Death of a Salesman/ Tess of the D'Urbervilles AQA A level paper 2017 revision threadWatch
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Stage Direction and Setting
- The play opens with a melody “played upon the flute” this is the introduction to the recurring motif differentiating Willy’s past and his present
- The setting presented in the play shows the Loman family home surrounded by “towering angular shapes…surrounding it on all sides”. This is significant as it isolates the family, presenting their lives as insignificant and “fragile” in the capitalist system, an idea that is constantly built upon throughout the play. This is where almost all events take place, therefore making this a domestic tragedy.
- “in the scenes of the past these boundaries are broken, and characters enter or leave a room by stepping ‘through’ a wall on the forestage”. This represents the seamless time zones explored within the play. Once entering the past logic becomes fragmented to represented Willy’s fracturing mind.
Capitalism and its significance
- Within Miller's Post WWII, “the American Dream is depicted as a fruitless pursuit.” Leading to many accusations directed towards Miller labelling him a communist, at the time a highly undesirable political position to be holding as the cold war began to pick up post 1945.
- Miller also comments on “consumerism… a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.” Inadvertently causing a dehumanisation of the consumer, creating an intense isolation from those within society. It is protagonist, Willy Loman, ironically named to represent his economic class who is chosen by Miller to show the dehumanisation of a person within society.
- Miller focuses on the un-importance of past achievements or endeavours and the complete lack of ‘sentiment’ within any professional environment as a downfall of the Lomans. The effect that this has is a complete removal of validity in relation to Willy’s only criteria for success. To be “Well liked”, as a path to economic success. This is shown in Charlie's harsh explanation of capitalist society.
“Willy, when’re you gonna realize that them things don’t mean anything? You named him Howard, but you can’t sell that. The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell.”
- The hostile environment of 1940's America is seen in Ben's cold nature towards Willy, a character idolised by the protagonist for his economic success and unwanted role of father figure to Willy. Ben refuses to give Willy any financial aid despite his riches and relationship to Willy as his older brother, whereas Charlie, a character with no real emotional ties to Willy allows Willy to borrow money each month and constantly offers him a job.
- Willy's refusal to accept Charlies offer is vindictive of his disillusionment with the state of his own career and his economic situation.
Critical quotes and significance.
- Barclay Bates suggests that “Death of a Salesman is about the triumph of the present over the past” in the inability of Willy to separate himself from the past and his previous successes, he is damned in the present never accepting the bleak reality he lives in.
- Millers 'Tragedy of a Common Man' is relevant to this topic. Miller argues that the fatal flaw possessed by the protagonist of all classical tragedies ‘is really nothing- and need be nothing’ and it is rather the heroes ‘unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge’. Willy certainly is not passive whilst tackling his economic situation.
Death of A Salesman
Eleanor Clarke - “It is of course the brutal capitalist system that has done Willy”
Arthur Miller- “I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy as kings are”
Dennis Welland- “Willy's repression of the past is a barrier to maturity and ego-development”
Sheila Huftel- “Willy fell only from an imagined height”
Lee Siegel- “Biff's very idea that he will correct his father's wrong dreams by living the right life is, in itself, a grandiose dream”
Barclay Bates- “Death of a Salesman is about the triumph of the present over the past”
Guerin Bliquez- “Linda's facility for prodding Willy to his doom is what gives the play its direction”
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Dale Kramer- “Hardy… suggests that life is characterised by ethereality or abstract values and emphasises the daunting rigour of maintaining life”
Dale Kramer- “the novel’s concentration on Tess’s trapped existence becomes so intense and unremitting”
Thomas Hardy- “Happiness is but an occasional episode in the genral drama of life”
Penny Boumelha- “Her sexuality is above all provocative: she is a temptress to the convert Alec, an eve to Angel Clare”
Jane Shilling- “A century later, it is fascinating to consider the extent to which his views- radical enough at the time to scandalise the critics- have become almost conventional”
Charlotte Thompson- “Angel… finds it easier to love from afar an idealised humanity in the abstract than a flawed human being, close at hand, in the flesh.”
Lynn Parker- “By placing a moral evaluation of Tess at the very beginning of the novel, Hardy invites his readers to judge and evaluate Tess as well”
Elizabeth Day- “Cast out by a morally hypocritical society, Tess identifies most strongly with the natural world and it is here that Hardy’s textual lyricism comes into its own”
Kristen Brady- “From the time of the book’s publication, the book’s publication, the question of whether Tess was raped or seduced has divided critics”
- Marlott (Vale of Blackmore)- Described as fertile and a beautiful specticle "a brood rich bass of grass and trees" This setting is introduced in Phase 1. It is spring and the reader is introduced to the character of Tess during the Mayday Dance.
