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Laia Vidal Mateu NIUB: 14751446 email@example.com Literatures dels EEUU dels segles XX i XXI
Abstract: In my essay I would like to see how two different plays of the 20th century –Death of a Salesman (1949) by Arthur Miller and Fences (1983) by August Wilson—depict, quite similarly, different issues of the American society of the 20th century. More specifically, I would like to see how both plays show how social pressure relates to the interpersonal relations within the structure of the family. For instance, I would like to analyse the way in which the two authors tackle the issue of social class and draw a parallel between the two. In order to do so, I will analyse how the father of the central family in each play deals with class struggle and how social pressures affect them and their families. To end up, I would like to wrap it all up by seeing how many issues depicted there are still actual issues in today’s capitalist societies.
Firstly. throughout the whole play we can see the characters –and especially Willy Loman.Social Pressure and Family Oppression in Death of a Salesman and Fences Laia Vidal Mateu 2 Death of a Salesman and Fences are two plays that resemble each other in different aspects. the main character of each play reacts and deals with it differently .274) However. my aim is to see the differences and similarities between the ways in which the tragic heroes are affected by this pressure and how this also affects their relationships with their families. a salesman– referring to economic struggles and the importance of –or rather pressure for– individual success in society. his problem is that. although he is not being successful.’ (Miller 1. As Nilsen puts it. eventually dies at the end of the play. he blindly believes in his values. both plays portray how the heads of the families depicted have to endure a constant fight to provide food and shelter for their families. both portray how class pressure can affect the citizens of a capitalist society and the family structure. the American dream and this capitalist system that is suffocating his life. the man who creates personal interest. For instance. Willy has his own beliefs about how to be successful and he repeats them over and over. In his article. who live ‘threatened and overwhelmed by tall buildings’ (Nilsen 153) that surround their house. However. More specifically. As he says. is the man who gets ahead. On the one hand. In this essay. the essential characteristic to make money is to be liked: ‘because the man who makes an appearance in the business world. he claims that the initial stage direction already suggests that this is the case of the Loman family. Miller wrote a play concerned with the victims of the Capitalist system. probably worn out by social pressure. it is clear that Death of a Salesman deals with class issues. He sees . those who never achieve middleclass security. Although only the second seems to be concerned with racial oppression. in both plays we see a family-father as a tragic hero who struggles to manage his family and who. Actually. They are both set in a family house and depict issues that may arise within American families of the mid 20th century.
but he ignores the reality which is that he needs to provide for food and shelter for his family and he does not have the means or opportunities to do it. it is suggested that it is the social pressure that makes him insane and ultimately kills him. it is clear that he sees the problems that may arise within this excluding system and he complains about the pressure felt at different points in the play.’ (Wilson 2. ‘I do the best I can do. it can be assumed that this play also deals with class issues.Social Pressure and Family Oppression in Death of a Salesman and Fences Laia Vidal Mateu 3 himself in the right to progress and prosper only because he is a well-liked US citizen. This clearly shows that he is in an outsider position in which he cannot meet the capitalist standards to be a successful man. As Koprince claims.’ (Wilson 1.2. he has. same as Willy. However. Troy feels he has worked hard as a garbage collector to feed and protect his family. On the other hand. only because of his race. at the age of 53. he complains about the few opportunities the black have to play sports in the higher leagues. Troy was once excluded from the socalled organised baseball league.3. This had a great impact on him and.’ (Wilson 1. if we take Koprince’s point of view that baseball ‘has long been regarded as a metaphor for the American dream’ (Koprince 349) and that this is also the case in Fences. according to him. In addition. ‘The colored guy got to be twice as good before he get on the team. Actually. for instance when he tells his wife. built his own beliefs about the society and the system.119) but his family’s economy still depends on his brother’s money. This can be observed when he claims that. More specifically.57) This baseball issue can be easily paralleled to his unrest as a black breadwinner in the American society. this plays portrays the class struggle suffered by the black in a society with racial discrimination: an issue that becomes Troy Maxson’s obsession. in many occasions in the play.110) .3. ‘Just give me some room to breathe. using baseball as a symbol for the American dream. In order to understand the system.
