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Considered one of the greatest pieces of American Literature in the twentieth century, Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is truly a masterpiece. When it was released in 1949, the play won numerous awards and became the most popular show on Broadway. Since then, the play has continued to run off and on in New York, along with other prominent international cities like Berlin, London, Beijing, and Amsterdam. The play was written as a method for Arthur Miller to show the people of America what the true image of a salesman in the thirties and forties was. Not only did Miller succeed, he also opened peoples an eye to what the true American Dream is and what its faults are. The play centers mainly on Willy Loman, a salesman in his fifties. Willy has spent his entire career selling things and now it seems the customers have stopped coming. The audience first meets Willy at the start of his trouble. Willy has come home from Boston without selling hardly a thing, his son Biff has quit yet another Job, and the bills are beginning to stack up. Willy tries diligently to keep his family afloat while he desperately ponders why he has no more customers. Willy then tries to convince Biff that the only happiness he will find is in business. Biff does not want to go into business because he can see what it has done to his father, as well as his younger brother Happy, who spends most of his time drinking and indulging with prostitutes. One the most creative aspects of the play are the expressionistic devices that Miller writes into key scenes of the play. In his essay "Arthur Miller: An Overview," Gerald Weales describes Death of a Salesman as an "example of American Expressionism in which realistic scenes are played in an anti-realistic context" (Weales 3). Through expressionism, Miller is able to portray his characters and ideas in an entirely new and exciting form of theater.
The most obvious of all of Miller's expressionistic pieces in Death of a Salesman are the characters themselves. Craig Garrison describes in his essay that Miller uses a multitude of characters to portray success and failure in America (Garrison). The first and foremost expressionistic character is Willy himself. Throughout his life, Willy was inspired by the success of his father, and later his brother. In her essay "Willy Loman's Brother Ben: Tragic Insight in Death of a Salesman," Sister M. Bettina says that "Ben personifies his brother's dream of easy wealth" (Bettina 2). Bettina also says that Ben is the only character in which Miller combines realism with expressionism, emphasizing his symbolic function (2-3). Willy spends his entire life trying to become successful himself. "Willy Loman... embraces the American Dream, assumes that success is not only possible, but inevitable" (Weales 1). Inspired by an old eighty year-old salesman, Willy decides that selling is the way to go to find wealth. After proving that his imagination is much bigger than his selling abilities, Willy tries to live his successful life through his two boys, Biff and Happy. Willy tries to make them everything he never was. Unfortunately, the constant pressure only ruins the two boys' future, turning one into a bum, and the other into a confused young man in search of his true identity.
Biff Loman has always lived his life as a successful and popular student. That is until he discovered that his one true inspiration, his father, was a liar and a fake. After Biff discovers Willy in the hotel room, he becomes a man in search of who he really is, knowing that taking the same road as his father would eventually lead to disaster. "Due mainly to all the hot air Willy feeds him, Biff continues to stumble in his fight for life" (Garrison). Biff continues to struggle in his quest until one day he has a revelation while applying for yet another job (Garrison). He realizes that all he wants to do is be outdoors working with his hands, much like Willy dreamed of. The difference is Biff decides to act on his feeling, realizing that happiness is more important than money.
Happy, Biff's younger brother, is exactly the opposite of Biff. Unlike Biff, Happy listened to everything Willy told him and went into sales in a futile attempt to be successful (Garrison). It soon becomes obvious that Happy is not happy at all in his new job. Although he is making money, he is not enjoying his life. Happy tries to make himself more popular with his family by claiming that he holds a certain prominent position within the company (Garrison). Sadly, Happy's is only another salesman, heading down the same road as his fath
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Willy, Willy Loman…, himself, his wife,
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