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Death of a Salesman

In Arthur Miller, Leonard Moss discusses the writing style and themes of Arthur Miller, one of the most respect American playwrights. Miller’s life was one spent toiling to depict the social dilemma of the individual in a capitalistic or materialistic society that undermined humanity. A socialist at heart, Miller was outraged over the McCarthy era House Committee on Un-American Activities during the 1950s, and his play The Crucible is a scathing satire of that era’s prosecution of innocent Americans suspected of being Communists merely because of their socialist orientations. In Death of a Salesman, we see Miller’s condemnation of capitalism and the American Dream, a condemnation that illustrates how Willy’s Loman’s attempt to define himself by what he owns and what he materially achieves robs him of his humanity and self-worth. As Moss maintains, “The merit in Miller’s treatment of his material lies in a certain clean, moralistic rationalism…his talent is for a king of humanistic jurisprudence” (Preface).

In his essay, Tragedy and the Common Man, Miller defines pathos and the pathetic character as one that “by virtue of his witlessness, his insensitivity, or the very air he gives off, is incapable of grappling with a much superior force” (1728). In Death of a Salesman, we see such a character in Will Loman. Regarded as a tragedy, Willy Loman’s tragic flaw can be variously viewed as a pitiable blindness to the realities of the American Dream, as the unrealistic hope of a doting father for his son’s advancement to levels he himself never achieved, and the bad luck of an old salesman working a tough territory. Taken together, these interpretations reflect a critical examination by Miller of Loman’s life and the concerns typical of a capitalistic society in which male material success is valued over any other type of success.


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Death of a Salesman. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 23:00, July 01, 2022, from