Arthur Miller the Death of a Salesman: Social Conflict

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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Overview of the social conflict

In the play The Death of a Salesman, the author reveals the inhuman nature of society, which has forgotten about the common person. Truly tragic is the fate of Willie Lomen in the world to which he devotedly served. The play shows us how the society turned away from the aged salesman. Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman highlights a challenge to the American dream. It is known that to be an American means to enjoy a life of equality, plenty and happiness.

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Destruction of the ‘American dream’ myth

The fact is, no American should get lost or even die an unlamented death. The Declaration of Independence states that ‘we believe that all men are born with these inalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ It consists of a true and certain belief that in America, all things are possible to all people, regardless of birth or wealth. Moreover, if you work hard enough you will achieve anything you want. Despite this fact, the author of the play believes that people have been ‘ultimately misguided’, and The Death of a Salesman is a real destruction of the current myth.

Examples of social conflict

It would be appropriate to set some examples of social conflict of the main character. The tragedy of the main character of the play, Willy Loman, is that he ‘‘gave his life, or sold it, in order to justify the waste of it…’’ The character of Willy Loman represents each low-man in America. The play is obviously a challenge to the American Dream because it is the tragedy of a man disturbed by the society. As a result, the dream of Willy Loman ends in nightmare. Due to these examples, we can see that the play challenges to new American capitalistic concepts.

More to note, the play is like a red light to an American society. The Death of a Salesman reviews that Americans dream for success. According to the play, people want to become famous and rich. However, if they fail to achieve their dreams, they become frustrated. It is clearly shown in the play that it is the tragedy of each American citizen.

All in all, Miller had a chance to show the failure of the American dream in the play. Furthermore, the author shows us an American man, who has got great emotions and feelings. On the example of the main character, the author tells us that a human is not a machine. However, putting all efforts on becoming rich is also wrong. The whole situation he sums up in Biff’s remark who says on his father’s death: “He had the wrong dream. All, all wrong.”

Harlem Renaissance: Hurston & Hughes

Zora Hurston and Langston Hughes both view their different and unique perspectives of post slavery life and black culture. I Too by Langston Hughes will be compared to How It Feels To Be Colored Me by Zora Hurston.


Hughes and Hurston differently interpret the theme through their own views and values. These differences can be attributed to various reasons that range from gender to life experience. Even though they had different understanding concerning the African American experience, both authors shared one common goal and racial equality through their poems.

For example, Langston Hughes admits a theory that blacks had to be separated from other people in society. Also, Hughes refers to himself as singing America and then being America significantly referring to the end of segregation and discrimination. In his poem, he shows the reader that the speaker is ‘proud to be black.’ Additionally, the poem provides an overview of the relations of African Americans with the other American citizens or, shortly speaking, the relations of the Blacks with the Whites.

African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston argues that race is not an essential feature for a person to be born with, but instead emerges in specific social contexts. In the beginning, How It Feels to Be Colored Me was a disputable essay that obviously did not fit with the beliefs of racial division, nor did it fully mesh with the blooming of black pride related to the Harlem Renaissance. In the essay, Hurston divorces herself from ‘the sobbing school of Negrohood’ that requires her to permanently lay claim to past and present inequities.


Zora Hurston seems to use the same development in her work as well. In the excerpt, How It Feels To Be Colored Me, she expresses her naivety in many ways. Phrases, such as ‘How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company, It is beyond me’ show how nave she could be, yet not acknowledging the difference between blacks and whites, to her they are all the same. However, Hurston and Hughes show their main characters differently. Even though these works of literature view racial inequality, the main characters are shown as self-confident and prideful individuals. They are not discouraged or disheartened by the attitudes of those who try to oppress them. Overall, both works have a theme of racism in common. Hughes probably is the speaker in the poem. He is proclaiming to the world that he is an American. He, too, sings America. Moreover, Hughes refers to himself as ‘the darker brother.’ Even though the main character is not allowed to be seen as an equal between men in the country and hidden away by the white majority, he is still an integral part of America.


The setting in I, Too is relatively clear in some ways, and pretty vague in others. To begin with, we do not know exactly when this poem is supposed to take place – it could take place during either America’s slave-holding days, or afterwards. In other words, it is unknown for sure when the poem takes place, because racial segregation was part of American history long after slavery officially ended. The author uses different techniques such as imagery of being separate from the rest of society. In addition to those techniques, he also uses the structure of the poem to set up the reader and show how the speaker was going from what he is now presently, and what he will accomplish to be in the future. However, we know we are in a house. It is probably a big home owned by a white family – big enough that the household includes slaves or black servants. According to the poem, the dining room is where the family and guests eat. Therefore, the dining room is the place where the narrator imagines eating in the future, right alongside the white homeowner and his company.

Hurston introduces the current theme by highlighting her childhood in the majority black town of Eatonville, Florida. There she was not yet ‘colored’ until the age of 13. It happened only when she moved to the more diverse Jacksonville and New York City that she became aware of her race. Crucially, she also drifts away from this perception at times, when ‘the cosmic Zora emerges’ and she assumes a more universal identity.

American Regionalism

American Regionalism is a movement of an art in the USA during 1930-40s, which arose during the Great Depression and sought to raise the spirit of the people by approving the national values. Regionalism consists of such kind of art: paintings, illustrations, lithographs, murals and realistic scenes of small-town America in the Midwest and Deep South. More to note, centered around artists working in the Midwest in states like Kansas and Missouri, Regionalism was art that focused on rural life in America. It explored the people and places of what was considered the heartland of the United States. The most famous representatives of American Regionalism art are Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. Wood painted possibly the most well-known Regionalist painting, titled American Gothic, painted in 1930. Benton became famous for mural work, an example of which is Achelous and Hercules, painted in 1947 on the wall of a Kansas City department store.

At first sight, any attempt to link regionalism to American modernism may seem a perverse enterprise. After all, definitions of modernism tend to cast it as nearly the antithesis of regionalism. Regional literature during the Modern period is directly correlated to the continuing emergence of mass-culture. Modern Regionalists were consciously revolting ‘against the over centralization of cultural production in New York and Hollywood’ (Dorman, 8). As many Modernist poets sought the solutions to their various problems within the chaotic, urban poetry scenes of metropolises such as London or New York, Regionalist poets turned back towards the routines of folk and rural traditions in an attempt to ground their poetic explorations in the familiar and stable landscapes of a particular place. Regional literature may not have resulted in an alleviation of the pressures of the Modern world. However, it reached some sense of stability in its exploration of both the downfalls and possibilities of the time through the perspectives of the local. Although region, localities, and the search for stability are subject matters timelessly worth of exploration, Regionalism plays an important role in Modern Poetry.

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Arthur Miller The Death of a Salesman: Social Conflict. (2021, Jan 25). Retrieved from