- The Slopes- again described with beauty and vast, yet the description seems artificial. It is early summer and the fruit enjoys a premature ripeness. It is here that Alec makes his first advances on Tess. The premature ripeness of the fruit can be metaphorical of Tess' premature appearance of Womanhood whilst at heart remaining an innocent child.
- The Chase- A woodland, secluded and mysterious. "covered with...mistletoe". (Mistletoe is a recurring theme, and part of a pagan ritual of fertility). It is autumn and Tess is seduced
The Great Chain of Being
This is important whilst studying any Tragic text. However, in relation to these two texts it is especially relevant to Tess of the D'Urbervilles. "The great chain of being is a strict, religious hierarchical structure of all matter and life, believed to have been decreed by God. The chain starts from God and progresses downward to angels, demons (fallen/renegade angels), stars, moon, kings, princes, nobles, commoners, wild animals, domesticated animals, trees, other plants, precious stones, precious metals, and other minerals."- Arthur O Lovejoy
Some interpretations of this religious structure place woman equal to animals, below man significantly whereas others present man and woman as equal.
This is significant in Tess as she is constantly suggested in tune with both nature and animals, relating to her menial position in a male dominated society.
- "Hardy calls nature a villainous character"
- The symbolism of animals within nature symbolise the ongoing of the plot
- Tennerson characterised nature as "red in tooth and claw"
- Mankind has risen above the brutal appetites of the natural world, as seen in its position on the great chain of being. Humans presented as both creatures of the body and spirit simultaneously.
- It is always winter when Tess visits the church- which in turn is cold and unforgiving, offering her no solace.
- Contrast in care for animals. Cricks diary cows in comparison to Alec's horses or the huntsman who left the pheasant to die. The state of animals within Tess is usually similar to Tess' own feelings. Supported by Mrs D'Urbevilles singing birds much like Tess must whistle for Alec.
- THE LAW OF NATURE- it does not recognise social constructs but operates in a system that incorporates survival of the fittest.
Haven't seen one of these for this topic yet, thought it was worth starting one up. Anyone have any good points e.g. Critics, Points of argument, Relation to tragedy, Context in relation to this section of the tragedy paper?
Post them here and lets get a good thread of points going!
- The idea of wholeness is one that exhibits several different definitions. However, in relation to Hardy’s novel the best fitted would be “the state of being unbroken or undamaged.”
- Tess is presented “a mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience”, not yet achieving a sense of wholeness, yet this is the most unbroken the character is at any point
- Hardy presents men as both the seeker and destroyer of wholeness throughout the novel.
- From a Christian perspective wholeness is a state associated with virginal purity, this is sensed by Alec, thus seeking and taking this wholeness away from her. Angel falls in love with his perception of Tess’ wholeness, when this illusion is removed chaos erupts and he begins sleep walking much like that of Lady Macbeth in her time of guilt.
- In this late 19th century system both religion and class held precedence in the idea of wholeness.
- During the courtship of Angel and Tess “he called her Artemis, Demeter". Artemis was the Greek goddess of chastity, virginity and the natural environment, and Demeter was the goddess of fertility and a protector of the sanctity of marriage. Both goddesses were framed in Greek culture for their great physical beauty, the epitome of feminine wholeness.
- Tess’ connection with nature expresses his desire of what women are most connected with. Despite being largely feminist in his writing and a humanist in religion women are still presented in Tess as inferior beings. In “the great chain of being” Women are presented as equals to animals. This is presented in the symbolism of the wounded pheasants, foreshadowing Tess’s own death suggesting to the reader that Tess’ fate is sealed. “She killed the birds tenderly” ending their suffering whilst suspecting hunters with return for the birds at a later time.
Death Of A Salesman as a 20th century tragedy
- It is a democratization of tragedy with an underlying belief that "the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were". We do not think of him as a king of ordinary person we see him merely as an individual like one of us.
- Willy Loman is tragic hero of the play and is guided by false myths of success, he believes success lies in being well liked. For him minor crimes like stealing (Biff and the pen) and Adultery (his affair with the woman) are dismissed and seen as the spirit of adventure; his views depict his anachronistic values which cannot sustain him and consequently led to his disintegration.
- Willy’s struggle can be seen as a man’s struggle to find dignity in life against the struggles of his surroundings ie: the consumerist 1950’s America. His environment overwhelms him and he ends up taking his life. The tragedy depicts a person’s fight for status and a rightful place in society. Individuals can see themselves reflected in Willy Loman due to this, arguably heightening the cathartic emotions of the play. We pity him and fear that what happened to him could possibly happen to us.
- The play shows an underlying fear of being displaced by the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in the world. This fear is strong in the world, the common man challenges the tradition concept of a tragic hero. If the Greeks watched this they would not deem it a tragedy, whereas for a modern audience it is a tragedy and works for us as it is true to life.
Anyone can help me with this question?