Is there a connection between "Sonny's Blues," and Death of a Salesman?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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There is a common theme that runs through both James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues," and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.

In "Sonny's Blues," Sonny is a man whose life is founded on dreams rather than reality: he wants to be a musician. While music feeds Sonny's soul, he does not function well within society. He does not have a regular job, and over through years of searching for his place in the world, he becomes addicted to heroin.

Willy Loman, in Death of a Salesman, is another man whose life is based upon the illusive fabric of dreams. Willy is in his sixties and is a traveling salesman. The world has changed since he began his career thirty years earlier, but he cannot reconcile what his world once was and what it has become. His inability to separate the reality from his outdated perceptions causes him to be dissatisfied and depressed.

Willy also believes his son Biff is an important young man with a great deal of potential. This is based upon the memory of Biff as a star football player whose life was on its way to a glorious career in sports. The truth, which Willy never fully addresses, is that Biff failed math in his senior year: he did not graduate from high school. The hopes Biff and his father had were not realized, but Willy has lost sight of this.

While Sonny's dreams uplift him when he is able to play his music, Willy has no sense of satisfaction at any time. Sonny eventually ends up in jail because of his drug use, but Willy takes his own life as he becomes more and more disenchanted with life and his unrealistic, empty dreams.


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