Death of a Salesman and David Glengarry Glen Ross

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Death of a Salesman and David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross

This paper thoroughly discusses how Miller’s play is a modern play according to the essay by Klage, and how Mamet’s play is a postmodern answer to Arthur Miller’s play.

Death of a Salesman and David Glengarry Glen Ross
Death of a Salesman and David Glengarry Glen Ross

Thesis statement: Miller gives emphasis to the character Willy Loman as a modern-day tragic hero who quests for self-identity as a result of the harsh outcome of the commercialized world. He creates a hero of modernism with an influence from the social movements during his era. As such, Arthur Miller revises the classical tragedy and the tragic hero in creating his subject of modern-day tragedy. Mamet and Miller in their plays both rely on much of the same thematic elements considering.

Death of a Salesman and David Glengarry Glen Ross by Arthur Miller is a modern play

The modernist views of Arthur Miller are apparent in the play’s characters as well as plot and are also underscored in the essay of Miller with regard to tragedy, wherein he supports the concept of a modern tragic hero. Miller’s play is a story of an average salesperson who has a dream of being well-liked and wealthy. It is a tragic story of Willy Loman, a salesperson, whose present and past are combined with expressionistic scenes. Even as tragedy is a classical notion, Arthur Miller reworks this notion and converts it into a modern concept. According to Klages, an important way which illustrates that Miller’s play is modern has to do with the notion that modern writers seek to maintain the concept that artworks can offer the coherence, unity, and meaning that has been lost in the majority of modern life – art would do that which other human institutions cannot do.

Miller’s play is a modern tragedy meaning that it follows the example of the classic Roman and Greek tragedies and Jacobean and Shakespearean tragedy. The play is modern in scope given that it actually frees itself from the need of providing a harmonizing end. In Death of a Salesman, the author redefines the tragic form. He implies that the natural hero of the tragedy is actually the man in the street, me and you – it is the person who is trying to gain his rightful place within the society (Miller 21). The life of a tragic hero should have an intensity. Arthur Miller noted that in Willy Lowman, the viewers can recognize the human passion to surpass his given limits, a fanatical insistence on his self-conceived role. According to Miller, a modern drama is capable of exploring just as profoundly the issues and themes that Shakespeare or Marlowe could explore but with the added punch of doing so by the use of the lives of ordinary citizens (Miller 27).

The suicide of Willy Loman serves to provide the unhappy ending that is necessary for classical tragedy. The nomadic childhood of Willy Lowman has left him feeling rather temporary regarding himself. He has never known a secure home, yet he is really fixated with providing one for his sons and Linda, and gradually more aware of his weaknesses as a father and as Linda’s husband. An entrenched need for reassurance and affection causes Willy Lowman to look for the companionship of other women while he is away on business. Willy Lowman also has the tendency of inflating his accomplishments so that he can gain approval from his sons and Linda, and Ben, father-substitute and older brother. In turn, this results in the self-deception that is, in fact, his fatal flaw (Miller 28). Miller’s Death of a Salesman basically exemplifies a modern tragedy in how it comprises people who are ordinary. Willy Loman has an everyman attribute about him considering that he just a regular person – not a ruler or a king – and members of the audience can identify with him. Loman finds himself placed in the circumstances of measuring up to an impracticable standard. Loman is cursed by the situation in which he lives. This way, the play is a modern tragedy due to its applicability and the way in which Loman is actually every person in the society. It is worth mentioning that modern tragedy is universal in terms of its applicability, and Loman is without doubt applicable to every person and any person who dreams.

Death of a Salesman and David Glengarry Glen Ross as a postmodern answer to Miller’s play

Mamet and Miller in their plays both rely on much of the same thematic elements considering that the two plays examine the effect of capitalism on the family, communication, the disparagement of women, as well as how the system bolters some men to an alpha position and weakens others. As a result of its treatment of the lives of salesmen, Glengarry Glen Ross drew a lot of comparisons to Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. David Mamet’s play builds on Miller’s play and argues the same overarching message: that capitalism serves to destroy the ability of people to function naturally as decent humans. They instead become mere working components wherein humanity has to learn to operate under circumstances that are not natural. While Miller in Death of a Salesman uses the unrewarding hard work of the sales career as fodder for tragedy, David Mamet’s take on the subject is far more savage. Miller in his play essentially lauds the death of the American Dream. On the other hand, Mamet’s play takes this death of the American Dream and utilizes it as a basis for deeper social criticism.

Shelly Levene is highly popular once his company, Glengarry Glen Ross, nicknames him The Machine because he sold very well. Levene was able to sell so much previously in the good old days. However, since the company is currently undergoing significant risks in sales to step up its game, Shelly Levene falls back so behind in his luck that is unable to even have enough money to pay for gas. He is now a man without any money to afford anything. As a result of his desperation, he steals leads from his own company and gets imprisoned for this theft. Therefore, Shelly Levene, just like Willy Loman in Miller’s play, loses his American Dream the moment times start to change, the American economy becomes harsher, and considerable social transformations bring extreme pressure. Similarly, just like Loman, Levene represents the average, ordinary American citizen – the individual who actually does his/her best to achieve certain services and goods, but who eventually gives them up as a result of the change in the tides of a highly unpredictable capitalist world.

Some people do well within a capitalist system, a lot of people get by and a lot of people thrive, but there are still other people who are not able to survive, people who lack the personal capacities to succeed in a capitalist world. These individuals are the Levens, Lingks, and the Lomans of society. In Miller’s play, Linda explains best who these people are by describing Loman as not the best character that has ever lived. Rather, Linda states that Willy Loman is a human being and a terrible thing is actually occurring to him (Miller 31). That is really what David Mamet and Arthur Miller want people to know. There are individuals who are really finding it not easy to function as humans since they are living lives for a moneymaking system. These people have to navigate between attempting to act like human beings and striving to act like components to a machine, and as illustrated in Miller’s play and later on in Mamet’s play, the capitalist system actually takes its toll on their humanity.

Death of a Salesman and David Glengarry Glen Ross Work Cited

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. 2000. Print.

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