Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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How is Miller's Death of a Salesman a Modernist play ?

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Miller's work can be seen as an example of Modernism in a couple of ways.  One of the most fundamental is the play's rejection of totality or the structure that professed to provide guidance.  In this case, the American Dream is under indictment.  Much of Modernism is focused on the idea that the presence of structures such as national identity or spirituality are empty and exercises in futility because "human relations have shifted," according to Woolf.  In much of the...

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Another aspect of the modernism of the play is the rejection of strict chronology of time. The play is punctuated by arrival's on to the stage by people from Willy's past, via his memories. There is a conjunction of present and past brought about by Willy's mental rambling.

This complication of past and present is also represented in the dialogue between Willy and his sons. Often Willy's thought processes divert into the past and the conversation with his sons becomes split. The sons think that Willy is talking about a certain topic, whilst Willy is actually, through delusion, talking about something from his past. Whilst the characters seem unable to understand this disjunct, the audience is aware. The audience is given an insight into the fractured and intractable nature of Willy's mental state and, therefore, his relationships.

Miller brings Willy's fractured and wandering thoughts to bear on the stage through modernist techniques of tangible memory relapses manifested by physical people and dysfunctional conversation.

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