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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Arthur Miller and the American society

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Research Project Literature


In this essay I am going to analyse Arthur Miller’s description of how, in the American society, the search for success may take to failure. Also, I will include the repercussions of this search and failure in the other members of the family. The analysis will be based on three of Miller’s books “Death of a Salesman.” “A View from the Bridge.” and “All My Sons.”. I will try to demonstrate those things on which Miller bases his critics to the “American Dream”(a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S. For many people, this is the American dream. A big beautiful home in the suburbs, two or more cars in the garage, steaks on the grill, and plenty of money or credit to buy just about anything) deeply analysing these books showing their differences and similarities.


“Death of a Salesman”, Miller uses lots of characters to contrast the difference between success and failure within the system. Willy is the dreamer salesman whose imagination is much larger than his sales ability, while Linda is Willy’s wife who stands by her husband even knowing that his husband is not being realistic. Biff and Happy are the two sons who follow their father in that “imagination” of life, while Ben is the only member of the Loman family with that special something needed to achieve success. Charlie and his son Benard, on the other hand, enjoy better success in life compared to the Lomans. Willy Lomans wife, Linda, is not part of the solution but rather part of the problem with this family and their lack of ability to see things for what they really are. In her love, Linda has accepted Willys greatness and his dream, but while in her admiration for Willy her love is powerful and moving, in her admiration for his dreams, it is lethal. She encourages Willys dream, yet she will not let him leave her for any “wild” tour through the world, the only place where the dream can be achieved. She wants to reconcile father and son, but she never criticises Willy�s points of view. She lets this whole dream continue right in front of her instead of doing something to stop her husband’s unlimited lies.


Also, Biff, the oldest son, continues to search for his purpose in life. Biff continues to stumble in his fight for life. Biff has never had the ability to remain in a job very long due to his inability to take orders and not wanting to do the hard work before becoming a success at a particular job. Biff is seen as a reflection of Willy�s problems. Biff is disillusioned and Willy is illusionate by reality and this is afterwards very well shown at the end of the play, just before Willys suicide Pop! Biff cries, Im a dime a dozen, and so are you! I am not a dime a dozen! Willy answers in rage. I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman! And the tragedy is that they are both right.


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Happy tried to make a good living in the city with a similar sales career of his father. He also lives a lie as he claims to have a certain position with his company when in truth he is in the lower brand of the company. Happy is not able to see himself for what he is, unlike his brother, who finally has a short view of who he is and what he stands for. At some point of view, Happy may be compared with his father and Biff starts to absorve characteristics of Ben�s personality.


In contrast, Ben has become extremely successful in life compared to his brother Willy. Ben is the only member of the Loman family to achieve greatness. He is the example of the true entrepreneur in every sense, Never fight fair with a stranger was Bens wisdom and his faith�When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one


I walked out. And by God I was rich!. Willy had always admired his brother but he had not the guts to follow his steps. Charlie is also Willys opposite in many ways in the play. Charlie has different beliefs from those of Willy and ends up quite successful. Charlie tries to help Willy as well. However, Willy will not listen to Charlies advice. For instance, Charlie warned Willy not to let his kids steal from a nearby construction site and that the night watchman would eventually catch them. Willy said, I got a couple of fearless characters, and Charlie said, The jails are full of fearless characters. Charlie knows that he is right but he can not instruct Willy in order to make him see what is wrong in his believes.


I personally believe that this story gives as a view of how one family can fail in the American society because of searching for perfection and material things, but we must remark that Miller also gives examples of how one can succeed in the same system, because in the book we can see, for example, that Bernard, Charlie’s son, became an excellent lawyer, and we know that Bernard and Willy’s sons had almost the same formation from part of the system, they were even school mates. Another success is Ben, who devoted his life to do what he wanted. That is why I think that what Miller tried to do in this book is to show the different ways that one can take in living the American system. Loman took the easiest, but in the long run, the hardest. The difference is made by the responses that each individual gives to the “American Dream”. Each one decides no matter what he has been thought.


The following book that I am going to analyse is “All my sons”. Joe Keller, the chief character, is a man who loves his family above all else, and has sacrificed everything, including his honour, while trying to make the family successful. He is now sixty-one. He has lost one son in the war, and only wants to see his remaining son, Chris, marry and materially successful. Chris wishes to marry Ann, the last girlfriend of his brother, Larry. Their mother, Kate, believes Larry is still alive. It is this belief which has enabled her, for three and a half years, to support Joe by concealing her knowledge of a dreadful crime he has committed Joe Keller, was head of a business which made engine parts for planes of the army. When, one night, the production line began to turn out cracked cylinder heads, the night foreman alerted Joes deputy manager, Steve Deever as he arrived at work. Steve telephoned Joe at home, to ask what to do. Worried by the lost production and not seeing the consequences of his decision, Joe told Steve to sale the cracks. He said that he would take responsibility for this, but could not come in to work, as he had influenza. Several weeks later twenty-one aeroplanes crashed on the same day, killing the pilots. Joe denied Steves version of events, convinced the court he knew nothing of what had happened, and was released from prison. Before his last flight, Larry wrote to his girl friend, Ann, Steves daughter. He had read of his fathers and Steves arrest. Now he was planning suicide.


