Authors often use such themes as family relations in their literary works. Arthur Miller and August Wilson also resorted to this eternal issue.
Their vision, their works Death of a Salesman (Miller) and Fences (Wilson), was praised by many people and is now regarded as conventional. Both plays received many awards and Pulitzer Prize among them. In-depth analysis of human relationships made the two plays significant literary works. The two authors illustrate hardships of aged men who fail to reveal their affection and care towards their family members. Apart from the depiction of relationships between family members the two authors also touched upon such issues as social and economical hardships and their impact on peoples’ relationships, insanity and death. The two plays explore the same themes which can be regarded as eternal since even nowadays they are up-to-date.
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The importance of the main themes of the plays is unquestionable
I have chosen the plays Fences and Death of a Salesman because they deal with issues which are topical at present. People face similar problems in modern American society. Economical hardships made people more concerned with earning money rather than paying attention to building proper relationships with their family members. Moreover, people tend to close themselves into their shells. Thus, the main characters of the two dramas were the major decision makers in their families.
They tried to be the real heads of their families. Unfortunately, this led one of them to insanity and the other one to alienate himself from the rest of the family. Admittedly, when people face problems in outer world the only way to overcome these issues is to construct metaphorical fences around their families which will support come what may. The two plays have very much in common in terms of the themes revealed. They are written at different times but dwell upon the same issues. The issues remain unsolved because they are really ever-lasting. Perhaps, only in several hundred years people will see the only possible solution which was suggested by Miller and Wilson in the twentieth century. Thus, the main reason I chose the plays is that the themes disclosed in them are really important for people.
Family relationship is the main theme in the plays
The major theme of the two plays is family relationships in hard times. Both families have certain financial constraints. The both protagonists of the plays believe that a “man got to take care of his family” (Wilson 38). This seemingly perfect formula is not realized by them. Troy Maxson and Willy Loman focus on things that are not of primary importance. Of course, it is essential for the head of the family to earn enough money to bring up his children and support his wife. Nevertheless, the two protagonists fail to fulfill the most important part of being a father and a husband: to build proper relationships with their children and wives, to support not only financially but psychologically.
In both plays children get tired of their fathers indifference and the lack of their support. This distance between the father and the children is better revealed in Fences where Troy’s wife, Rose, that their family consists of “halves” (Jacobus 884). The family has three children from three mothers. The father is alienated from all of the children and his wife. Troy is concerned with racial issues and social injustice, his mistress Alberta and his glorious sport past. Troy stipulates that he has to take care of his family though none of his children or wife has his support. Cory, his son wants to achieve something in his life playing football, though his father does not want him “to get all tied up in them sports” (Wilson 34).
Tory believes that there is no place for non-white people in sports since he was once rejected. Troy is disappointed in his first son, and simply hands in his born out of wedlock child to his wife, Rose. Miller’s protagonist Willy is also somewhat alienated from his family.
Just like Troy Willy fails to keep the proper relationship with his children who do not feel their father’s support. However, in this play the father is eager to be a good father, but makes only mistakes. He has tried to find the way to make money for all his life: “Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it” (Miller 10).
Another excuse for Willy is his insanity. He cannot possibly pay much attention to his family since his own brain alienates him from reality.
The plays have other themes in common
Building fences is an important theme in the plays
The theme of building relationship with other people is supported by another theme: fences. Both protagonists of the plays created fences around themselves. They isolate themselves from the rest of the world. For instance, Troy only sees obstacles and does not want to find the way out. He tries to rebel but fails – he loses his job.
He does not believe that his son will not succeed in sport because Troy constructed a fence when he could not make it out in sport himself. Willy’s fences are even more substantial. His mind starts creating barriers. His children try to stand their father’s insanity though they fail. Willy is alienated from his own children because of his mental disorder.
It is important to add that these fences do not make Willy and Troy invisible and invincible. Vice versa, the fences prevent them from seeing the real world. They do not estimate situations correctly. Eventually, they both lose their jobs and this makes them build new, more substantial fences. Thus, one of the greatest fences Troy and Willy has built is their reluctance to accept changes. They would like to live dreaming about their past success.
Troy is fond of his sport career. He is proud of it. However, he does not want his son to devote his youth to sport, because Troy does not believe in changes. He still thinks that it is impossible for a colored boy to make a good career in sports. Willy is also concerned with his past success. Of course, in the play he is not that successful salesman as he used to be. Perhaps, this is the reason why he does not like changes as well.
Insanity is also dwelt upon in the plays
The two plays also highlight the theme of insanity. Of course, this issue is revealed in different ways and insanity plays quite different roles in the plays. However, this theme is very important for both plays. Thus, in Death of a Salesman the main character becomes insane because of the hardships he had to overcome. His insanity is manifested by his talks to imaginary people. This insanity alienates the protagonist from his children.
Of course, it leads to his death. As far as the play Fences is concerned, it is necessary to point out that it also pays significant role. To my mind, the insanity of Troy’s brother Gabriel positively influences Troy’s life and gives him salvation.
Gabriel’s insanity enables Troy to build his house. In the end Gabriel opens heaven’s gate for his brother. Thus, Troy’s fences are destroyed (metaphorically, of course), he becomes less alienated from his family after his death. Eventually, the family members try to be respectful to their fathers after their death.
The authors would appreciate each other’s works
In my opinion, the authors would appreciate each other’s works since the plays reveal burning issues and evoke many thoughts. Both plays deal with certain disappointment in life which led to worsening of family relationships.
Of course, if the plays were identical the authors would not like them. However, Fences and Death of Salesman depict similar problems in families pertaining to quite different worlds. The Lomans have some financial problems but still have more opportunities than the Maxsons who have to face racial intolerance and suppression. Thus, both writers reveal different facets of the same social and personal issues. This could be the main reason why Miller and Wilson would like the works of each other.
On balance, the plays Fences and Death of a Salesman contain several similar themes. Both plays’ main theme is the family relationship in the times of changes. Apart from this the plays dwell upon such issues as success, insanity and personal alienation.
Attention to such important themes makes the plays best examples of the perfect literary works which can inspire people to act or react. The works like the two plays can help many people think of their own problems from the different angle. Moreover, I am sure that many people will find the necessary solutions for their real life issues.
Jacobus, Lee A. Bedford Introduction to Drama.
Boston: Bedford / St. Martins, 2008. Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 1998. Wilson, August.
Fences. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 2010.