Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman' Exemplifies how Careful Attention to the Linguistic Features of a Play tell us all we need to know about Performance

A thorough analysis of the linguistic features of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman (1949) will illustrate how, for a conscientious reader, all we need to know about performance is supplied within the written text. Focusing on the dramatist's use of preference structure, silence and the turn-taking mechanism, will reveal that all the vital characteristics of live theatre are available in the written words.

To facilitate an evaluation of the legitimacy of linguistic methodology and its outcomes, it is first necessary to consider what may be discerned from the text and performance of Death of a Salesman from a non-linguistic perspective. The play originated from the presumption that "the distinction we make between our past and our present is unreal: it all exists simultaneously in our minds. " Death of a Salesman exhibits the mind of Willy Lowman as it deteriorates through repeated disappointments and unattained aspirations. Many factors contribute to this process: obstinate faith in the American Dream and a need to prove oneself as a hero of the American way of life breeds deception of family members and himself. The entire Lowman family are central characters - with perhaps the exception of Happy - and the...

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