Illusion vs. Reality Brandan FranklinPortfolio 3 Con# IS21197136Lesson 4Portfolio Assignment 4.1: Book Report(pg. 60)Part 1:For my book report, I read the play ‘Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller. This is a two-act play about the main character Willy Loman and his struggle to finds his way in the working world.
Willy is a 63-year-old salesman from New York who has spent over half his life with one company (34 years). I feel that Loman has a bipolar personality or schizophrenic personality where he is extremely angry at one time, then suddenly happy afterward. He is determined to be a huge success in business, financially and in terms of position and reputation within the company. Despite Willy’s visions of grandeur, he actually has been reduced to a commission only employee and is having trouble paying his own bills.The setting of the play is New York City in the late 1940’s, where the Loman family lives. There are several scenes from different parts of the city, most notably their home, an office, a restaurant, a hotel room, and the cemetery. There are also references to his sales territory, which is New England, but except for a scene in a hotel room in Boston. The whole play centers around New York.
In the opening scene, Willy returns home after a day of sales calls in his territory. There we meet several of the other main characters, including his wife, Linda Loman who attempts to be a calming influence on Willy. We also meet their two sons, Biff and Happy.
Biff is a rather aimless young man who has trouble holding a job despite the fact that his father has great ambitions for him. Willie’s other son, Happy is also an underachiever but still buys into the idea, like his father, that he will achieve the American dream. Willy describes another near miss on the highway from his long hours as a road warrior. This concerns his wife, who would much rather have him assigned to a local territory. There are several other characters that are important to the storyline. Charley and Bernard are the next door neighbors who are father and son.
Charley runs a successful business and his son Bernard, despite being a bit of a nerd growing up, has become a brilliant lawyer. This is in contrast to Willy and his sons. Biff was the football star who played at Ebbets Field and seemed bound for greatness, but underachieves and Willy who frequently borrows money and steals gas from Charley to make ends meet. One last important character is Willy’s brother Ben, a wildly successful businessman who achieved great financial success in far-off places like Alaska and Africa. We see ben only in Willy’s daydreams because his brother has recently passed away.As the play continues, Willy seeks his own financial success, great careers for his two sons and a paid off mortgage, mostly at the behest of his wife Linda. Instead, major conflicts arrive. Willy battles with Biff who at age 34 is still at home and doesn’t make any money.
Biff, on the other hand, is in conflict with his environment. He dislikes the city and likes the wide open spaces in the country. Willy and Biff collide over Willy’s treatment with his wife Linda. In the scene of the Boston hotel, Biff finds out that his father is cheating on his wife and has a mistress. Biff dearly loves his mother but dislikes his father because of this fact.Later on, Willy comes into conflict with his Boss, Howard. He requests a different job assignment, better pay, and suggests he has been discarded by his company despite having built the New England territory.
Willy also suggests to him that he doesn’t want to die on the road. As a result of these demands he gets fired from his company and adds Howard to the list of things in his life that is causing him to spiral downward such as, his plumbing and car problems.Willy is also too proud to accept a job offered to him by his neighbor Charley, feeling it would be below his dignity. He does end up borrowing money from Charley which he uses to pay his insurance premiums. This suggests that Willy might be thinking about taking his own life in order to pay off the family debts. Willy continues to hold out hope that he and his sons will find the Midas touch like his brother Ben did. As the play progresses, Willy and his sons end up in a restaurant presumably to discuss more get rich quick schemes to improve the family’s fortunes. While there, the sons interact with two women of questionable character and quarrel with their father who they eventually leave behind in the restroom.
There is irony involved with the women in that it seems the sons if engaging with the prostitutes, are following in the same pattern as Willy did with his mistress.In the penultimate scene, Biff and Happy return home with flowers for their mother and wondering if their father was at home. Instead, they hear him outside fantasizing that he is talking with his brother Ben. They are talking about the insurance and whether or not the company will honor the policy. Willy is also planting a garden, which as a city person, is contrary to what one would expect. In this case, I feel he is planting the seeds of his family’s future and in some way, suggesting that he has accepted some of his son’s values about country life. Willy ends up driving away in his car and soon thereafter the sound of a fatal crash is heard.
The final scene takes place at the cemetery where Willy is being interred. It is full of irony in that there are only five people present. This is in stark contrast to what Willy had expected his funeral to look like. He had also maintained that his success in business due to being well-liked his funeral would be full of customers, colleagues, buyers, and sellers. Instead, he was laid to rest in near anonymity. A final irony takes place when his wife Linda acknowledges that the family finally has financial security from Willy’s life insurance money.
