Arthur Miller was born in New York City on October 17, 1915. His career as a playwright began while he was a student at the University of Michigan. Several of his early works won prizes, and during his senior year, the Federal Theatre Project in Detroit performed one of his works. He produced his first great success called All My Sons in 1947. Two years later, Miller wrote Death of a Salesman, which won the Pulitzer Prize and transformed Miller into a national sensation. This play is known as the first great American tragedy, and Miller achieved greatness as a man who understood the deep aspect of the United States. He published The Crucible in 1953, a searing statement of the anti-communist hysteria that infused 1950s America. He has won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award twice, and his Broken Glass in 1993 won the Olivier Award for best play of the London Season.
The basis for the dramatic conflict in Death of a Salesman lies in Arthur Millerr’s conflicted relationship with his uncle, Manny Newman who is also a salesman. Newman imagined a continuous competition between his son and Miller. Newman refused to accept failure and demanded the appearance of utmost confidence in his household. In his youth, Miller had written a short story about an unsuccessful salesman. His relationship with Manny revived his interest in the rejected manuscript. He transformed the story into one of the most successful dramas in the history of the American stage. In expressing the emotions that Manny Newman inspired through the fictional character of Willy Loman, Miller managed to touch deep chords within the civil mind.
Death of a Salesman addresses the painful conflicts within one family, but it also tackles larger issues regarding to American national values. The play examines the cost of blind faith in the typical American dream. In this respect, it offers a postwar American reading of a personal tragedy. Death of a Salesman is a powerful drama, its indictment of fundamental American values of material success may seem somewhat harmless in todayr’s age of consent national and individual self-analysis and criticism, but its challenge was quite radical for its time. After World War II ended in 1945, the United States faced serious and unforgiving tensions and conflicts.
However, the economic situation was not improved for the poorest Americans during this time. The economic boom in the late 1940s brought high inflation, which kept poorer citizens from saving any money, and small farmers faced hard times because of government policies that benefited larger, corporate farmers. The lowest-paid workers in the country were the migrant farm workers, with sales clerks and unskilled laborers not far above them. Happy as a sales clerk and Biff being a farm worker, each of them struggling to maintain their honor. Because Americans felt so secure in their newfound inflation, they began using credit cards to purchase the products and services they needed. Willy Loman suffers from the effects of relying too much on credit, struggling to keep up his payments while trying to provide the necessities for his family.
Although the war had seemingly lead to an unusual sense of American confidence, success and security, the United States became involved in a tense cold war with the Soviet Union. Americans felt obligated to achieve financial success, both as a way of defeating the Soviets and as a way to show their thanks for the freedom they were honored to possess by faith of living in a democratic society. The propagation of myths of a peaceful and consistent American golden age was weakened by constant anxiety about communism, harsh national conflict, and largely ignored economic and social stratification. Many Americans could not sign up to the extent of social conformity and the subjective cultural belief that a rich, thriving, timid rural middle-class upholded. Willyr’s preoccupation with his financial status and his position in society reflect this Cold War attitude.
The Great Depression and World War II led to major changes in the quality of the American government, beginning with President Franklin D. Rooseveltr’s New Deal. The government became larger and more influential in the daily lives of American citizens. Instead of being a nation of rugged individuals, the United States became a nation of people who wished greatly for acceptance by their peers, which meant that they needed to appear successful in the eyes of society. Willy displays this wish for acceptance in his preoccupation with being well liked, which he views as the ultimate measure of success. Willy Loman, have no traditional sense of character because they look to other people to determine their self-image. This idea is reflected in Biffr’s comment at the end of the play when he says that Willy didnt know who he really was.