Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sets of 'Worlds' in Death of a Salesman and the Importance of Being Earnest

In "Death of a Salesman", our protagonist, Willy Loman drifts into nostalgic daydreams and memories of a bygone era of success and hope, often inhibiting his already limited capacity to work and function in daily life. The result is a man attached to an idealistic imagining of the "American Dream", one in which everyone can succeed, especially a football star who refuses to study. In many ways the play mirrors The Great Gatsby, in that they are both social commentaries with much to say about the state of the American Dream. Both Willy and Gatsby believe that they'll "break through" and reach validation through perseverance in the American capitalist system, and both men have an interesting relationship with the past. Whereas Willy is stuck in the past, Gatsby refuses to acknowledge that the past is static. 

Both "Death of a Salesman" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" involve separate 'worlds' that the characters interact with. In "Earnest" the division is between the city world and the country world, a divide that is bridged through the act of Bunburying. Both Algie and Jack are forced to develop alternate personas in order to freely operate in the city and in the country. In "Salesman", the different 'worlds' that are explored are the idealistic, optimistic memories of Willy's past, and the true, bleak reality of the present. Both sets of realms function in order to allow the playwrights opportunity for social commentary. The disparity between Willy's idea of how his life should have turned out and his current state of affairs is emblematic of the disconnect between the American Dream and economic realities in the great depression. The way in which Algie and Jack change temperament and behavior to fit either the country or the city demonstrates the ease with which British aristocrats changed how they acted. Wilde and Miller both implement contrasting 'Worlds' in order to comment on societal phenomena.

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