14 Pall Mart Belgravia London SW10 Pier 4 Hickson Road Walsh Bay NSW 2000 I write to you to propose the production of Arthur Miller’s classic “Death of a Salesman. ” As the title suggests, the book is about the death of a salesman named Willy Loman. However, through my production, it is not the inevitable ending that will be remembered by the audience. It will be the processes that led to Willy’s conflicted mind that will resonate in the audience’s mind.
The underlying values of blind faith in the american dream and the narrow-minded definition of success, which are exemplified in Willy Loman, combine to form an example of a self-inflicted demise. However, through my production, the reasons behind Willy’s adherence to these values, which are Uncle Ben and Linda, demand the question whether Willy is a tragic or pathetic figure. All these factors that lead to Willy’s demise, will be depicted in the dramatic techniques of characterisation, setting, costumes and props.
What I will achieve is the audience psychoanalysing Willy Loman, to answer whether Willy’s death was self-inflicted or rather a reflection on the overwhelming, uncontrollable nature of his life. The audience will also engage in the play because of the modern relevance that I will convey. The death of Willy is not only physical but it is also the death of the American capitalism, the ideals that Willy adheres to. This is applicable to the 21st century, as American suffers from an economic recession.
However, at a personal level, the processes that lead to the death of capitalism such as overwhelming pressure to succeed, can also relate to the audience. The setting used in the play will be used to reinforce the internal and external factors that led to the conflicted mind of Willy Loman. The city pressures that Willy endure are represented by “towering, angular shapes behind [Willy’s house], surrounding it on all sides. The roofline of the house is one-dimensional; under and over it we see the apartment buildings. Wherever Willy Loman looks are these encroaching buildings. The uncompromising nature of the American Dream is represented as an external factor, which led to his downfall. This use of setting will be contrasted by the furnishings in his house, a place within Willy Loman’s control. Willy’s kitchen has a table with three chairs instead of four reveals both Linda Loman’s unequal status in the family and Willy’s obsession with his boys. Lighting will be used. At the end of Act 1, Biff comes downstage “into a golden pool of light” as Willy recalls the day of the city baseball championship when Biff was “like a young God.
Hercules – something like that. And the sun, the sun all around him. ” The pool of light both establishes the moment as one of Willy’s memories and suggests how he has inflated the past, given it mythic dimension. This obsession with the boys portrays Willy’s value of “if you are well liked, you will succeed” and foreshadows the mental turmoil that will arise once his definition of success is negated. Costuming will also reinforce Willy Loman’s obsession with the boys and his view on success. Willy should be in his shirt-sleeves, sans coat and tie. A fine quality suit — of course, for appearances are everything, to Willy — but uninspired. Biff should be dressed in varsity sweater and athletic pants, with the infamous printed sneakers, and Happy in, probably, shirt and knickers. Drab grey or earth tones for Willy, the tired salesman, but brighter colours for his ideal sons: a blue jacket with red letter for Biff, the all-American boy, and a grey and lighter blue outfit for Happy, showing youth and promise that is perceived by Willy.
Props will be used as a beacon of reactions from the audience both in support and dissapproval of his actions. The seeds represent the worth of his labour, both as a salesman and a father. His desperately hopeless attempt to grow vegetables signifies his shame about barely having enough money to put food on the table. The seeds symbolise Willy’s sense of failure with Biff, Willy’s efforts to cultivate Biff went awry and realising that his American football-star of a son is just a lazy nobody who achieved nothing, Willy takes Biff’s failure and lack f ambition as a reflection of his abilities as a father, shown by “Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground. ” The connotations of the seeds can be both reacted with a sense of sympathy towards Willy’s failure as a father and salesman but also a criticism on his parenting skills, especially on Biff. The tape recorder in the play is also used to represent the end of Willy’s career. It is introduced when Howard no longer needs Willy’s services and without concern fires him. This, to Willy, was like, “eating the orange and throwing away the peel”.
The tape recorder instills sympathy to the audience over the uncompromising nature of the American dream but is also a criticism of Willy, who does not accept change and clings onto the past. However, characterisation is definitely the most important technique. The characters of Uncle Ben and Linda shape and maintain Willy’s views of life and are therefore, the force behind his actions mentioned above. Uncle Ben is the enforcer of the American dream and the definition of success in Willy Loman.
He will be represented in the play as only a tape recorder when Willy communicates with him, repeating the line “When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich! ” This is the only memory of Uncle Ben in Willy’s mind and would result in the audience questioning, that despite the superficiality of Uncle Ben’s views, isn’t Willy enabled to reject that view and adopt a new one? Linda will also be approached as an ambivalent character.
Despite exhibiting the positive quality of an “iron repression of her exceptions to Willy’s behaviour”, Linda does not at all try to convince Willy to regain a new perspective on life, but rather instills him with a false sense of confidence and leaves him to believe in Uncle Ben’s views. Therefore, “Death of a Salesman” is a play of ambivalence, where there are no heroes or villains but rather a man faced with a conflicted mind, shaped by internal and external factors. This aspect of the play will be exploited in my theatre production and will challenge the audience about whether Willy is a tragic or pathetic figure.