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The Role of Time (History, Memory, The Present, The Future) In Death of a Salesman
Historically, Miller uses time to show changes occurring in people’s lives as time goes by. Willy, his job, and family are an example of this change, as witnessed in the play. Although set a few hours to the death of the main character Willy, Miller uses the history of the family in the form of flashbacks, engaging the audience. In these instances, the author addresses the significance of a person’s past in determining their future. To Miller, the main character, his history as a salesman, his relationship with the son and his ambitions then act as a performance indicator for his progress in his subsequent days. As an ambitious young salesman, Willy believed that it was his own efforts that determined his success. As such, he put numerous efforts in his sales job, becoming relatively successful by conquering New England.
In the dream, he remembers congratulating his two sons Biff and Happy at their young age washing his cars. Then, he was proud of his son Biff, who was then a footballer, winning a scholarship. In his conversation with Linda, he praises his son’s past, “Remember how they used to follow him around in high school? When he smiled at one of them, their faces lit up” (Miller 5). Presently, however, Biff and his father had an antagonizing relationship. After Biff’s realization that his father had had an affair with another woman, he lost his respect for his father, dropping his ideologies and considering him as a failure. He considers his father’s ideologies as resulting from his personal failures. On the other hand, his father considers Biff a failure after failing to complete high school. “Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country, in the world a young man with such — personal attractiveness, gets lost” (Miller 5). The once proud father who had high hopes for his son Biff changes, seeing his son as a failure who could not sit for a simple math test.
In his dream, Willy remembers his boastful character after successful business trips. Despite these successes, he was desperate for wealth. He considered himself as a potential rich man, who was only unlucky, as people did not like him very much. Similarly, Charlie in Fitzgerald (213), while having dinner at the Lincoln’s boasts about his riches. Out there, he argued, there were better opportunities than back home.
In his dreams, Willy remembers how by putting his family first, had turned down his brother’s request of finding their father in Alaska. At seventeen, however, Ben left home on a mission of finding their father, only to end up in Africa, where he discovered a gold mine, returning as a wealthy man at twenty-one. “Opportunity is tremendous in Alaska, William. Surprised you’re not up there” (Miller 35). Further Ben adds, “Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich” (Miller 35). This return compares to Charlie’s visit to his brother-in-law, Lincoln, who on visiting, made it known that he had become a rich man by owning ventures such as Gold mines and timberlands in different parts of the world (Fitzgerald 213).
Miller uses memory in the play to evaluate people’s dreams, living standards, and ambitions in their yesterdays and their current situation. By criticizing the American Dream, Miller compared people’s thoughts about their lives in the early 1940s and later days. The capitalistic nature of people’s thoughts then and the allure of materialism saw every American dream of wealth and success. Owning businesses and becoming wealthy were dreams crowding people’s thoughts during Miller’s time. However, as time went by, looking back to their lives, fewer people had achieved their dreams. Willy, years after conceiving the idea of owning a more successful business than his neighbor Bernard owns, he still an average American. He could not afford all the bills; leave alone the thought of success. The effect of this was resentment of his own charisma, as he argued, “he was less liked by people” (Miller 22). The desire for competition saw him believe that Biff would be more successful than their neighbor’s son, who was brighter in school. In his comparison, Willy believes “Bernard is not well liked, is he?” (Miller 16). With time, Biff lost hope in his son, who dropped out of high after flanking a math test. Willy’s good memories, however, contrast with those of Harry in his dream of his quarrels with his wife. Despite the great wealth Harry and his wife had, they knew no happiness. In his flashback, Harry remembers that they always chose the best places to have their quarrels (Hemingway 17).
However, few .............
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