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Death of a Salesman Quotes + Themes
Terms in this set (12)
Father + Son Roles/Relationships
Negative Pressures in the American (Western, Progressive) Dream
-->Disconnection w/ nature and our natures
-->Cannot accept help/safety net
-->Pressure to fit roles oppressive, results in dishonesty with those closest + selves
Gaining + Loss of Identity
"Willy: ... He cried! Cried to me. ... That boy --- that boy is going to be magnificent!"
Context at end of book, solidifying his decision to commit suicide b/c of a belief that this will bring his family comfort and closeness to the AD, ultimate goal - shows that no one could have helped him because this would have been the stronger case for just that - he was too far gone into AD and his own misconceptions.
"To suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off." Biff to Happy
Essentially captures the American Ideal and insinuates its flaws - the American live to work philosophy correspondant with hyper-capitalism. Stated by Biff to Happy as an indirect characterization addressing his experience with AD as well as introducing the contrast between brothers on this issue, built by their father's incorporation of AD.
Signaling to flashbacks: Leaves associated with glory days, Flute with Willy's father/family, The Woman's Laughter as guilt in his head, Diamonds w/ Ben bring his self-misunderstanding
In consistency, these signals initiate flashbacks but also tie them to broader, more affective themes.
"And thanks for the stockings. I love a lot of stockings...
[The Woman bursts out laughing, and Linda's laughter blends in...]
Linda: Just mending my stockings. They're so expensive-
Willy [angrily, taking them from her]: I won't have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!"
Context - Situational irony with discussing short on money, praising Linda as best and desire to kiss her - makes this act more revealing of his true values under the lies.
"Willy: Because you got a greatness in you, Biff, remember that. You got all kinds of greatness ...
Happy: I'm gonna get married, Mom. I wanted to tell you.
Linda: Go to sleep, dear.
Happy [going]: I just wanted to tell you."
Characterizes Willy's priority on both boys: Biff is golden boy and in attention ends up understanding self in AD better and changing. Happy is ignored and becomes similar to Willy but his better foil, mirroring Willy's development.
"Willy: ... if a man is building something he must be on the right track, mustn't he?
Ben: What are you building? Lay your hand on it. Where is it?"
Structurally interesting - partially in present, bringing in characters from past but not flashback - shows Miller's intentional manipulation of structure to this effect to explore the impact of AD on mind. Represents motif of Willy's misunderstanding of himself attributable to social conditioning screwing him over in respect to success and glory.
Something from pg. 75 for defining American Dream and values instilled by fathers
"(Biff wanting to hold to truth for once)
Willy: I'm not interested in stories about the past or any crap of that kind because the woods are burning, boys, you understand? There's a big blaze going on all around."
Deepens Willy's character by giving his perspective - he can't handle the truth because the truth is that he's always been in a downward spiral as a result of the incongruence between his AD and his capacities.
"Willy [anxiously]: Oh, I'd better hurry. I've got to get some seeds ... Nothing's planted. I don't have a thing in the ground."
Realizing that his major goal, a legacy for his sons has always been an illusion for his own security, raises urgency felt by readers as tension. Brings in motif of plants as this legacy, shapes meaning.
"I see it like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough, that I can pick up and touch in my hand."
Death glory (Sailor), theme of AD specifically concreteness of legacy as Willy's boon, the average american man's boon. Ironically leads him to suicide where he can't do shit to that end.
"We're free and clear [...] We're free [...] We're free ... We're free ..." Linda
Dramatic irony and intense placement in conclusion places emphasis on the legacy that he did end up leaving. It's intensely depressing that Willy's reasoning for suicide is right in a way, allowing more peace of mind than with him.
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