The mortgage has been paid off along with the family’s outstanding bills. Willy has been more valuable to his family dead than alive.Part 2:Arthur Asher Miller was born in New York, Manhattan, on October 17, 1915, from two Jewish immigrant parents. His father owned a clothing company called S.
Miller & Sons. It revolved around women’s clothing manufacturing and it employed over 800 people. Years went by and Isidore Miller decided to start another business that involved women’s clothing called the Miltex Coat and Suit Company. Over time, he managed to employ over 850 people, While Arthur was surrounded by loving and supportive parents, his lifestyle was about to change. His father invested the majority of his money into the stock market which crashed on October 29, 1929, and led to the Great Depression. The Miller family lost everything and were forced to move to Brooklyn. After years of struggling to keep the business alive, the company went bankrupt and shut down in 1936.
Arthur was devastated and wanted to do whatever he could to help the family. He worked delivering bread while in high school to help. Arthur’s living through the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression definitely had a huge and permanent effect on him.. Themes around family life and making ends meet frequented his writing. After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1932 (Helene Stapinski), Arthur planned on going to college but needed a lot of things to go right in order to be able to afford it. After being accepted to the University of Michigan, he applied for a numerous amount of jobs and worked multiple ones to earn money for his tuition. While at Michigan, Miller submitted a script he wrote called ‘They Too Arise’ to the Federal Theatre Project.
A play readers labeled the script, “an unbearably dull play” and it was performed only once at the Federal Theatre on October 23, 1937. After finishing at the University of Michigan he joined the Federal Theatre Project as a writer for radio plays.By 1940, World War II was on the horizon for the U.S. and people were getting drafted in large numbers. Miller wasn’t drafted because of an injured knee. In the same year, Miller married a Catholic woman named Mary Slattery who he had known from college.
Four years later Miller released his script for the play ‘The Man Who Had All the Luck’. It was performed very few times, received terrible reviews, and was neglected by critics. On September 7, 1944, Arthur Miller and Mary Slattery give birth to a girl named Jane Ellen Miller. One year after he released a novel titled ‘Focus’ on anti-Semitism; the hatred towards Jewish people. In 1947, Miller and his wife had a second child, a boy named Robert. The same year Miller released a play called ‘All My Sons’, a drama-filled play about guilt and regret. It became a huge success and heavily impacted Miller’s career.
With positive reviews, it was performed numerous times and won Miller his first Tony Award.During the end of the 1940’s, Miller released his most famous play which was called ‘Death of a Salesman’. It won him a Pulitzer Prize for drama and earned over two million dollars. Miller’s next big hit was titled ‘The Crucible, which was a play released in 1953.
It was a dramatized story of the Salem witch trials and won him another Tony award for ‘Best Play’ and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award. (“Arthur Miller”)In 1955 Miller wrote a play called ‘A View From The Bridge’ which was about an Italian-American neighborhood near the Brooklyn Bridge. Although Miller didn’t earn much profit off of it, it served as a basis for Elia Kazan’s hit movie ‘On The Waterfront’. Miller and Kazan would collaborate multiple times over their lifetimes.The next year he was called before The House UnAmerican Activities Committee and asked to give names of friends that had taken part in political activities like he did. Miller refused and was found guilty of contempt of Congress.
The decision was later overturned on an appeal. This is the same year he divorced Mary Slattery after fifteen years of marriage. He later began an intimate relationship with Marilyn Monroe which led to marriage. She would later star in Miller’s next screenplay, ‘The Misfits’, in the beginning of 1960.
One year after the film’s release, Miller and Marilyn Monroe settled for a divorce. Miller gave attention to a beautiful Austrian woman named Inge Morath in 1962 who he would also marry and remain so until her death in 2002. They had two children, Rebecca and Daniel.In 1964, two years after Marilyn Monroe’s death, Miller wrote the play ‘After The Fall’ about his time with Marilyn Monroe. It was not well received by critics.In 1966 he wrote another play ‘The Price’.
It was about the family and the price of one’s decisions. It was his most successful play since ‘Death of a Salesman’.In the 1990’s he wrote three plays, The Ride Down Mt Morgan, The Last Yankee, and Broken Glass, none of which achieved widespread success.. Miller continued to write novels and plays until he passed away on February 10, 2005, from bladder cancer and congestive heart failure. He was buried in Roxbury, Connecticut where he had his studio and lived most of his adult life.Stapinski, Helene. “Arthur Miller’s Brooklyn.
” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Jan. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/01/24/nyregion/arthur-millers-brooklyn.html. “Arthur Miller, Legendary American Playwright, Is Dead.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 11 Feb.
