In the play Death of a Salesman how has the neighborhood changed?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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 Death of a Salesman's stage directions give us a glimpse of how the Loman's neighborhood has changed over the years.

Only the blue light of the sky falls upon the house...the surrounding area shows an angry glow of orange..we see a solid vault of apartment houses around the small, fragile-seeming house.

When we consider that the house is nearly paid for, and that Willy is of a retirement age, the conclusion is that there have been over three decades of changes occurring around the neighborhood including overpopulation, the need for construction, and the urbanization of what once was a much smaller and desolate area.

Willy consistently complaints about the traffic, the lack of clean air, and the fact that millions of trees that once surrounded their home with wisterias, lilac, and other plants, had to be destroyed in order to build more apartments.  Willy reminisces also on the lack of space that they are suffering from these days

There's more people! That's what's ruining this country!...Population is out of control! ...The competition is maddening! Smell the stink from that apartment house. And another one on the other side!!!

Within its historical context, the play takes place during the economic boom of the 1940s which brought with it inflation as well as the stagnation of the poorer economic sectors. The Lomans represent the fragment of the population that is left behind with the sudden boom of businesses and other industries.

Like their fragile-looking home, they too seem to be engulfed within the looming brownstones and new developments that represent the speed with which society shifts. Hence, the once-peaceful neighborhood where the Lomans once had an Elm tree, a garden, and a tire swing from which both Biff and Willy used to dangle is now a jammed, overpopulated place with traffic, pollution, and construction everywhere. It is a sign of the changing times.


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