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The play implies that Willy might have been happier in a pre-"capitalistic" (or perhaps pre-industrial) society; it more plainly suggests that Willy would have been happier working with his "hands"; and it makes manifest that Biff feels that—for him—the West is the answer.
The play is so entirely autobiographical that one wonders why Miller did not take a deep breath and go the whole way, why he did not retain himself as a playwright instead of making himself a lawyer and keep Marilyn Monroe as an actress instead of turning her into a singer.
Had he been that straightforward the work might at least have gained in the gossip-column interest, which is the only sort it possesses.
To ask a modern dramatist to write a play that emphasizes either social necessity or individual responsibility would seem to involve an oversimplified approach to experience.
The abstract discussion of freedom versus determinism, usually conducted in a philosophical vacuum, seems ultimately a deadend; in actuality, we recognize the rival claims of both factors, and we manage to live with both. 42-3) The critical question is whether Miller has rendered a complex vision of experience, not whether the critic necessarily agrees with the alleged interpretation of the vision.
The very form of the play, which Miller has described, to our unbearable embarrassment for him, as revolutionary, is exactly suited to its incorporeality and adamant refusal of dramatic life.
On the edge of the bare apron stage …, a figure called Quentin speaks to a "Listener" theoretically seated just beyond the footlights, while the events of the play, which are described in a program note as occurring within the "mind, thought and memory" of Quentin, unfold from time to time in the areas behind him and in the interstices of his monologue.Technically, it is an endeavor to shape a form loose enough and open enough to contain so ambitious a range of material—by locating the action in the "mind, thought and memory of Quentin," the play's protagonist. 156-57) Miller is absurdly beside the point when he argues that autobiographical material does not invalidate a work of art.Of course it doesn't, but what does is the failure to transform such material, to deliver it from the chaos and impenetrability of event and actuality, to give it shape and definition and a coherence of its own.He is, it should always have been clear, a master faute de mieux, an egregious product of our commercial theatre's hunger for gods.On the strength of one play, whose chief recommendations were not its imaginative findings or verbal éclat but its formal weight and steady contemplation of one limited sector of our national myth, we raised him to a stature he has never been able to consolidate.But unlike Fellini, whose film broke through his personal dilemma by the highest acts of the imagination, by making its theme into its form and its terrors into its acceptances, Miller has simply laid out the raw material and done nothing to transform or transfigure it.And what is worse, he has engaged in a process of self-justification which at any time is repellent but which becomes truly monstrous in the absence of any intelligence, craft or art, since it is precisely in those things that self-justification for a creator lies.He is a master faute de mieux, a playwright whose dramatic imagination has always operated within the most stringent limitations, a narrow realist with a hopeless aspiration to poetry, and a moralist with greatly inadequate equipment for the projection of moral complexity.Only once, in Death of a Salesman, did his powers prove commensurate with his theme, so that he was able to compose a flawed but representative image of an aspect of our experience.A more cautious approach might suggest that Miller, in his second full-length play, had not as yet thoroughly mastered certain difficult problems of craft—chiefly, as Miller himself acknowledges, "the biggest single dramatic problem, namely, how to dramatize what has gone before"…. There is no inconsequential byplay in Salesman; no loss of focus on the protagonist; no hidden …tricks; and no "jumps." Action rises smoothly, steadily, and convincingly. about the uses of irony in the play—a sure sign of Miller's increasing sophistication and restraint. 34-5) Is the "system" to blame for Willy's fate, ask some critics, or is the fault within Willy's character?