Sunday, January 9, 2011

Feminism Critic of Death of a Salesman

          Death of a Salesman's character Linda is an instrument in analyzing the play through a Feminist lens. Linda, the only woman mentioned by name within the play, is overlooked and forsaken. The entire play is centered on Willy and what Willy desires. Linda is merely a tool he uses in order to enhance his own personal happiness. This is seen through Willy’s affair and symbolic use of stockings. Willy selfishly cheats on his loyal wife and buys “the woman” new stockings. Later, Linda is seen mending old stockings because she is too kind to burden Willy with needing new ones and because she assumes it is her duty to keep things together—including her stockings. Willy obviously neglects his wife’s need for new stockings revealing woman’s “second rate” place within society. Willy also takes advantage of Linda’s “infinite patience” (17), and makes decisions solely based on himself because he is aware of this attribute within Linda. Further, the fact Linda is completely oblivious to Willy’s affair displays her as “stupid”—or at least not as intelligent as Willy who is able to hide it from her.
                In addition, Linda is an extreme pacifist and is portrayed as frail and unable to defend herself. Even though her children were young and merely goofing around, when they start to tackle one another, she frantically exclaims “Why are you fighting?” (49). Through the character of Linda, Miller is constantly trying to put woman within a box. Very literally, Linda is never seen leaving the house! She is subject to a cycle of taking care of Willy, Laundry, protecting peace within the house, cooking, cleaning, “mend[ing] the lining of Willy’s jacket” (53), and rarely sleeping. Despite the fact Linda holds the family together, she often even overlooked by the reader because she seems to lack any substance. She appears to merely be a “nice” housewife and mother without any backbone—a role woman have been forced into for centuries and only recently have been able to break free of.
Also, Linda very literally makes no distinction between herself and Willy. When Biff is angry at Willy, Linda states “Biff, dear, if you don’t have any feeling for him, then you can’t have any feeling for me” (55). Even when Linda is “angry,” her speech lacks passion as she refers to Biff as “dear.” Miller suggests those women are not only to be submissive to men, but truly have no identity apart from them! Not only that, but they apparently “hold men back.” When Willy longs to go out to Alaska for a life of adventure, Linda begs him to “stay with her and the children.” Though Willy does stay, he outright tells Linda multiple times he regrets he didn’t her. Even when he does not literally say anything, his actions often show he resents her for it. Essentially women are in a “lose lose” situation in life. A woman only has purpose in a man, yet she will “hold the man back” so he inevitably will resent her—so either way, woman is destined for a life trying to “work” for her husband’s “love.” Men not only rule the world, but within this play, are the only people who even matter.   


  1. Dang Christina! You attacked this blog with articulate ferocity! I'm thoroughly convinced by your targeted commentary and thorough incorporation of CDs that Linda, indeed, is a tragic figure in the feminist school of theory. Excellent job writing from this perspective and persuasively arguing your thesis!


  2. Negative. First it's only a play. Second the fact that Linda faithfully follows her husband does not suggest lack of intelligence or 'be-littering" of the female character. The same way Man can cheat , woman are more likely and have been proven to get away with it. Regardless of psychological or physical reasons. Cheating is Cheating and its WRONG(NO MATTER THE 'REASONS'. A woman can buy her "LOVER" gifts, and ignore her husbands needs and vice verse. So that argument is irrelevant. The Play is called "Death of a Salesman", so yes that has a lot to do with Willy's dominance. Im not trying to get someone in to a religion or change yours, yet God did create a Man and a Woman(SEPARATE). Although we are equal in intelligence we are not equal in strength. And without order there will be chaos.

    Therefore, Man are and should do certain things in life and that should never change, and the same for woman.
    The same sits true with our environment, as if you introduce, take away or change it(geo/eco), it would have a devastating effect.Try to change the eating habits of sharks and make them only eat sea weed, because it's to violent what they do "NATURALLY". That alone would effect more than just the poor species on the sharks food chain.

    To be honest, I have no respect for Feminism. Yet .....YET, I do respect females, as I do my mother,wife and my sisters. As that's how I was brought up. Therefore , I know my part in the world isn't about, "what you can do, so can I". I know as a man, unless there is a "chaotic" shift in our genes, we are what we are, and you are what you are. Don't fight it, just be happy and live life!!

  3. Trini it is 2013 and there is a name for you patriarchal woman, assumably you would get along with Margaret Thatcher really well. You should not fall into accepting the role of a patriarchal woman. Furthermore rather then solely relying of faith try picking up a book covering contemporary feminist ideologies. I am a 30 year old white male and I see the changes within our patriarchal society, yet I also see the room for improvement. Your 1970's "sisterhood" model is way outdated and when arguing your position be very careful when you use the word natural. (Your shark example was poorly thought out) Last word of advice Trini become aware of the difference between biological essentialism and social constructionism (Sex/Gender)

    Christina I agree with your argument in so far as this piece of literature reveals how easily women unconsciously fall victim to traditional gender roles of our culture. Of course feminism has had a bad wrap in the past I would argue it is because the way men painted the image of the feminist. Death of a SalesMAN should be a reminder to women to think about what is expected of them and what socially integrated. Nice argument Christina