Men have always been favored since time immemorial and have been believed to be superior to women. Arthur Miller’s book Death of a Salesman looks at how women were treated during the past. The aim of this paper is to look how Miller places the attitude of men towards women and how women are generally viewed in our society. The women are shown to be dependent on the men, and this may be the reason for their mistreatments. Thus, people like Willy use the women as a means of keeping score, revealing their natures, provide comfort or as a succor for them. The women also provide a means of judgment; Linda in particular is a judge for Happy and Biff. She brings her sons’ failures to the fore
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The author’s play has only two women of “substance” in the play; Linda and The Woman (who does not even merit a real name). Willy models an attitude to his sons that shows that women should be conquered. He further shows them that once the women are conquered, they are no longer worthy any respect. His son, Happy, is able to exposit the dichotomy that exists between the two types of women as represented by his mother; by The Woman and Miss Forsythe. Happy is further shown to be having a “never-ending stream of women.” This shows how he values women; as sex objects whose feelings he does not care about. This is a character he copied from his father (like father like son). His father Willy, at the beginning of the essay is shown to have an affair with a woman he meets while on one of his business trips. Willy thus treats The Woman at Boston as a sex object who only fulfills his sexual desires. We see that it is painful to her because she cannot expect anything from this “relationship.” We are told that when Biff discovers of the affair, The Woman feels is embarrassed and humiliated feeling like a football.
Death of a Salesman showcases how women are extremely disrespected as shown by Arthur Miller. Willy treats her wife Linda as if she were not that important, “I won’t have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!” (Miller 34). Thus women are treated as if they are not important. Women are not given space where they can express themselves. The lead actor, Linda, is shown to be a doormat and one with unfaltering support for her husband Willy. But Willy is rude to her despite the fact that she tries to soothe him. She is shown removing his shoes; this can be interpreted as being primitive or self effacing. This means that Linda is depicted as part of the American dream: where men becoming roaring successes while the women are left clean the house and take care of children. Willy agrees when he says, “you’re my foundation and my support, Linda” (Miller 18). It is thus believed that a caring woman is one who fulfills tasks of a woman: clean, cook for the family, support her family, and sex with the husband.
Willy thinks of his wife as a useless woman who cannot understand her own struggles, despite the fact that she stands behind him at all times. For example, Willy is shown to hush Linda and seems he never values her opinions. “BIFF: I’ll see Oliver tomorrow.... LINDA: Maybe things are…- WILLY, to Linda: Stop interrupting! To Biff: But don’t wear sport jacket and slacks when you see Oliver” (Miller 64). In spite of this kind of treatment, Linda is shown to be the panacea for her family and especially for Willy, her husband. Linda thus represents the traditional woman who faces her own destruction in the form of male submission, but unfortunately the men in her life do not leave anything to devote herself to. This is also seen in page 75, “WILLY: Will you stop medning stockings? At least while I’m in the house. It gets me nervous, I can’t tell you please” (Miller, 75) where Willy looks down upon his wife.
Willy’s despise for women also comes out when he reminds Biff not to promise things to a girl because, according to him, girls always believe what they are told. The author further depicts women as whose work involves taking care of the family and ensuring that the men are well taken care of. Willy is shown reminding Linda of her support by saying, “You’re my foundation and my support, Linda.” (Miller, 18) and on page 33, we are shown Linda entering the house with a basket of washing. “Linda enters… a ribbon in her hair, carrying a basket of washing.” (Miller, 33).
Women are generally overlooked by the men but they look like they are genuinely okay with the treatment. Linda ever complains about how Willy treats her throughout the play. This is a reflection of the gender attitudes of men towards women and it happens throughout the play. The attitude of men towards women shows a portrait of a dysfunctional family unit.
In conclusion, in Miller’s book Death of a Salesman, women are disrespected by their male counterparts who also hold them in contempt. They are regarded as sex objects, homemakers whose work is to clean, cook and take care of the family. Interestingly, the women, as depicted by Linda, seem not to worry on how they men treat them, maybe seeing it as just normal.