In his article “Death of a Salesman, Life of a Jew: Ethnicity, Business and the Character of Willy Loman,” writer Bert Cardullo argues that the play has numerous flaws in the drama that were created by the competing intentions of the playwright in making the protagonist…
Although this seems to complicate the issue unnecessarily, it seems necessary that he explain first why the play is such an international favorite if it has the kind of deep flaws that he criticizes it for. According to Cardullo, what carries the play through its flaws is the strength of its ideas. Its focus on the concept of the quintessential American salesman who does not sell products but instead sells himself, who does not own things but yet purchases them and who does not battle against an enemy but struggles against an impartial system lacking in understanding and compassion is a strong idea that appeals to many within a capitalistic system.
After acknowledging the play’s strength, the author then moves on to his criticism, starting with the nuts and bolts of the play. The first element he criticizes is the diction Miller places in the mouths of his characters. Although they are lower middle class and should speak with a well-known diction, they frequently break out of expected vocabulary for this class in unexpected, and often too flowery, ways. This had never particularly struck me as an issue in the play, but as Cardullo quoted some of the statements that are made, it does sound false coming from these characters. Their vocabulary is too fancy and their grammar is too correct for their level of education, their class of life, their living environment and their professional position.
Another area in which Cardullo takes offense with the play is in the thematic development. A great deal of the play rests on the idea that Willy’s life is ending in an overall lack of success as a result of a failed business system and a slipping mind. However, as Cardullo points out, there are numerous inconsistencies shown throughout the flashbacks that Willy’s mind has been slipping for a long time, perhaps never having been fully capable. This point is proved as Cardullo traces ...
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