Death of a Salesman, one of the most respected plays ever written, is an example of Arthur Miller’s dramatic realism. Death of a Salesman established Arthur Miller as an important playwright with its first production in 1949. It won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Critics Circle Award for Best Play in 1949. Death of a Salesman also received Tony Awards in both the 1949 and 1999 productions. Death of a Salesman combines elements of Arthur Miller’s personal history with his interest in dramatic realism to create a piece that is deeply moving and important for all audiences regardless of generation or culture.
Although Death of a Salesman has some realistic qualities, some critics argue it goes beyond simple realism and becomes something more meaningful. Arthur Miller was born October 17, 1915, on the East side of Manhattan in New York City to Isidore and Augusta Miller. His father was an electrical engineer who worked full-time at Macy’s department store while also attending night school to learn English. He had emigrated from Russia when he was thirteen years old; his mother left Russia at about the same time but to escape her sisters whom she did not like.
Arthur was the first son of his parents’ second set of children; five older siblings had already been born. Isidore and Augusta were busy with their large family but maintained a loving relationship through their marriage. Miller grew up in a deeply religious Jewish home, going to Hebrew school three times a week and celebrating all major holidays as a traditional observant Jew would celebrate them. Miller was fascinated by stories about his ancestors from Russia, who had escaped persecution and made lives for themselves in America as tailors or seamstresses or garment workers.
Death of a Salesman is based on these experiences from Miller’s upbringing, but also from more personal events such as Arthur’s own brief career as a salesman, the suicide of his college friend, and his marriages. Arthur Miller went to high school at Stuyvesant High School in New York City where he was miserable because of the intensity of his studies. He stayed there for two years before transferring to City College for one year until he dropped out in 1933 without having completed any course work there.
Although Death of a Salesman is not an autobiographical play, it does contain elements inspired by Arthur Miller’s own life experiences. Death of a Salesman is both realistic and theatrical at the same time; this combination allows Death of a Salesman to be popular with all audiences regardless of generation or culture. As Salzman points out in Arthur Miller: The Definitive Biography , Death of a Salesman is a combination of Arthur Miller’s “interest in the influence of history, psychology, and politics on individuals” and his own personal background.
Death of a Salesman reflects these interests while also going beyond them to address larger cultural issues. Death of a Salesman shows the economic uncertainty that people were feeling during this time period but also deals with social and individual problems such as lack of communication between fathers and sons and the ignorance engendered by American culture. Arthur Miller met his future wife, Mary Grace Slattery, in an elevator when they were both students at the University of Michigan School of Drama in 1938.
She was finishing her degree there and he had just transferred to work on his MFA degree after having graduated from the University of Michigan. He and Mary were married on September 12, 1940, in a simple civil ceremony at the Municipal Building of New York City after their graduation from school. Death of a Salesman was written during this time of Arthur Miller’s life; he had graduated from the Dramatic Workshop and had begun writing plays for Federal Theatre Project such as All My Sons (1947). Death of a Salesman is Arthur Miller’s best known work and it provides an excellent example of his technique and style.
Arguably Death of a Salesman transcends simple realism by providing universal themes that speak to all people regardless of generation or culture. Death of a Salesman tells the story about Willy Loman who struggles with what has been lost in American society. In Death of a Salesman Miller challenges the traditional form of “well-made play” by including non-realistic elements such as Willy Loman’s visions and flashbacks to previous experiences. Death of a Salesman is a realistic play whose theatricality undercuts this realism so that Death of a Salesman can be enjoyed by everyone, not simply those interested in drama or literature.
The simplicity of Death of a Salesman allows it to be accessible enough for anyone to understand; but its realism makes it meaningful for people who want something more profound than stereotypical entertainment choices such as comedies or romantic movies. Death of a Salesman was written during Arthur Miller’s own life experiences and speaks volumes about Arthur Miller as a person and as a playwright. Death of a Salesman provides insight into Arthur Miller as well as the social climate of post-war America.
Death of a Salesman reflects the experiences that Arthur Miller had during his life but also speaks to universal themes such as relationships between fathers and sons, women’s economic opportunities after WWII, and American culture in general. Death of a Salesman remains popular with all generations regardless of cultural or societal differences because Death of a Salesman is both realistic and theatrical at the same time. Death of a Salesman is accessible enough for anyone to understand without being preachy; but its realism allows everyone to find something relevant within Death of a Salesman regardless of age or gender.
Death of a Salesman transcends simple realism by providing universal themes that speak to all people regardless of generation or culture. Death of a Salesman is Arthur Miller’s best play and it continues to be relevant for all generations. Death of A Salesman was written during Arthur Miller’s marriage with Mary Slattery, whom he would divorce in 1960. Death of a Salesman shows the uncertainty that was felt after World War II because Salzman claims that Death of a Salesman was “conceived during the war years but not fully realized until several years later”.
Death of a Salesman can also be seen as commentary on American culture because Wiewel writes Death of a Salesman shows “Willy Loman’s inability or refusal to adjust his life to new post-war realities”. Death of a Salesman speaks volumes about Arthur Miller as a person and as a playwright. Death of a Salesman provides insight into Arthur Miller as well as the social climate of post-war America. Death of a Salesman reflects the experiences that Arthur Miller had during his life but also speaks to universal themes such as relationships between fathers and sons, women’s economic opportunities after WWII, and American culture in general.