Impact of Society in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Essay

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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,
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(Baym 2022)

Willy is not focusing on what is truly important in life, and he has no good role models to show him. Ultimately he keeps pursuing an empty dream at the cost of his family and of himself. The society portrayed in Death of a Salesman is one in which material goods and transient, earthly success are what is valued. Willy is not able to step back and realize this. Since he is a failure by their terms, he believes he must be a failure, period. His only way of coping with this is to attempt to deceive others about his accomplishments as well as those of his sons. He seems to convince himself that these dreams are true more than he convinces others.

In speaking of Death of a Salesman and some of his other plays, Miller had this to say:

These plays, in one sense, are my response to what was ‘in the air,’ they are one man’s way of saying to his fellow man, ‘This is what you see every day or think or feel; now I will show you what you know but have not had the time, or the disinterestedness, or the insight, or the information to understand consciously.’ Each of these plays, in varying degrees, was begun in the belief that it was unveiling a truth already known but unrecognized as such. (Eight xi)

By using Willy as an example, Miller demonstrates to his audience the effect the modern, democratic society can have on the average middle-class person who does not stop to consider what is going on

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