How might a play like Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman be said to reflect the questions that many social critics were asking about mass American culture in the 1950s?

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Arthur Miller and his collaborators closely worked together to reveal the evolving problems that were resulting from American mass culture in the 40s and 50s. Narratively, Miller's play works to reveal the heroes of the middle class. Miller described his working class heroes in an article in the New York...

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Arthur Miller and his collaborators closely worked together to reveal the evolving problems that were resulting from American mass culture in the 40s and 50s. Narratively, Miller's play works to reveal the heroes of the middle class. Miller described his working class heroes in an article in the New York Times in 1949:

But there are among us today, as there always have been, those who act against the scheme of things that degrades them, and in the process of action everything we have accepted out of fear of insensitivity or ignorance is shaken before us and examined, and from this total onslaught by an individual against the seemingly stable cosmos surrounding us-from this total examination of the "unchangeable" environment-comes the terror and the fear that is classically associated with tragedy

Miller sets his characters up against an "unchangeable" environment that is determined to upend their efforts. His working class men and women work to build families of substance, but their efforts are often undercut by the systemic forces of modernity. 

There are other elements within the play that point to the cultural changes occurring in the 40s and 50s. Specifically, the original set designer, Jo Mielziner, created a famous set that personified the "selective realism" style of scenic design. On one level, the set design of the play is realistic. There is a kitchen with tangible objects the actors touch. It is familiar to an audience. However, on the other hand, the set is suggestive of the cultural context outside the play. The outlier elements of the set are modern and resemble the tough, totalitarian environment these characters live within. At every moment, the audience is reminded of the social context that works to upend even the best intentions of the working man or woman. 

How does a working man find happiness in a culture based around mass production? Is there room for the individual within mass production? These questions are asked by social critics, but also by Miller and his collaborators in Death of a Salesman

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