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Death of a salesman

INTRODUCTION
Arthur Miller has emerged as one of the most successful and
enduring playwrights of the postwar era in America, no doubt
because his focusing on middle-class anxieties brought on by a
society that emphasizes the hollow values of material success has
struck such a responsive chord. The recurring theme of anxiety
and insecurity reflects much of Arthur Miller’s own past. Born the
son of a well-to-do Jewish manufacturer in New York City in 1915,
Miller had to experience the social disintegration of his family
when his father’s business failed during the Great Depression of
the 1930s. By taking on such odd jobs as waiter, truck driver, and
factory worker, Miller was able to complete his studies at the Uni-
versity of Michigan in 1938. These formative years gave Miller the
chance to come in close contact with those who suffered the most
from the Depression and instilled in him a strong sense of per-
sonal achievement necessary to rise above the situation. He began
writing plays in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until Death of a Salesman
was performed in 1949 that Miller established himself as a major
American dramatist.
Winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1949, Death of a Salesman has to
this day remained a classic. The play’s intellectual appeal lies in
Miller’s refusal to portray his characters as two-dimensional — his
refusal to involve himself in a one-sided polemic attack on capital-
ism. Even critics cannot agree as to whether Death of a Salesman
is to be categorized as social criticism, a tragedy, or simply a psy-
chological study. Of necessity, each person will have to draw his or
her own individual conclusions.
The fact that performances of Death of a Salesman have met
with acclaim throughout the world testifies to its universality: the
play’s conflicts and themes appear not to be uniquely American.
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