Play Analysis: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The inside of Willy Loman’s head, i.e., his deluded mind and the trances (and memories) he repetitiously falls into would not have been possible to portray without carefully planned stage directions. With the help of the scenography and through the evocation of certain imagery, such as memories and feelings, viewers were transported into Willy’s head. Indeed the story line jumps several times back and forth in time, sometimes viewers witness the present (set in the 1940s) in a transparent scenery of a house with the one-dimensional roof. Sometimes viewers witness another distant (possibly around the 1920s) but happier life played out in Willy’s head.
When he falls under the evocative spells filled with memories from the past, the interesting thing is that the characters observe no boundaries as to wall-lines. Instead, they walk freely through the walls onto the forestage which is where all the imaginations in Willy’s head take place, as well as his city scenes. This contributes to the sense of unreality.
The nostalgia, the dreaminess, the surrealism, as well as the heavily dramatic touch of the play are effectively conveyed by use of music and different lightings throughout the story.
The music is highly evocative as it is a key element to set the mood for each situation, as well as the different colors and lights. It is worth noting that each character has its own music. Willy’s music, as well as the “flashbacks” is always played by flute which symbolizes his father, the flute maker.
The scenery is also a key element that represents many things: The American Dream; the “small, fragile-seeming home”, in contrast with the surrounding apartment houses and the city of New York in the background, as a means to point out the failure that reigned in the house of shattered dreams, of what could have been, representing the fragility of Willy’s fractured mind as well as the fragility of his family relationships.