he has a st
ng need to create something material to leave behind, something Ben says, one can see and touch. Willy is determined to tell Howard he needs a New York job. On his way out Linda reminds him of the bills they owe. Willy resents the refrigerator repair
ill because he bought an off-brand while Charley bought a well-advertised brand that has never needed any repairs. Willy also has one last payment on the mortgage and the house finally belongs to them. Linda tells Willy he is to meet Biff and Happy fo
dinner. Once again Willy asks Linda to stop mending her stockings.
Willy is at Howard’s office and is not only denied a job in New York but was fired from the firm. Willy pleads saying he would only need a few dollars a week, reminding Howard of how many years he has been with the company, and the promises made to hi
by Howard’s father. “You can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away – a man is not a piece of fruit.” He also told him the story about David Singleman. Willy tells Howard he averaged $170.00 a week back in 1928, but Howard states that he never aver
ed so much. Howard suggests that Willy gets help from his sons, but Willy can’t go to them because the fact that they are fine boys is a part of Willy’s lies and illusions. Right after being fired and hitting an all time low, Ben appears offering Will
a job in Alaska, but Linda reminds Willy of the partnership promised by old man Wagner. Willy has to miss out on this opportunity to go to Alaska with Ben because he is trapped in his lies about his position in the Wagner firm. Willy tells Ben he is b
lding something, personality and connections. Ben’s idea of building something is so you can “lay your hand on it.” Since Willy has nothing tangible he tries to grow things in the backyard. Ben leaves and everyone is in a rush to go to Ebbets Field f
Biff’s football game. As everyone is getting in the car Charley appears pretending not to know that they are going to see Biff’s game. Willy become very agitated and his display of fury shows his immaturity.
While thinking about the past Willy has been walking to Charley’s office and is at the height of his anger upon arriving at Charley’s to borrow money. Willy talks to Bernard and is impressed that Bernard will be playing tennis with his own tennis rack
s on some private courts. Willy seeks Bernard’s advice about where Biff, the popular athlete, went wrong, but once Bernard said the two boys fought for no reason after Biff came home from Boston, Willy becomes defensive and yells angrily at him. Charl
enters and sends Bernard off to the train so he can argue a case before the Supreme Court. Willy asks Charley for $110.00 so he can pay his insurance. Charley offers Willy a job but Willy insists that he has one. In a small argument Charley asks, “W
n the hell are you going to grow up,” a question he asked in the previous flashback. When Charley asks Willy how much he needs, Willy admits that he has been fired, but still refuses to work for Charley. If Willy worked for Charley it would be an adm
sion that his life has been a failure. Charley gives Willy the money and Willy says that a man ends up worth more dead than alive. Before leaving Willy realizes that Charley, whom he previously felt was an enemy, is actually the only friend he has.
Happy and Biff are at the restaurant. Happy is flirting with a girl and when she leaves to find a friend to join them, Biff explains how he had to wait all day to see Oliver who did not remember him. Biff discovers, “What a ridiculous lie my whole li
has been.” He has always stolen as a result of feeling neglected. The fright of seeing himself for what he really is, caused Biff to steal Oliver’s fountain pen. Happy opposes telling the truth to Willy, but when Willy joins them in the restaurant B
f tries to make Willy understand reality. Biff’s attempt to communicate with his father and bring him out of his world of illusion is unsuccessful. In despair Biff cries to Happy, “I can’t talk to him!” The failure of Biff with Oliver brings to Willy
mind the failure Biff was in math. As Biff tells the truth, Willy’s dreams overpower Biff’s realistic talk. Willy closes his mind to reality and feels that Biff is spiting him because Biff refuses to do as he says. The break in Willy and Biff’s rela
onship was a result of the woman in Willy’s room in Boston. Willy blames the hotel discovery on the fact that Biff failed math. “If you hadn’t flunked, you’d've been set by now!” Willy hears a woman’s voice asking him to open the door and he gets fri
tened and goes to the bathroom. While he is in there Happy wants to leave. Biff says Willy is, “A fine, troubled prince. A hard-working unappreciated prince. A pal, you understand? A good companion. Always for his boys.” This is a sudden change fro
his calling Willy a fake earlier. This is because Biff has come out of Willy’s world of illusions and has begun functioning on reality. Looking back on Willy he notices Willy’s faults but now can see lots of values. This realization makes him beg Hap
to help him reach Willy. Happy wants to leave and Biff accuses him of not caring about his father. Happy denies his father, “No, that’s not my father. He’s just a guy.” This is a result of the brutal rejection Happy has been subjected to throughout
“Death of a Salesman illustrated the ruin of a family because the father was a failure. Domestic happiness was shown to depend, not just on personal relationship, but on the way in which men and women coped with the injustices of society” (Elsom 139).
