Student Companion to Arthur Miller

By Susan C. W. Abbotson | Go to book overview

8
Continuing Concerns: The Ride Down Mt. Mo an (1991)

Even in his eighties, Arthur Miller has not slowed down, and although he continues to experiment with form and theme, there remain perennial concerns to which he finds himself drawn as society itself continues to change. Foremost are the needs, desires, and responsibilities of the American family, and even more specifically, the American male. These considerations were dealt with in Death of a Salesman in 1949, and reconsidered fifty years later through the social climate of the 1990s in the evolving story of Lyman Felt in The Ride Down Mt. Morgan.

There are many similarities between Willy Loman and Lyman Felt, beyond the echo in their names. Both are salesman, selling the materialistic American dream of wealth and success by denying certain aspects of reality. But there is an intrinsic difference: Lyman Felt is what Willy Loman wanted to be--handsome, well liked, and successful. Lyman possesses a self-confidence that Loman cannot attain, partly because he has never faced the disgrace of impending failure. He has been better suited to play the capitalistic game by his more resistant personality and his ability to find scapegoats to deflect his own responsibilities. While Loman was a man striving against the inherent difficulties of living during the forties and fifties, Lyman is a man for the eighties, and unlike Loman, a successful businessman. Where Loman is powerless, Lyman is fully empowered. But we can also see, even more clearly than Death of a Salesman displays, just how misguided Willy's desires were, as we witness the dangerous and

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