not realizing of his own failure yet. namely they try to impose their beliefs on one of their sons. thus. though. A clear instance of this view is when Willy tells Ben about the way he’s bringing his children up. Willy. waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am!’ (Miller 2. or—or carpenters. when all I want is out there. undermining capitalist values and the business world. as Rose claims at the end of the play. well-liked. what the father says that he wants is his son ‘to move as far away from [his] life as he can get. ‘why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office. on the basis of being liked.5. in Death of a Salesman. ‘rugged. Same as Willy. making a contemptuous. again a conflict .Social Pressure and Family Oppression in Death of a Salesman and Fences Laia Vidal Mateu 4 Secondly... clearly has an ongoing conflict with his son Biff. He wants Biff to follow his steps and become a successful businessman.’ (Miller 1. Troy tries to impose his beliefs on his son.111) However.’ (Wilson 2. they try to make of their sons what they understand as a successful man in the society where they live. He seems to be happier than the others by trying to find the truth in himself. though.3. Troy also acts as a victimizer for one of his sons. is that there is a clash of ideas between father and son: Biff believes that his father’s values are wrong.’ (Miller 1. He clearly expresses so when he claims that they do not believe to that world and that they ‘should be mixing cement on some open plain. and at the same time he tried to make you into everything he was.’ (Wilson 1. seems not to understand the nature of his son’s claims.512) The problem. allaround. begging fool of myself. as Willy himself has done. with the effect of destroying his son’s dream of accepting a football scholarship for college.98) This imposition upon Cory shows. In this case. Cory. it seems that Troy wanted Cory ‘to be everything he wasn’t. both family fathers seem to be victims and victimizers at the same time.586) It is also suggested in the stage direction of act one that he is happier in his own way. Willy. In other words.515) However. In Fences. and he tries to explain that to his father.
I understand that. before all the excluded Become tragic heroes. it is not surprising that such conflictive relationships arise in a capitalist society. seems to me just another manifestation that they do not fit nor understand the individualistic system they are living in. ‘Go and get away from around my house. it is the son who seems to believe in the American dream. ‘I decided seventeen years ago that boy wasn’t getting involved in no sports. a fact that clearly means to me that a change of system is needed. rather than the father. and. since Capitalism is clearly an excluding system.95) In sum. Therefore.’ (Wilson 2. father and son fight in the yard of their house. at the end of scene 4 of act two. as a result.111) Although it may not be clear what the exact reasons behind Troy’s decision about the matter are. in this play –unlike in Death of a Salesman. we have seen how social pressure seems to suffocate both tragic heroes. there even more outsiders of the different capitalist systems of the world.3. the outsiders of the system –whereas they realize it (Troy) or not (Willy) – have to endure a fight to survive that is completely anti-human. Later. In my view. in a way that we can read that Willy and Troy are victims of the system.Social Pressure and Family Oppression in Death of a Salesman and Fences Laia Vidal Mateu 5 between father and son. Not after what they did to me in the sports. . the oppression or pressure that they project on their sons.’ (Wilson 1. who find themselves excluded from the American dream. nowadays. Cory is eventually expelled from his family house by his father. Unfortunately. Cory believes that he can be successful in playing sports but his father clearly opposes this idea. the conflict even gets to the point in which. Moreover. As Koprince states. it can be also claimed that this social pressure consequently affects one of their sons. it is likely that the racial oppression he suffered as a young black athlete has left its mark on him. but victimizers of their family at the same time.4.
Print Total word count: 1733 . Susan. Web Miller. 1986. Fences.Social Pressure and Family Oppression in Death of a Salesman and Fences Laia Vidal Mateu 6 Works Cited: Koprince. e-book Nilsen. Death of a Salesman.2 (1994): 146-156. “From Honors at Dawn to Death of a Salesman: Marxism and the Eraly Plays of Arthur Miller” English Studies 75. Helge Normann. Arthur. Web Wilson. 1976. ‘Baseball as History and Myth in August Wilson’s “Fences”’ African American Review 40. New York: Penguin Group.2 (2006): 349-358. August. New York: Plume.
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