Throughout the play we have seen Willy’s guilt when Linda mends her stockings, we have heard the laughing of another woman, and we have heard Biff call his father a fake. While Willy was in the bathroom the two boys left with the girls. This next flashb
k is the climatic failure in Willy’s relationship with his son Biff. The flashback brings us to Willy’s hotel room in Boston. Biff knocks on the door continuously and Willy tells the woman to hide in the bathroom. Willy opens the door and Biff tells
m that he has flunked math. Biff showed Willy the imitation he gave in front of the class before being caught by the teacher. They both laughed. The woman hears the laughter and comes out. Willy gets her out of the room as quick as possible and she
mands the stockings Willy promised her. Biff accuses Willy of being a liar, a fake, and giving away “Mama’s stockings.”
Suddenly Stanley, the waiter at the restaurant, interrupts Willy’s flashback and tells him that Happy and Biff have left with the girls. Willy asks if there is a seed store nearby. Now that his world has closed in on him he needs to leave something ta
Biff and Happy come home with flowers for Linda. She throws them on the floor and yells at her sons for treating their own father worse than a stranger. Happy begins to lie, saying that they had a good time, but Biff stops him and agrees with his mot
r. Biff hears a noise outside and Linda tells him that Willy is planting his garden. Now we see Willy outside talking to Ben he thinks Biff has been spiting him all of his life and that if Biff sees the number of people at Willy’s funeral then he will
ave respect for him. At the same time, Biff will have $20,000.00 in his pocket. With that sum he could truly be magnificent. Willy’s talking to Ben has convinced himself that he has finished his life. So rather than, “stand here the rest of my life
nging up a zero,” he decides he will commit suicide. Biff comes out to Willy to let him know he is leaving for good and to ask for help to tell Linda. Willy refuses and warns Biff that spite will destroy him. Willy wants to talk about Oliver, but Bi
has finally connected his thefts with Willy’s philosophy of being well-liked. Biff becomes angry and confronts Willy with the rubber hose. He tells Willy that they should tell the truth. He says that he has stolen himself out “of every good job sinc
high school.” Biff also tells Willy, “You blew me so full of hot air I can never stand taking orders from anybody.” Biff has come to realize that his father is just a, “hard-working drummer,” and he sees that he is, “nothing! I’m nothing.” Biff trie
to get Willy to “take that phony dream and burn it before something happens.” Biff is trying to make Willy face reality, but ironically Biff’s attempt only convinces Willy that his dreams are right. Biff becomes so infuriated that he suddenly breaks d
n and cries, asking Willy to burn his world of illusions. This makes Willy feel he is needed by Biff and motivates him to commit suicide because now he feels he will be leaving something for Biff. Willy was amazed that Biff still loves him and doesn’t
ate or want to spite him. Willy says, “Isn’t that a remarkable thing.” Ben reappears and after Happy and Linda go to bed Ben reminds Willy that its, “Time William, time.” With life closing in around him, Willy gets into his car and enters the jungle o
death. Miller wonderfully states that Willy’s decision to die happens when “he is given his existence… his fatherhood, for which he has always striven and which until now he could not achieve.” Willy is really a good man who only wanted to earn and
ve the love of his wife and sons. Willy is dying throughout the play not because he wants to be successful but by the common desire to be loved even though he feels he does not deserve it. Miller is not one of the masters of metaphor, but he memorably
chieves a pathos that none of us would be wise to reject (Bloom 6).
Willy’s life has been a struggle to get something paid for before it is all used up. He had finally succeeded in paying for his house before it was all used up, the only problem is his life is all used up.