Joe Keller is not really a bad man. He loves his family but does not see the universal human family which has a higher claim on his duty. He may think he has got away with his crime, but is troubled by the thought of it. He relies on his wife, Kate, not to betray his guilt. Joe had deboted all his life to his remaining child, Chris “...what the hell did I work for? Thats only for you, Chris, the whole shootin match is for you.” p.10. He started from the beginning with his factory, and he makes it quite well. And now he did not want to have his son suffering what he had suffered in his way to material success, he wants to have Chris owning the factory, and that is why he worked with such a devotion. He even allowed 1 soldiers to be killed instead of losing a job. His love for his kids made him commit suicide and kill one of the two boys. He lived for the family “Theres nothin


he could do that I wouldnt forgive. Because hes my son ...Im his father and hes my son, and if theres something bigger than that Ill put a bullet in my head!”. The other son, Chris, had always defended his father believing that he was innocent, and when he knew all the truth, almost four years later, he felt so disappointed and depressed that he wanted to go away from his hose and never return, but afterwards, when his father committed suicide, he felt guilty and sorry.


I think that this is one of Miller’s more critical novel of American dream, as he describes the horrors that one family suffered because the father of it did not want to come out of the business, business that is as cruel as a murderer, in order to not failing in his dream of helping his sons. He gives no positive view of what happened, as in “Death of a salesman”.


The last book that I will analyse “A View from the Bridge”. The story is based on a low-middle class family living in Brooklyn. Eddie Carbone, his wife Beatrice and Catherine, who is the daughter of Beatrice’s sister, that is, her niece, are the members of the named family. Catherine was left by his parents into the care of Eddie, who seems to look after her too much I think its too short, he says of a dress. He goes on Katie, you are walkin wavy! I dont like the looks theyre givin you in the candy store. And with them new high heels on the sidewalk - clack, clack, clack. The heads are turnin like windmills. The first appears to be just a father’s advice, but afterwards we notice that it is obsessive love. The problems arise when Beatrice takes to her home two cosines, Marco and Rodolpho coming illegally from Italy into America. The first days were nice and normal, Eddie make them work in the ships and they were beginning to take well. Until Catherine starts to go out with Rodolpho. Catherines attraction to him brings Eddies love for his niece into the open. This unlawful love first appears in Eddies obsessive concern with Catherines appearance and way of dressing. Later, as Catherine is attracted to Rodolpho, Eddie tries to discredit his rival he first implies that Rodolpho is not serious, merely in search of American citizenship. When this fails he comes to believe that Rodolpho is a homosexual, and tries to show up his lack of manliness. The failure of this in turn causes him to betray Rodolpho and Marco, a futile gesture, as Rodolpho is allowed to stay. Indeed, his marriage to Catherine is brought forward to secure his staying in the country. Eddie visited his lawyer, Alfieri, the one who tales the story, in order to avoid marriage, but law does not protect him. So he calls the authorities that control illegal immigration, in order to take them out of the country, but he failed because when Marco returned, he killed Eddie because he was dishonourable.


What Miller does suggest is that we have basic impulses, which civilisation has seen as harmful to society, and taught us to control. We have self-destructive urges, too, but normally we deny these. Eddie does not really understand his improper desire, and thus is unable to hide it from those around him. Eddie way of seeing Catherine was too obvious. We watch her gradually free herself of dependence on him, as she moves closer to Rodolpho, but Eddies kiss accelerates the process. She suffers and feels resentment of Eddie after he has betrayed Marco and Rodolpho, but she shows she still cares for him when she says I never meant to do nothing bad to you, as he dies. The two women have a good relationship with each other; this is never as intense as Catherines relationship with Eddie, but it outlasts it.





Beatrice has reason to be jealous but is generous to Catherine at all times. She knows Eddie has done a terrible thing in calling the authorities, but stands by him. Both women are present as Eddie dies, and their concern makes Alfieris makes as feel better of them.


In this story where the impulses of a man that make him die. I personally believe that Miller does not criticises much the American society because we can not blame it for what it had happened. He is keen in showing how the loyalty in a community is destroyed and how those immigrants who came into America looking after the American dream can alter the system.


In the three novels Miller describes the possible successes and failures depending to the attitudes that are taken in response to the American system. I believe he’s critics to the “American Dream” are perfectly shown in each of the novels, but he also encourages showing those personalities that can succeed. Willy in “Death of a Salesman”, Joe Keller in “All my sons”, and Eddie Carbone in “ A view from the Bridge”, as I explained before, are the ones that have to encourage a family’s way to success. They all fail because of pointing to the “American Dream” as the prototype of happiness. Nevertheless, some of their sons, not following their father’s ideals, can achieve happiness. Miller is keen to pass trough the barriers that the system puts in the way to happiness.


In conclusion, Miller gives an excellent critic of the American system and its search for success. But he also shows us how success can be achieved in the same system he criticise, which I think is very useful. The repercussions in the other members of the family when the father of it fails in the search for success are much the same, as shown The wife always supporting him until the last consequences, some son still believing in him, some other realising what its happening, but all of them, the hole family, suffering the consequences of trying to “survive”, trying to pass through the grate barriers that the system puts to happiness, which I believe is the essence of success.








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