Death of a Salesman Movie Review
Many people have different points of view on “Death of a Salesman”, a film written by Arthur Miller. Some think this film would be a great example of Transcendentalism while others believe it embodies more anti-Transcendental aspects. Since Arthur Miller’s film “Death of a Salesman” exhibits more anti-Transcendental ideas than Transcendental ideas, it serves as a better example of anti-Transcendentalism.
While Transcendentalism focuses on the endless possibilities of human spirit, anti-Transcendentalism focuses on the potential harm that can be caused by human spirit. Human beings are extremely flawed and often develop unconscious habits that cause nothing but problems; however, that is just human nature. Nathaniel Hawthorne clearly depicts this in one of his works called The Minister’s Black Veil. For example, he stated “A person who watched the interview between the dead and the living, scrupled not to affirm, that, at the instant when the clergyman’s features were disclosed, the corpse had slightly shuddered” (271). This shows the person’s unconscious habit of reacting when they encounter something terrifying. Consistently, Willy Loman, a passionate salesman that was determined to succeed, was undeniably flawed. One of his numerous flaws is an unconscious habit he picked up of being fixated with the American Dream. Like countless others, Willy yearned for nothing but the best for his family. Although he tended to have trouble with showing it, he made all his decisions while keeping the best interest of his family in mind. Specifically, since Willy was so set on accomplishing his goal of obtaining the American Dream, he was constantly working in order to provide for his family and make them happy. He even went as far as driving himself to his own death because he believed that was what his family wanted.
Not only does Arthur Miller’s film incorporate Nathaniel Hawthorne’s idea about human nature, but it also includes his concept of being self-reliant. Multiple characters from The Minister’s Black Veil desired to live by high standards and cover up all their imperfections that they viewed to be lesser than. In addition, they were obsessed with seeking the approval of others with their superficial lifestyle. Nevertheless, Willy resembled many of the characters' lack of contentment with their lives. For instance, Willy can be seen complaining about his house, the area he lives in, the amount of money that he earns and much more. As a result, he imagines a better life for him and his family. He stated “...we’re gonna get a little place out in the country, and I’ll raise some vegetables, a couple of chickens . . . And they’ll get married, and come for a weekend. I’d build a little guest house. ’Cause I got so many fine tools, all I’d need would be a little lumber and some peace of mind. . . I could build two guest houses, so they’d both come”(Miller Act 2). This scene depicts Willy’s lack of contentment with his life and showed how he wants things that he doesn’t have. In other words, Willy was unsatisfied with what his life had become and desired to change it. Since Willy was always working in order to provide for his family, he was always away from home and never actually had quality time to spend with his family. Instead, he smothered himself with the visualization of becoming successful, which he defined as being wealthy, having a stable job, and having a happy family.
Due to the fact that Willy Loman was incredibly unsatisfied with his life, he attempted to cover up his true-self with an invisible mask. This anti-Transcendental idea explains how everyone has a secret sin and wears an invisible mask in hopes that no one will learn the truth about themselves in order to fit in with society’s standards. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Minister’s Black Veil demonstrates how everyone has an evil side to them. In particular, Nathaniel Hawthorne declared “I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!”(276). This quote articulates that everybody has a secret sin that they tried to keep away from society so that no one will know who they truly are. Additionally, it is as if everyone is wearing an invisible black veil. This is similar to Willy Loman’s secret sin presented through the film. Willy Loman’s greatest sin was adultery. Furthermore, his foolish affair caused him to bottle up all his guilt, which was extremely detrimental to his mental health. His guilty conscience and poor mental health lead him to have terrible flashbacks throughout his day and even lead to him being in a suicidal state of mind.
As it can be seen, Arthur Miller’s film, “Death of a Salesman” is a better example of anti-Transcendentalism than Transcendentalism. “Death of a Salesman” clearly depicted the negative aspects of life throughout the film. Arthur Miller’s film focused on the anti-Transcendental ideas in Willy’s life.