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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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How does Death of a Salesman relate to real life?

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In an interview, Arthur Miller spoke of an audience's reaction to Willy.  His words prove the relevance of the drama to real life as he described how the audience reacted:

[The audience members] were weeping because the central matrix of this play is ... what most people are up against in their lives.... they were seeing themselves, not because Willy is a salesman, but the situation in which he stood and to which he was reacting, and which was reacting against him, was probably the central situation of contemporary civilization. It is that we are struggling with forces that are far greater than we can handle, with no equipment to make anything mean anything.

In the end, the conception of the American Dream as one where there is financial security and emotional happiness as a result does not speak for the vast majority of modern Americans.  In a setting where financial insecurity is more present now than at any other time in recent history, at a time when consumer confidence is one of its lowest, and at a point where there is more fear about the future than optimism about it, Willy's predicament is more relevant now than ever before.  The idea behind the recent Occupy Wall Street movements is that "We are the 99%."  Willy's plight is this 99%.  His condition is one that speaks for more people than anything else.  His condition is one whereby that individuals do feel that they must do what they need to find financial security and equate monetary success to emotional happiness.  The need to sacrifice all upon the altar of material wealth becomes one of the most profound revelations that Willy experiences and one that is seen in the modern setting.  It is here whereby the play and drama relates to real life.

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