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The Marxist Theory of Consumerism in Death of a Salesman, a Play by Arthur Miller


Karl Marx is among the greatest names connected with communism, however arguably his biggest works come from economics rather than politics. Marx saw the destruction caused by industrialism and industrialism, which cause many of his theories collectively known as Marxism. This school of idea takes a look at the financial and political styles within society, primarily those expressed in literature. One idea within Marxist theory is consumerism. Consumerism did not arise up until after the Industrial Revolution, when products were no longer crafted by hand, but were standardized and offered instead of traded.

Although consumerism is not directly specified by Marx, it is well within the realm of his work. According to Lois Tyson in a chapter on Marxist Criticism, “Consumerism, or shop ’till you dropism … is an ideology that says ‘I’m only as excellent as what I buy'” (Tyson 60). In this manner of thinking leads to unmanageable spending and frequently a big quantity of financial obligation, all in pursuit of the “American Dream”. When going over the role of money in his theories on alienation, Marx stated, “The quantity of cash becomes progressively its just crucial quality … Excess and immoderation become its true requirement” (Fromm 46). In this quote, Marx points out the “excess and immoderation” shown in consumerism, in which the customers should have “more” merely because of the esteem related to innumerous purchases. Tyson elaborates by saying, “For Marxism, a product’s value lies not in what it can do (use worth) but in the cash or other products for which it can be traded (exchange value) or in the social status it provides on its owner (sign-exchange worth)” (Tyson 62). Thus, consumerism can be considered one of the repressive, capitalist ideologies that Marx typically slammed.

Rampant consumerism is easily identifiable in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesperson. Willy Loman works desperately to provide for his family and accomplish the American Dream. Due to the fact that of his deep need to appear successful, Willy purchases the newest amenities for his better half and household. However, the Loman’s can not afford these expensive purchases and need to buy on credit. In one scene, Willy asks his spouse Linda what they owe and she replies, “Well, on the very first there’s sixteen dollars on the fridge … [and] nine-sixty for the washing machine. And for the vacuum there’s three and a half due on the fifteenth. Then the roofing system, you got twenty-one dollars remaining. Then you owe Frank for the carburetor.” The debt from all these purchases pertains to “around a hundred and twenty dollars” (Miller 23). By the time these purchases are settled, the products are well-worn and in need of replacements, at least in Willy’s eyes. When they first repair the fridge shortly after buying it, Willy states “I understand, it’s a fine machine” (Miller 13). Nevertheless, when it is almost paid off, he states, “I informed you we should’ve bought a well-advertised machine. Charley purchased a General Electric and it’s twenty years of ages and it’s still good …” (Miller 31). This is an ideal illustration of consumerism. Willy is content with his new machine until he understands that his bro has something much better. To Willy, his self-regard is straight connected to his product possessions. When these things start to stop working, he, too, seems like a failure.

Miller’s play is appropriate for a Marxist method. The financial themes in fact assisted turn the lens on myself. Willy Loman is not an extremely likeable guy, especially with his constant requirement to be the supplier. His drive to live the American Dream eliminates from the genuinely important things in life, mainly his household. It is simple to hate Willy for his fascination with cash and product ownerships, and yet those exact same qualities can be discovered on any modern day street. The loathing that readers feel towards Willy speaks volumes about the existing financial scenario. Money guidelines the world around us, and yet we stop working to see it. Nevertheless, a Marxist Criticism of Death of a Salesman assists bring to light the realities of these concerns and their prospective effects. Willy strived to show the world his ideal life through material valuables, and in doing so he lost out on living a reality and was entrusted to nothing.

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