Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The play Death of a Salesman written by Arthur Miller is one of the most popular and famous literary works. In his play the author wanted to show a character with real manners, aims, and wishes; Miller demonstrated his heroes as if they could have existed in the common life to make them social. Death of a Salesman symbolizes a struggle between ordinary people, their life, and purposes which cannot be achieved.
Miller’s best plays, which include also the play Death of a Salesman, were created in a difficult time for American culture: the so-called ‘American dream’ failed. Thus, the main idea of the play is the demonstration of the conflict between society and people, which Miller implements with the help of his heroes. One of the leading roles in the play is the role of women. All the women characters, including Linda, impersonate everything that the author wanted to express.
Example of an ideal American Wife
Despite bad treatment, Linda is a wife, a loving mother, and real support to her husband Willy Loman. The author states, “A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man” (Miller and Weales 76). She takes up Loman's mother’s commitments to take care of the son Willy. Linda always feels responsible for her husband while he feels comfortable and does not care about his cruelty. Willy’s wife sings lullabies for him, takes care of his health and internal state. This character is an example of an ideal American wife: loving, reliable, supportive.
Miller’s representation of Linda is a description of a woman who does not have any desires or aims. Her purpose is to serve the husband and sons for the sake of their happiness. Linda is one of the first who notices Willy’s changes such as illusions and self-deception. But she ignores these disadvantages and keeps admiring the salesman; even Willy’s little cruelty such as humiliation and irritation is acceptable and admitted like the highest expresses of emotions.
However, Linda is a hero full of sorrow and loneliness; she has no idea how she could live without her husband. Despite the fact that she is a brilliant housewife, Linda is an ordinary woman, who does not care about her appearance and sexuality, she is entirely devoted to her family and husband. Willy Loman suffers from material and moral problems. Nevertheless, his wife does not leave him; on the contrary, she plays her role as a loving mother and reliable support in spite of the awful treatment. One of his compliments was, “You're my foundation and my support, Linda” (Miller and Weales 112).
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These words demonstrate that Willy still has a chance to mend, but his inadmissible treatment of his wife does not show his repentance. Although Linda’s husband treated her like she was not pretty and smart enough to be on the same intellectual level as him, she shows her ability to listen to him. The truth is that she is a more gifted person than Willy is. Linda has no right to mistake; she is an ideal American wife. As the author states:
Most often jovial, she has developed iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behavior – she more than loves him, she admires him, as though his mercurial nature, his temper, his massive dreams, and little cruelties, served her only as sharp reminders of the turbulent longings…which she shares but lacks the temperament to utter and follow to their end (Miller and Weales 140).
This episode shows that Linda perfectly knows her husband, and in spite of his bad treatment, she still plays her role as a caring wife.
Female Characters in the Play
Nevertheless, not all female characters in the play act like Linda Loman. The other play’s heroine is the nameless woman. This character is presented like Willy Loman’s lover and an example of the working class (she is an assistant in a Boston’s company) opposite to Linda, who is a housewife. The nameless woman has all features of a character that Willy’s wife is deprived of. She is focused on money, prosperity, and searching for benefits. When she ties a scarf, Willy complains about his loneliness and the lack of people's understanding; he is searching for support and even does not notice that he already got it.
Nevertheless, The Woman even has no name; Miller did not name this character. This heroine is described by the author as a Femme fatale and a temptress. Each her movement, manner of speech, and laugh express sexuality and forbidden temptation. Sterling argues that the nameless woman is “quite proper-looking Willy's age” (34). Moreover, The Woman is not a prostitute; she is Willy’s business contact. Silk stockings are the symbol of her close relationship with Willy. They are also the symbol of the salesman’s guilt. Thus, such things as morality and honesty are unknown to this woman in contrast to Linda.
However, these two women have something that connects them: Willy sincerely likes both of them. The huge difference between those characters is that the first one desires to have a family and a big, beautiful house full of love, and the other one wishes to achieve an ‘American dream’: to have a nice job and prosperity.
Nevertheless, in spite of women division into types of appearance and features of character, there are no bad or good heroines. According to Sterling, “Miller unites all female characters into one main idea that demonstrates the author’s conception of Woman” (14). All of them have more similarities than differences, particularly in education, behavior, and opportunity to reveal masculine inconsistency. The situation in the restaurant shows Willy, and how his treatment to women influences their lives. When Biff and Happy leave him in the restaurant with Miss Forsythe and Letta, Willy experiences what it is like to be betrayed.
Therefore, women like Linda and those in the restaurant, give men what they want, the necessary increase in self-confidence (Sterling, 45). This is shown in the manner of speech; Willy’s lover always knows proper words that man’s ears have to hear to reach the self-interested results. Just as The Woman was an object of Willy’s guilt and refusal of the family, so Miss Forsythe and Letta were mistreated by his sons.
However, the author shows the male’s payment for their faults: the masculine failure has been the means to disserve the lover’s business. Also, the husband’s betrayal takes Linda out of her position as a supportive and loving woman in the home. Significantly, Linda becomes assertive and ominous after the incident with his lover. For both, Linda and The Woman, male failures have provoked a female sense of injustice and realization of the victimization.
The play Death of a Salesman is an exact demonstration of the male American Dream. The play depicts men like unstable, undeveloped, non-logical people who cheat. Though the main hero kills himself at the end of the play, it is the belief in the male advantage that brings destruction and leads to the neglect of women. Men prefer to destroy the personality rather than to recognize the female value as identity or to obey to a realistic and well-organized women methods. This tragedy of the common man also influences the common woman, who has supported and taken care of all the man’s wishes and problems.
It could be noticed that Linda, as a common woman, is a more tragic character than her husband. Nevertheless, it was her mistake when she preferred to use all the talents and abilities to support and help Willy. Thus, the main idea of the play is that the woman is free to have aims, desires, and opportunities to get rid of man’s devastating impact, which deprives her of all the talents and skills of a highly developed personality.
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