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3. Act I – “It’s all right. I came back.”
About this Lecture
In this module, we read through the first part of Act I, from the beginning of the play to the moment where Linda tells Willy that “they can’t expect you to keep travelling every week” (pp. 2-4). In particular, we focus on: (i) the character of Linda, and the extent to which this play is as much her tragedy as it is Willy’s; (ii) the multiple potential readings of Willy’s first line: “It’s all right. I came back.”; (iii) the symbolism (if any) of the fact Willy can’t keep his car on the road; (iv) Linda’s attempts to transfer the blame from Willy to (first) his car and (then) his spectacles (“Maybe it was the steering again”, “Maybe it’s your glasses”) and the implicit criticism of consumer culture; (v) Willy’s longing for nature (“But it’s so beautiful up there, Linda”); and (vi) the sense of an ending even at this point in the play (“You’re sixty years old. They can’t expect you to keep travelling every week”).
In this nineteen-part course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. We begin with a broad introduction to the historical, literary and cultural context, before going through the play scene-by-scene, providing close reading and detailed analysis, with commentary on character, plot, themes and motifs, language, symbolism, and more.
Note: Page numbers are based on the Penguin edition of the play (1998, ed. Christopher Bigsby). Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both text and page numbers.
John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.
Cite this Lecture
McRae, J. (2021, January 22). Miller: Death of a Salesman - Act I – “It’s all right. I came back.” [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/miller-death-of-a-salesman-mcrae/act-i-it-s-all-right-i-came-back
McRae, J. "Miller: Death of a Salesman – Act I – “It’s all right. I came back.”." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Jan 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/miller-death-of-a-salesman-mcrae/act-i-it-s-all-right-i-came-back