Miller uses the techniques of the modern theatre to the full. As such, the term ‘expressionist’ is often used to describe Miller as a ‘dramatist’. Discuss his use of dramatic devices in ‘Death of a Salesman’ showing how they convey the messages of the play. Arthur Miller wrote ‘Death of a Salesman’ in 1949. The play is based around the idea of the ‘American Dream’ and how a middle class family of four struggle to come to terms with Willy’s over-powering ambition and hunger for popularity and success.
As an ‘expressionist’ Miller uses a range of ‘dramatic devices’ such as lighting, sound, various time switches and symbols to make the play come to life and convey the messages to the audience. Miller’s purpose in writing the play is to expose the true reality of the ‘American Dream’, a notion that everyone should live a middle class life in America, ‘the land of opportunity’. Miller integrates expressionistic, dramatic devices like lights into the play so they are as important as the actors in conveying his message to the audience.
By using lights in an effective way, Miller can make the time switches that often occur more fluent and believable. For instance when time switches happen, ‘more light appears’ and it makes the stage much brighter to represent how happy Willy and his family was at that time. At the first glimpse of the play lighting is also used to suggest the mood and feeling of characters and scenes, such as the ‘blue light of the sky’ falling upon the Lomans house and forestage. This color indicates that the ‘great outdoors’ is surrounding Willy’s house.
But the light is then joined by an ‘angry glow of orange’ that suggests Willy’s real feelings. It creates a contrast between something gracious like the outdoors and something deep and dark corresponding and duplicating with Willy’s emotions. In the background of the opening scene sit ‘towering, angular shapes’ to represent the tall buildings of a city. The fact that they are ‘towering’ makes it intimidating for Willy as the city is a place for success, an area in which Willy is lacking. The stage set is also very convenient for the constant time changes that Willy goes through.
By having no specific scene changes there is no need for the stage crew to constantly be changing the set. The stage consists of layers and levels to give the audience a clear view of everything that is going on. Happy and Biff’s bedroom is ‘raised six and a half feet’ behind the kitchen that is set in the center of the stage it is ‘dimly seen’ and sits two beds. Miller has created a stage set that clearly shows a full plan of a house, hiding a couple of rooms like the lounge as it is not used in the play.
By doing this the audience feel involved and sense there is nothing being hidden from them. Willy’s confusion accelerates throughout the play and his anger, influenced by the ‘American Dream’, seems to put him down more and more as the play progresses His deluded personality make its hard for him to communicate and make sense ok family and life including Happy and Biff. Willy contradicts himself a few times throughout the play. By saying lines such as ‘trouble is he is lazy’ followed by ‘proud of him’ directed at Biff.
Makes it confusing for the two sons as enormously as Biff doesn’t really know where he is going in life and what he wishes to do with his future. ‘Exhaustion is apparent’ as soon as Willy makes his first few steps on stage as he ‘Thankfully’ lets his ‘burden down’. Miller uses this term to describe Willy’s suitcase, this immediately indicates to the audience that Willy is an aspiring business man, and the fact that the suitcase is heavy suggests he has failed in selling his goods.
Willy is obviously desperate for popularity and success within the ‘America Dream’ as he asks around characters as successful as Ben ‘What’s the answer’. Overall Willy is a gentle hearted man underneath his illness of depression and hunger for the ‘American Dream’ as in the end of the play he sacrifices his own life for money to go towards the rest of the family. Willy is a classic example of the destruction effect of the ‘American Dream’ on people and families, which is the message that Miller wanted to convey in this particular play.
Linda however does not like the idea of the ‘American Dream’ but will always support Willy in whatever he does. Her tone of voice and ways are very calm and happy when Willy is around, as she likes to keep him calm, as she probably never really knows what sort of mood he is in. Therefore her frustration and anger that builds up inside is poured out with tears to the confused and very opposite sons.