2005, www.nytimes.com/2005/02/11/theater/arthur-miller-legendary-American-playwright-is-dead.html. “Arthur Miller Biography.
” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 10 Mar. 2017, www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/arthur-miller-none-without-sin/56/.Interviewed by Olga Carlisle and Rose Styron. “Arthur Miller, The Art of Theater No. 2.” The Paris Review, 12 June 2017, www.
theparisreview.org/interviews/4369/arthur-miller-the-art-of-theater-no-2-arthur-miller. “Walking with Arthur Miller.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 18 June 2017, www.
newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/walking-with-arthur-miller. Part 3:The play “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller has a considerable amount to say about American culture and in that way it impacts it. It is set in post World War II New York and features a family of four, the Lomans. (Willy, Linda, Biff, and Happy).
As the breadwinner, Willy displays all of the ambitions that go along with the American Dream. He wants to have success in the workplace and be considered a valued employee with the responsibilities and compensation to go along with it. Instead he feels held back and diminished and as a result, can’t afford to meet his family budget. There are no two cars in the driveway and dinners out frequently. Instead, he has an older model Chevy that breaks down and can barely afford to put food on the table, let alone eat out.Common of the American Dream, Willy and his wife Linda want a fine home with the mortgage paid off so they can achieve financial security.
Instead, Willy has to borrow money to make his house payments, is saddled with expensive plumbing repairs and has to reroute gas lines from his neighbor’s house in order to steal the gas necessary for his appliances. There is no trophy house with the finely manicured lawn for the Lomans.Willy also wants for his sons to excel and have a better life than he has. This is a typical desire of those seeking the American Dream.
He is happy that Biff is an exceptional football player and close to receiving an athletic scholarship to the University of Virginia, but then devastated when he flunks math and loses his “free ride.” So Biff misses out on college because he is not the remarkable student that Willy thought he should be. This, Willy believes, contributes to Biff’s lack of success in the workplace.
At age thirty-four, he lives at home and can’t stay employed. He seems aimless to Willy and seeks a rural environment far away from the city where fortunes are made.Finally, Willy wants to “keep up with the Joneses.” This is a common desire of post-war families right up until the present. Families want to keep up with the other families on their block in terms of material possessions.
Willy compares himself to his neighbor, Charley and his son Bernard. Charley has a successful business and his son is now a high powered attorney. The comparison is far apart when he compares himself and his sons to them. The same is true when he measures himself against his older brother, Ben. Now deceased, Ben had an incredible business career earning a fortune in other parts of the country and on far-off continents. Paradoxically, the closest Willy ever comes to “Keeping up with the Joneses” is when he takes his own life and with the insurance proceeds, his wife Linda can pay off the mortgage and all the past due bills achieving a sense of financial security.Part 4:Having read the play “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, I would have to say that it truly qualifies as a “timeless American Classic.” The reasons why are fairly simple.
First is longevity. It debuted in 1949 and remains today a popularly produced play, frequently acted out at all levels of theater, from high school and community, right up to Broadway and internationally. It has had several revivals on Broadway over the years, most recently in 2012, and continues to win awards and rave reviews.Why is “Death of a Salesman” still so popular and considered a classic? The main reason is relevance. Even today, almost 70 years after it first came out, many of the messages in the play remain applicable today.
Certainly, putting one’s career ahead of one’s family is a choice that Willy struggled with and so do we in the twenty-first century. Willy ended up ruining his health and ultimately his life as a result of sacrifices he made for his career. Willy worked for thirty-four years at one company and then he felt discarded when he was let go by his boss, Howard. Willy thought his boss was incompetent, if not stupid. Employees today, frequently describe their manager in unflattering ways and many work in temporary jobs without benefits because companies don’t want to pay for them. If the job assignment is completed, the workers can be easily terminated in a cost-effective manner. Very few workers stay employed long enough to get the “gold watch.
“Several of the other themes already mentioned previously remain relevant today, Certainly, “keeping up with the Joneses” remains a current desire. Most people want the same or better creature comforts and lifestyle of those they rub elbow with. And parents want their children to have it better and easier than they did. Ironically, while today’s parents want the same for their children, some have concluded that, possibly for the first time in history, that will not be possible. Infidelity and the treatment of women continue to be discussed in society.
This is particularly topical right now with all the resignations from Congress, movie production companies, television, and other prominent industries. Misogyny continues at the forefront of discussion in America, today.”Death of a Salesman” is a “timeless American Classic” because even eight decades later it continues to be produced to both commercial and critical acclaim for the sheer reason that its message today is as relevant as it ever was. Of the two reasons for being a classic, relevance has to be the most important one because, without relevance, there would have been no longevity.