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Jason Koch
1302 A
November 15, 1995
The Tragedy of One Man

Arthur Miller\'s Death of a Salesman can be seen as an eulogy of a dreamer, which depicts one man\'s tragic life and death as he tries to bring his family into grace. Miller does, however, also uses this play to express underlying themes and ideas. Reading Death of a Salesman from the starting point of a Marxist results in the perception that miller uses his play as a means to demonstrate the effects of a changing capitalist society. On the other hand, a psychological reading of Death of a Salesman allows the play to be seen as one mans flight from shame and his own weakened self image. The Marxist perspective is a viable reading of this drama but it does not truly define it as a tragedy. To better understand this piece of literature as a tragedy one should observe the psychological reading which depicts the tragedy of one man.
Many people wonder if Willy is really responsible for his own death, or is he, as Luke Carrol put it in the Herald Tribune, " a pathetic little man caught in an undertow that\'s too strong for him." Willy Loman is bewildered by a capitalist system which drives it\'s men into frantic, all consuming dreams of success, doomed not only by their grandiosity but also their inherent contradictoriness.
Willy\'s dreams of success are rooted in the concept of the "American Dream", which is the

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idea that this is a land of unlimited opportunity in which any ragamuffin can attain riches and any mother\'s son can become president (Hadomi 159). This concept of success is personified by two characters in the play: David Singleman and Ben Loman. The first an old sales man, David Singleman, who could travel anywhere and place many order by phone in his hotel room. And when this man died at the age of eighty-four people came from all over to attend his funeral. This is the type of man Willy aspires to become and this is why he chose sales as his occupation. Ben, Willy\'s older brother, is another symbol of the ruthless success Willy tries to reach in his life. "There was the only man I ever met " Willy says, "Who knew all the answers"(Meyer 1734). Willy has treasured up the memory of Ben until it is more real to him than any of the people in his life. The character of Ben materializes again and again in the play as Willy savors his favorite brag: "When I was seven-teen I walked into the jungle and when I was twenty-one I walked out. and by God I was rich"(Meyer 1732).
The statement ,"Rich", echoes throughout the play as Willy is railroaded by a capitalist system as he strives to reach his dreams. Willy Loman desperately want to believe that he has succeeded, that he is "well liked"and a great salesman. But at the age of sixty- three and nearing retirement, Willy is seen as a man who gave all of his life to a business, only to be thrown in the scrap-heap and as a house holder whose pattern of life was interwoven with installment plans with which he could hardly catch up.
In another time, Willy Loman might have been a happy carpenter. He can put up a ceiling which his brother-in-law, Charley, lauds as a "piece a work". Dreaming of a rustic retirement, Willy hopes to build guest houses on his yearned-for country land for Biff and Happy: "Cause I got so many fine tools, all I\'d need would be a little lumber and some peace of mind"(Meyer 1743). On

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the morning of the day which ends with his suicide, he admires his own house: "All the cement, the lumber, the reconstruction put in this house. There ain\'t a crack to be found in it any more"(Meyer 1744). Belittling Charlie, Willy says, "A man who can\'t handle tools is not a man"(Meyer 1730).
But it is important to note that carpentry is no more his work in the world than it is Charley\'s. Willy marches in Karl Marx\'s army of alienated labor, performing work that is "not personal to him, is not part of his nature ; therefore