Examining how character analysis relates to theme in drama.

In the discussion forum for this module, you were asked to analyze the dialogue taking place in the Requiem for Death of a Salesman, and you were asked to discuss specifically Biff’s statement about his father, Willie Loman, that Willie “had the wrong dreams” and/or “didn’t know who he was.”

As noted in the “Module Notes,” looking up the definition for “Requiem,” you find it typically is a musical service for the repose of the dead. And as discussed previously, a funeral service usually involves celebrating the life of the deceased. Now as we close our study on Miller’s Death of a Salesman, you are asked to examine why Arthur Miller would pay tribute to the death of Willy Loman (“ low man”).

As we have witnessed in the play, Willy’s character and that of his sons are deeply flawed; however, as we previously have discussed, most humans also are flawed in some way. As a matter of fact, in the previous module, you were asked to discuss how you might relate to some degree with Willy Loman or with one of the other characters in Miller’s play. Now that we have come to the end of the play, and to the end of this module and course, you are asked to take all that you have learned and apply it to a careful, thought-provoking examination of Willie Loman and/or his sons, applying character analysis to argue for a larger purpose or theme related to why the play still speaks to an audience, to you, across time.

As noted earlier in this module, in the final act of Death of a Salesman, while standing at the graveside of his father, Biff tells his brother, Happy, that Biff knows who he is. But does he? Does Happy? By claiming that, finally, Biff knows who he is, Biff sets himself apart from his dead father, Willy Loman, declaring that Willy “never knew who he was.”

Reflecting back on Willy’s actions and dialogue in the play, do you agree or disagree with Biff? Why? What two (2) quotes from Willy Loman’s dialogue in the previous two (2) acts supports your position?
How does Willy’s dilemma in the play relate to his sons?

How does Willy’s dilemma in the play, and Willy’s relationship with his sons, particularly with Biff, relate to a larger theme in the play?
What two (2) quotes from Biff or Happy illustrate a similarity or difference between father and son?
Why is the idea of self-knowledge so important to the play’s conclusion? How might the struggle of the play’s characters with self-knowledge relate to you, to an audience?

In an essay of no fewer than 500 words, supported by no fewer than two (2) quotes each from two (2) different characters, totaling no fewer than four (4) quotes from character dialogue, analyze how the character of Willy Loman and/or that of his sons illustrates a larger theme of the play, explaining how or why that theme remains relevant to audiences today.

For your essay, you will apply the Guidelines for Writing a Character Analysis Essay. First read through the guidelines.

Next in preparation for writing, you will outline your essay by completing this Character Analysis chart.

Remember to use quotation marks if quoting other learners and or critics and to cite in APA style quoted or paraphrased material.
Module Notes: Examining the Resolution of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
Miller, Arthur (1949) Death of a Salesman. Requiem. [Act 3] Retrieved from http://www.pelister.org/literature/ArthurMiller/Miller_Salesman.pdf
Re-Read:

Bradford, Wade “The American Dream in ‘Death of a Salesman.’” [What does Willy Loman sell?]. Retrieved from About.com at http://plays.about.com/od/plays/a/themesales.htm
Mamet, David (February 13, 2005). Attention Must Be Paid. [Op-Ed Contributor]. New York Times. NY: NY. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/13/opinion/13Mamet.html
Miller, Arthur (February 27, 1949). Tragedy and the Common Man. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/11/12/specials/miller-common.html
How to Cite Drama – (APA Style) http://libguides.pstcc.edu/content.php?pid=24540&sid=1751573
Participate in the following discussion:

M8D1: What drives Willy Loman and sons? Seeing the world through the protagonist’s eyes
Submit the following assignment:

M8A1: Examining how character analysis relates to theme in drama
View the following:

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. [1985 teleplay produced by Robert Colesberry and starring Dustin
Hoffman and John Malcovich, winner of a Golden Globe]. [2.53 minute video excerpts uploaded to YouTube by
Konamakona on September 27, 2010 with soundtrack from Everloving by Moby]. Retrieved from YouTube at

