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Impact of Society in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Impact of Society in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman examines outside influences on the individual. These influences include society as a whole, the family as a societal unit and beliefs which the individual thinks he should espouse. In order to understand Willy Loman and the struggles with which he is dealing, the society in which he exists must first be understood. He is relying upon a slightly different set of values and motivations than everyone else seems to be, and this sets him apart. A prime example of the rest of society is Willy’s brother, Ben.

In sociological terms, Ben is a classic representative of the old, 19th century middle class, while Willy represents the new, dependent, salaried, pathetically other-directed middle class. Ben’s character is clearly inner-directed… While Willy stresses the importance of personality, of being ‘well-liked’ and acceptable to the world, of pleasing others, while insisting on proper form, dress, manner, and style, Ben ignores all of this. (Martin 56)

Willy is looking to the rest of society for guidance, to see how he needs to act in order to be successful by their terms. Yet he cannot fully let go of the belief that his way of trying to “please all of the people all of the time” is right. Society is made up of people like Ben who are focused on getting ahead. It is an industrial society which is quickly expanding; people have to move quickly to stay on top. They do not have time for the old ways anymore. Willy has been working for many years, but he has not been able to keep up. Ultimately, this is why he is let go from his job. His boss, Howard explains it to him.

Howard: I don’t want you to represent us. I’ve …

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While there is some disagreement as to what the effect of Willy’s actions ultimately will be on Biff after the curtain goes down, it is clear that Willy’s behavior destroyed the family unit as the Loman’s knew it and destroyed Willy as well. The play does, however, end with the focus on the remaining member of the Loman family. They are still a societal unit, and they must continue to live in the material modern world as best they can.

Works Cited

Baym, Franklin, Gottesman, Holland, et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 4th ed. New York: Norton, 1994.

Costello, Donald P. “Arthur Miller’s Circles of Responsibility: A View From a Bridgeand Beyond.” Modern Drama. 36 (1993): 443-453.

Martin, Robert A., ed. Arthur Miller. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

—. Eight Plays. New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1981.

Essay on Role of Rulers in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Shaw’s Saint Joan

Role of Rulers in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and Shaw’s Saint Joan

Rulers, by definition, play a crucial role in a society. They choose the direction that the society will move, how it will move (whether it be imperial, economic, or militaristic in nature), and allocates the resources of the nation towards these goals. These leaders come to power in many different ways. Some are elected, some are appointed, and some seem to gain the position by strange strokes of fate.

In literature, these individuals, their goals, and how they attained their position make a statement about the society they represent. In “Saint Joan,” by Bernard Shaw, and “Lysistrata,” by Aristophanes, the governing individuals, although their positions and goals are very similar, have extremely differing personalities. The reason for this difference lies in the goals that each author has for these rulers, and the points the author wishes to convey.

The first and most technical difference is how each ruler is brought into the story. In ement about the society they represent. In “Saint Joan,” by Bernard Shaw, and “Lysistrata” the governing official is the Magistrate. He appears shortly after the women take control of the Acropolis, totally unannounced. He immediately begins commenting on the situation, the first male in the play to intellectually react to the women. Moments before,the old men were trying to burn down the Acropolis to flush the women out. The Magistrate arrives and begins to assess the situation.

On the other hand, in “Saint Joan,” the Dauphin (Charles) is introduced with much more description and anticipation (he is even announced by a page). He is described in great detail, giving the reader the impression that the future king …

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…e fighting. Rather than agree with her or compromise, Charles simply dismissed her as a silly girl who needed to go back home. While the Magistrate’s actions towards the conflict prove that women can accomplish great feats, Charles’ actions show that firm leaders are only wanted when useful. Beyond that, they are a mere annoyance.

The basic difference between these two characters (Charles and the Magistrate) is their depth. The Magistrate serves to provide an intellectual and serious male point of view in this comedic play; this is all. Charles serves many purposes; a contrast to Joan, an example of Joan’s persuasiveness, and mainly a satire of politics. Each author developed the character as much as necessary in order to get their point across, which can vary from practically none at all, or filled with details, down to the shape of a character’s nose.

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