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Death of a Salesman as Criticism of America’s Moral and Social Standards Death Salesman essays

Death of a Salesmanas Criticism of America’s Moral and Social Standards A controversy engulfs Arthur Millers play, Death of a Salesman. Was Willy a victim of modern American society, or did he simply lack the morals and ethics to achieve success and happiness? Willy Loman is a victim of the American capitalistic machine, as evidenced through his frequently ambivalent attitudes concerning the importance place on pride and being well liked, as well as the self delusion he displays in his affair and many other aspects of life. One of the many false, contrived attitudes contemporary America instills in its citizens is a very fierce pride, in which they cannot accept criticism and are blind to reality. Willy Loman took such a pride in his work, claiming himself to be vital in New England (Miller 14), and concurrently viewed himself as a failure. Although Willy was wonderful with his hands (Miller 138), he saw any profession in carpentry or construction as an inadequate measure of success, although he was aware that he took pleasure in putting up a ceiling or repairing a porch. As a traveling salesman, the ultimate symbol of an American occupation and one he so revered, Willy also saw himself as a failure. But I gotta be at it ten, twelve hours a day. Other men I dont know do it easier. I dont know why I cant stop myself I talk too much. A man oughta come in with a few words Im fat. Im very foolish to look at (Miller 37). Even after being fired by Howard Wagner, Willy was too proud to accept a job offer from his neighbor and good friend, Charley. Willy failed in selling because he couldnt succeed living life by a false standard of making money by lying and cheating, despite the pride he sporadically took in it. The business world places great emphasis on being well liked. Willy assumed these business values as his own, maintaining that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked (Miller 86) and coincidentally acknowledged that his colleagues had little respect for him and ridiculed him when he attempted to make a sale. He equated having success in life with earning money and keeping up appearances, rather than the greater value of love that he received from his family, which resulted in him teaching this to his sons, Happy and Biff, which consequently resulted in their unhappiness and failure. Denial, in more recent years, has been considered a justifiable means of avoiding an uncomfortable situation. This very thing played a large role in Willy Lomans lifestyle. Years after having an affair during his marriage to Linda, Willy denied to himself that he took part in this betrayal, in spite of the fact that it was one of the main things contributing to his delusions. He felt relentless guilt over the affair, but continually tried to ignore it and push it to the back of his mind. He realized the severity of what he had committed when Biff, as a young man, caught him in a hotel with his mistress. Willy suggested that when Biff grew up, he would understand what had transpired and rationalized that you mustnt overemphasize a thing like this (Miller 120). This, combined with Willys seeming disrespect for Linda, proved to leave an impression on his sons. Willy left the same legacy to Happy, who continued to treat women in the similar manner. Although Willy was extremely remorseful for his adultery and truly loved Linda, he was never able to admit this and make it blatantly clear. Parents in the nineteenth century have continuously been pressured to encourage their children to succeed in life. Willy Loman evidently felt confused as to whether it was necessary to push his sons, particularly Biff, into the business world to ensure their success in life, or to encourage them to do just what they felt impassioned to do. While discussing their son with Linda, Willy, within a few lines of the play, said both Biff is a lazy bum! (Miller 16) and Theres one thing about Biffhes not lazy (Miller 16). He knew that, while not succeeding in the business world, Biff still had potential to succeed in what he truly wanted to achieve. As Elia Kazan once said, Willy is one vast contradiction, and this contradiction is his downfall (1). His frequent ambivalent attitudes on pride, being well liked, success and his affair contribute to this contradiction, and portray Willy Loman as a victim of little more than a capitalistic paradigm. Death of a Salesman is a thoughtful criticism of the moral and social standards of contemporary America and the confusion it infuses in its citizens – Willy Loman is simply a victim of the deterioration thereof. Works Cited Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books, 1976. Kazan, Elia. Notebook. New York, 1960. A Theater In Your Head. Ed. Liza McAllister. Williams. Oct. 2000. Pinkmonkey. 3 Oct 2000. * MemberFrame.asp*.

Free Will in Sophocles’ Play, Oedipus the King

In Sophocles’ play Oedipus the King, the roles of free will and destiny in human life come into question, and it seems that Sophocles took a direct standpoint on the answer. One interpretation of the play provides the notion that Sophocles was pointing out to his fellow Greeks the reality of human free will.

The question arises throughout the episodes of the play: Is it fate or autonomic decision-making that determines the course of events in the life of Oedipus? To the Greeks, one aspect of this argument was the idea that the character of an individual greatly affected his or her fate in life. The character of each individual has certain positive and negative attributes that affect the choices that he or she makes.

For Oedipus, one of the attributes that affected his ultimate destination in life was his intense desire for knowledge and truth. One of the driving forces in the play is Oedipus’ desperate attempt to find out the truth of his origin. He pushes Tiresias, Creon, Jocasta, the oracle, the messenger, and the shepherd for information regarding his beginnings. Each of these characters refuses to give him a straight answer at the very least. Even as he draws nearer to the answer, and the others have long-since put the pieces together, Oedipus pushes beyond the comfort levels for the answer. He says, “I can’t stop now. Not with all my birth clues in my hands,” (59). The desire for truth, so deeply rooted in his honest character, pushed him to continue his search, ultimately leading to his downfall. He had the capability to discontinue the plight, however, and made the independent decision to continue.

Other instances in which Oedipus made choices directly linking himself into the prophecy were at the points in w…

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…ssence, Jocasta and Laius were indirectly responsible for their own deaths, and Oedipus was responsible for his ruin. Oedipus even seems to admit his responsibility when he says, “What title of sincerity and trust when all my past behavior’s proved so wrong,” (75). In each of the aforementioned examples – in the character attributes that led to individual choices and in the natural autonomous choices made by the characters – it becomes obvious that the events of the play were not predetermined at all. Instead, with a close reading of the text, one can take the interpretation that the choices made by the characters were independently made by each individual.

With the Oedipus the King text, Sophocles seemingly made it clear to his fellow Greeks that humankind has the ability, even with prophecies, to make choices free from the influence of divine forces.

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