As a general rule, to which there may be exceptions unknown
to me, think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the
presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need
by, to secure one thing – his sense of personal dignity. From
struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his
‘rightful’ position in society… Tragedy, then, is the consequence
of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly… His
‘tragic flaw,’ a failing that is not peculiar to grand or elevated
characters. Nor is it necessarily a weakness… his inherent
unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives
to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status…
those who act against the scheme of things that degrades them,
and in the process of action everything we have accepted out
of fear of insensitivity or ignorance is shaken before us and
examined, and from this total onslaught by an individual against
the seemingly stable cosmos surrounding us – from this total
examination of the ‘unchangeable’ environment – comes the
terror and the fear that is classically associated with tragedy
A few days later Charley, Linda, and the boys went to Willy’s funeral. They were the only ones there; no sellers, no buyers, not even Howard came to pay their respects. This is the final proof that Willy was not well-liked, his dreams were phony, and
is whole life was one big illusion. Biff comments on Willy having all the wrong dreams, but Charley says a salesman has to dream. This shows Biff now has a firmer grasp on reality, but Happy is as lost in his world of dreams as Willy was. While the ot
rs walk away Linda remains at the grave a few minutes. She tells Willy that she made the last payment on the house that day, but now there is no one to live there. This is ironic because early in the play Linda told Willy the whole house smelled of sh
ing lotion after the boys had left. Willy says, “Figure it out. Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it.” For Willy, death was an escape from feeling boxed-in by the city and by the people around him,
ut now, ironically, Willy is boxed-in by his grave. The play closes with a melody of a flute.
Miller’s main problem in his writing is the conflict of themes. It is hard to determine whether his play is about politics or sex. If the important scene in Death of a Salesman is the one with the tape recorder then it is political, however, if it is
bout sex then the important scene is the one in the Boston hotel. John Mander and Eric Bentley agree with this criticism. They also agree that The Crucible may not be about McCarthy but about love in the seventeenth century (Overland 52). “More sympa
etic critics find that the plays successfully embody the author’s intentions of dramatizing a synthesis of the two kinds of motivation, Edward Murry, for instance, has made the same observations as have Bentley and Mander, but in his view the difficulty
f branding Miller wither a ’social’ or a ‘psychological’ dramatist points to a strength rather than to a flaw in his work: ‘At his best, Miller has avoided the extremes of clinical psychiatric case studies on the one hand and mere sociological reports
the other… he has indicated…. how the dramatist might maintain in delicate balance both personal and social motivation’” (Overland 52). The hotel room scene has an enormous impact that it has a tendency to diminish the other scenes of Willy’s dile
a. “If the play is read, if one treats it as one would a novel, balance is restored and a good case may be made for a successful synthesis of ‘psychological’ or ’social’ motivation as argued, for instance, by Edward Murray” (Overland 55).
In Death of a Salesman we can see the influences by O’Neill on Miller’s work. “The disintegrating protagonist might also have come from Tennessee Williams, though in Williams’ hands Willy Loman would have had a flamboyant self-destructiveness rather t
n an unchangeable habit of knocking his head against a wall of unapprehended actuality. But Death of a Salesman does not represent the mature Miller. He became more independent, more forceful, and more deeply imaginative in The Crucible (1953)” (Heilm
142). Lee Fischer works are “thematically and technically influenced by Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman,” reflects Jens Kistrup (855).
In Death of a Salesman and The Crucible Miller seems to demonstrate a superiority to other American dramatists in the representative interpretation of universal dimensions of accumulated experience. He tries to investigate the reasons that men are res
nsible for their actions. Death of a Salesman and The Crucible is an investigation of man’s existence. Death of a Salesman seems to mimic classic tragedy mainly in its acceptance of the principle of the responsibility of the individual. Like other co
emporary genre, the protagonist is the common man. “Perhaps of greater importance is the fact that it removes the ground of the tragic conflict from outer event to inner consciousness” (Jackson 28 – 31). Willy Loman and John Proctor exhibit Miller’s c
cept of the tragic hero. Both of them struggling to maintain the image they have of themselves. Miller maintains that this is the prime criterion of tragedy (Nicoll 798). Loman’s suicide, as in traditional tragedy, is a contradiction to his victory o
r the circumstances. “It is an act of love, intended to redeem his house. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is, perhaps, to this time, the most mature example of a myth of contemporary life” (Jackson 35).
Miller’s creative genius has made an impact on the world of drama for years to come. Many upcoming characters will be influenced by the dramatic roles of Willy Loman and John Proctor. These two plays bring a succession of conflicts to a dramatic end:
having each man die with dignity.
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Heilman, Robert Bechtold. The Iceman, The Arsonist, and the Troubled Agent. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1973.
Levin, Richard. Tragedy: Plays, Theory, and Criticism. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1960.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Bantam Books, 1959.
Morath, Inge. Salesman in Beijing. New York: The Viking Press, 1983.
Popkin, Henry (ed.). European Theories of the Drama. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1969.
Weales, Gerald (ed.). Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books, 1977.