What is the relevance of Death of a Salesman in modern America?Would Miller write the same play today?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Miller's play is as relevant in America today as it was when it was written. In fact, because of the current downturn in the American economy, with the continuing loss of millions of jobs, Willy's distress in losing his job and having no income is especially understandable. His suicide, the purpose of which is to secure money for his family through the proceeds of his insurance, shows the depth of Willy's hopelessness and depression.

Beyond this similarity, however, lies a deeper sense of relevance that concerns American social values. In his play, Miller shows an American society in which success equals money, and success alone serves as the yardstick against which a man's value is measured. Willy lives in the world of business competition; he succeeds only when he dominates the competition to get the sale. The pressure to succeed is so great that he will do whatever is necessary to come out on top--even romancing a secretary and bribing her with nylon stockings to get past her desk and into the boss's office. The play develops the idea that Willy is not, however, the exception to the rule; he is a reflection of the materialistic society that has produced him. Moral values and personal integrity have no meaning in Willy's competitive business world. Only success, as measured in money, is valued, with the result that Willy and his family are destroyed in several different ways.

The current business climate in the United States, with the almost-daily revelations of greed and corruption, suggests that the "Success Equals Money With No Moral Brakes" theme of the play is still quite relevant.

 

ptobey's profile pic

ptobey | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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What is the relevance of Death of a Salesman in modern America?

Would Miller write the same play today?

The relevance of this play increases with each passing decade. As America continues to thrive on superficial values and behaviors, we witness more characters like Willy than Miller did in the late 1940's. The growth of the world wide web and its impact on sales and sales culture have made that industry more competitive and perhaps many more victims like Willy have been  left in its emergence. The character that Miller would create now would perhaps have been college educated to some degree and maybe even have had his father present for his adolescence and young adulthood. Still he would be oblivious to his deep rooted insecurities and follow vigorously the empty commercial values that he does in 1949.

lalitmawkin's profile pic

lalitmawkin | College Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

I am glad at the two highly intelligent responses received to my question--

I wish more and more people contribute their thought on the subject which is highly relevant in today's market coditions the world over--and all countries are looking at redefining the rules of the game for a stable economic system-

Arthur miller's play becomes relevant for the people who are not able to make it in such a scenarioo--

Undobtedly,there will be a lot of living examples in america of such cases who have been thrown out of the system--

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