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Adaptations and Transformations- Death of a Salesman

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The play, "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller is a portrayal of the flawed American Dream of the late 1940's, and the effects it has had on the protagonists, Willy Loman, who struggles to draw the line between reality and his dreams as he hides in his dreams of grandeur and success, failing to acknowledge the reality of his life. This is juxtaposed against his son Biff, the other protagonist. Biff, who has also struggled to see the difference between his ambition and actual ability, is finally able to see the reality of his life and the situation he is in. though there are small modifications in the film version directed by Volker Schlondorff, the meaning of the play remains the same, and further embellishes the tragedy of how the elusive American Dream ultimately destroys Willy Loman.

When Death of a Salesman was first produced in 1949, it was seen by many as an attack on American capitalism, and the American way of life itself. This however, is not the case. Through the play, Miller conveys the idea of the how the ways in which the actions of the head of the family affect the lives of others. It is Willy's tendency to dramatize his life, to raise it high above the ordinary that makes it impossible for him to accept that Biff is "a dime a dozen" as he is himself. All other relationships in the play are subservient to the central relationship between father and son with its journey of childhood admiration, followed by the betrayal of the father and disillusionment of Biff, to the final, though futile, reconciliation. Though Willy's father is never seen, Willy tends to behave as if he were like his father, a legendary character above ordinary life and this pride has led him into a tragic confusion of his mind. Willy never achieves a professional understanding of himself and the fundamental nature of the sales profession, and he also fails to realize his personal failure and betrayal of his soul and family through the meticulously constructed artifice of his life. He cannot grasp the true personal, emotional, spiritual understanding of himself as a literal "Loman" or "low man." Willy is too driven by his own willfulness to recognize the slanted reality that his desperate mind has forged. The character Ben Loman, Willy's older brother, who he sees as a sort of pseudo-father figure, accentuates this. Ben is a foil of Willy's character, which allows the audience to really see the problems with Willy's skewed perception of reality as he is everything that Willy is not- smart, "well liked" and rich; the American Dream, in short.

The staging of the play; a cross section of Willy's house comes to represent a cross section of his mind, giving the audience the sensation that they can basically witness his thought and inner life. Willy's exhaustion is made obvious from the outset of the play through his first entrance in the house "his exhaustion



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