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Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as Social Commentary

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman as Social Commentary

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman portrays the Loman’s and all the

family conflicts they faced. It’s also apparent on a bigger scale that this

play is a social commentary. It touches all the problems brought on by

wealth and success in our culture. Death of a Salesman is more effective as

a reflection of society and the problems it faces than as a depiction of

family conflicts.

The play showed how Willy Loman’s longing to be successful controlled his

life and ruined his family. Willy also represents a large piece of society.

He portrays the people in our culture that base their lives on acquiring

money. Greed for success has eaten up large numbers of people in this

country. It’s evident in the way Willy acts that his want of money consumes

him. This constantly happens in our society; people will do anything to

crawl up the ladder of success, often knocking down anyone in their way.

Death of a Salesman also reflected how families treat people once they

are older. Willy raised Biff and Happy when they were completely dependent

on him, but the boys aren’t willing to help Willy out when he needs them.

This is more effective when looked at as if Willy represents all the older

people in our society. It shows how the elderly are looked down upon, are

thought to be crazy, and have their jobs taken away for no reason other than

age. At times you feel sorry for Willy because these things are happening to

him and he is powerless against them. This makes the reader stop to examine

our own culture and the ways we discriminate against people who should be our

equals and treated with respect.

This play also represents how Willy’s actions affected his entire family.

He always pushed the boys to have to be the greatest at everything they did.

This made the children grow up to always feel like they could never do

enough to please their father. They ended up doing things against what they

truly wanted. Biff never found a sufficient occupation and was forced to do

things like steal. Happy ended up lying to make things always seem better

than they were. But it’s how this represents society that makes it so


The biggest issue this play imitates is peer pressure. Willy’s pressure

Imperfect Society Depicted in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Imperfect Society Depicted in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Advancements in science throughout this century have led to tremendous advancements in industry. Advancements in industry, however, have not always led to advancements in living. For some, society has created mass wealth and enabled a standard of living unparalleled throughout history. For Willy Loman, society has created only tremendous grief and hardship, aggravated by the endless promise of the good times to come. For these reasons, Willy’s tragedy is due more to societies flaws than to the numerous flaws in his own character.

Willy Loman was host to many flaws and deficiencies ranging form suicidal tendencies to psychotic disorders. However, these shortcomings did not account for his tragic end, not by themselves anyway. Society is to blame. It was society who stripped him of his dignity, piece by piece. It was society who stripped him of his lifestyle, and his own sons who stripped him of hope.

The most obvious flaw in society is greed, the desire to get ahead of the next guy. This malady is present on a national level. It is the philosophy of business and comprises the dreams of man. Sometimes, this can drive man to great things, sometimes it can drive a man to ruin. Willy was driven to the latter. (Not his own greed for he was a simple man with simple dreams, but by the greed of others.) The developers who took away the sun and gave birth to shadows, his boss who reduced him to commission and his sons which reduced him to a failure.

The next largest flaw in society is a lack of compassion. This could be as a result of almost overwhelming greed, the main culprit being big business.

I’m always in a race with the junkyard! I just finished paying for the car and it’s on it last legs. The refrigerator consumes belts like a goddam maniac. They time those things.(Act 2, page 73, lines 16-19)

Willy’s belief in this statement drew him to believe that big business lacked compassion. It is because of this that he is abandoned by Biff and disowned by Happy, left babbling in a toilet. It is this flaw that allowed him to die a slow death and played the greatest role in his eventual downfall.

The third largest flaw in society (particularly American society) is the lack of a social safety net.

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