Death of a Salesman: Context – Quick Questions

Death of a Salesman is written by Arthur Miller. Miller was born in NYC in 1915. He was a psychological and social dramatist, concerned with character, motive and behaviour of ordinary people. In this sense, DOAS exemplified his type of work.

General:

  1. In what time was Death of a Salesman composed?

American Dream:

  1. What is the American Dream? What does it value?
  2. How does it define failure and success?
  3. What is Miller’s criticism of the American Dream?
  4. Which character/s represent the American Dream in Death of a Salesman?

Social Context:

  1. How was the American economy after the end of WW2 in 1945? How were the poorer Americans (represented by Happy and Biff) affected?
  2. Why was there a sudden increase in the use of credit? How did Willy suffer from this?
  3. Although the US emerged from WWII as a “superpower”, their success was fraught with constant anxiety about communism as they continued a tense Cold War with the Soviet Union.  If so, why was perpetuating the values of financial and societal success (and the myth of the American Dream) so important to the US (and to Willy)?
  4. Why was Willy preoccupied with being “well liked”? Why did Biff say at the end that Willy “didn’t know who he was”? Why was the issue of identity and social conformity pertinent to Americans during this time? What had changed?

Links:

Historical Context for Death of a Salesman

The Context of Death of a Salesman

SparkNotes: Death of a Salesman: Context

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