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Use these EC Library and OWL Resources to prperly cite your work:
APA Style
APA In-Text Citations
APA References
Avoiding Plagiarism
EC Library Citing Sources
EC Library Copyright
Aristotle (350 B.C.E.). Poetics. [From the Internet Classics Archive (1994)]. MIT. Retrieved from http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.1.1.html
Arthur Miller and Language (1987). From Arthur Miller: An Interview. [H.264][ [Item No. 7295]. [Miller reflects on a scene from Death of a Salesman]. Films Media Group [BBC]. NY: NY. Retrieved from http://vlib.excelsior.edu/login?url=http://digital.films.com.vlib.excelsior.edu/PortalPlaylists.aspx?aid=8496&xtid=7295&loid=19200
DiYanni, Robert (2002). Glossary of Drama Terms. McGrawHill Online Learning Center (OLC). Retrieved from http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072405228/student_view0/drama_glossary.html
Galvin, Rachel (2001). Arthur Miller Biography. [Awards & Honors: 2001 Jefferson Lecturer]. Retrieved from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) at http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-lecture/arthur-miller-biography
Miller, Arthur (1949). Death of a Salesman. [premiered on Broadway in New York, recipient of 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play]. Retrieved from http://www.pelister.org/literature/ArthurMiller/Miller_Salesman.pdf
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. [1985 teleplay produced by Robert Colesberry and starring Dustin Hoffman and John Malcovich, winner of a Golden Globe]. Available at Amazon.com.
Siegel, Lee (May 2, 2012). “Death of a Salesman’s Dreams.” [Op-Ed Contributor, Opinion]. New York Times: NY, New York. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/opinion/death-of-a-salesmans-dreams.html?_r=0
New York Times Student Resources for Death of a Salesman:

Module Notes: Examining the Resolution of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

funeral momentLet’s review what we know from our readings and discussions in Module 7. In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Act 1, we are introduced to Willy Loman, the protagonist, and his sons and wife, and the conflict Willy is experiencing with his job and with his sons. Then, in Act 2, there is a confrontation between Willy and his son, Biff, in a restaurant, resulting in Willy literally falling to his knees and being deserted by his sons, ending with the second confrontation between Biff and Willy that closes Act 2 with Willy driving off and imagining what Biff could do with life insurance money if Willy dies in a car accident.

In this final module, fittingly enough, we will examine Act 3 of Death of a Salesman, the final act of the play that ends with the play’s resolution in a Requiem for Willy Loman.

We will continue our focus on Willy’s character and that of his sons as represented with the closing dialogue over Willy’s grave, and examine how that dialogue reveals both character flaws and strengths and relates to an overall theme of the play.

Throughout Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the question of “Who am I?” has been raised frequently along with the examination of motives driving the actions of Willy and his sons. Willy’s final act, of driving off and getting killed in a car accident, and his actions throughout the play, are brought to a head in the conversation being held over Willy’s grave, which is attended only by his immediate family and his neighbor, Charley, in the Requiem, the third and final act of the play.

If you look up the definition for “Requiem,” you will find that it typically is a musical service for the repose of the dead. If you have ever been to a funeral, typically the service seeks to celebrate the life of the deceased. As we close our study of Miller’s Death of a Salesman, you must ask why Arthur Miller would pay tribute to the death of Willy Loman (“ low man”). Willy’s character and that of his sons are deeply flawed, but most humans also are flawed in some way. So as we come to the end of the play and to the end of this module and course, you are asked to take all that you have learned and apply it to a careful, thought-provoking analysis of Willy Loman and/or his sons, applying character analysis to argue for a larger purpose or theme related to why the play still speaks to an audience, to you, across time.

As noted in an earlier module, Miller’s Death of a Salesman basically tells the story of an aging salesman, Willy Loman, struggling with his dreams and disappointments. And though in the end of the play Willy’s final act may be wrongheaded, it is done, some would argue, not out of a selfish desire to succeed, or to be “known” or “well liked,” but out of a selfless love for his family. You are asked to read carefully the dialogue at Willy’s graveside in the Requiem for Willy Loman, and you are asked to speculate on whether or not Willy’s character ever comes to some specific realization that makes his final act a statement of some kind, and, if so, what that statement is and how it relates to a major theme of the play.

Miller himself argues that a tragedy such as his play “demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity” (Miller, 1949, “Tragedy and the Common Man”). Does Willy Loman by the end of the play achieve or redeem some valuable element of his humanity in the play? You are asked to decide this for yourself based on the actions and dialogue of the play culminating in the Requiem for Willy Loman.

As we have done in previous modules, we must read carefully the language in Miller’s moving drama, and we must analyze how that language creates memorable characters, actions, and dialogue that contribute to powerful themes in the play like chasing success or achieving the “American Dream” or instilling family values in our children or being unfaithful to our spouses. Theme, as you should recall, is the controlling or central idea of the play.

Basically, you must view your analysis of theme as your way of discussing the play’s overall message that speaks loudest to you and that you want others in the audience to see with your help. In an earlier module, you read how one critic demanded that “attention must be paid” to Miller’s play and to the demise of Willy Loman. In this final module, you must decide for yourself and argue for others what it is that is so important for the audience to be paying attention to in Miller’s play and in the lives of Miller’s characters.

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