Death of a Salesman Flashbacks in Arthur Essay

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Death of a Salesman

Flashbacks in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Why flashbacks are important in Death of a Salesman

Why Miller wanted to call Salesman 'in his head'

How flashbacks advance the plot

Flashbacks: from Willy's point-of-view and audience's point-of-view

Ben: Easy promise of wealth in diamond mines

Biff: Early promise lost, devastation to Willy's self-esteem

How to characterize Salesman

Why play is naturalistic (flashbacks) not realistic

Why it is not a tragedy

Flashbacks in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller originally wanted to call what eventually became Death of a Salesman "In His Head." Although he chose another title, the interior nature of Miller's conception of the dramatic action is evident in the final version of the work. Using flashbacks throughout the play, Miller deploys a novelistic device to help the viewer understand why Willy Loman decides to kill himself and why it is so important to Willy that his family gets his life insurance money. Willy finds it difficult to communicate with his sons and his wife, so without the use of flashbacks, Willy would be a cipher to the viewer.

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The flashbacks are clearly told from Willy's point-of-view, although they also show the limits of his point-of-view. Consider Ben, Willy's brother, who intrudes into the action to talk about the money he made in diamond mines. Willy's fantasy of making a large amount of money becomes clear: Ben 'struck it rich,' so Willy believes he is owed a living in the same fashion as well. Willy believes in the American dream that even a 'low-man' like himself can make his fortune, provided he finds the right scheme.

TOPIC: Essay on Death of a Salesman Flashbacks in Arthur Assignment

Unlike Bernard, who is encouraged to work hard and becomes a lawyer, Willy's sons Happy and Biff are not taught to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. Instead, they are encouraged to avoid hard work, and to cheat and try to find ways 'around' the system to succeed. Biff, until he is crushed upon learning of his father's infidelity, tries to plead his way out a failing math grade -- Happy blames his boss for his failure to advance in his current position, not his own lack of initiative. The viewer can see how Ben planted the idea of easy success in Willy's mind, but can also see the foolish, unrealistic, and self-destructive nature of Willy's false version of the American dream. The sons' early hubris and success at being 'popular' in high school, particularly Biff's on-stage embodiment of the ideal high school football star in a flashback, do not translate into lasting success. The viewer witnesses the present-day Biff's sense of unhappiness and purposelessness.

The flashbacks also reveal critical aspects of the past, like Biff's encounter with Willy in a motel room. The flashback is more meaningful to Biff than to Willy. Willy relates the flashback as it flashes through his mind, but the viewer can also see by Biff's later reactions that he decided to forego college because… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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