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17. Act II – “I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you!"
About this Lecture
In this module, we read through the final part of Act II, from Biff’s decision to leave home to Willy’s funeral (pp. 101-109), focusing in particular on: (i) the Biblical resonances of Willy refusing to see Linda three times (“I don’t want to see her… I don’t want to see her… Don’t bother me, will you?”, p. 102); (ii) the theme of communication (and lack of communication) within the family (“We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house!”, p. 104); (iii) the concept, once again, of the ‘common man’ (“Pop! I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you!’, p. 105) and what this play tells us about ‘the common man’ – is it possible to write fanfares for the common man (as Aaron Copland did in 1942) or just tragedies?; (iv) the character of Ben and the importance of music in shaping the mood (“In accents of dread, BEN'S idyllic music starts up”, p. 107); (v) Ben and Willy’s ‘danse macabre’, as Willy readies himself for suicide; (vi) the car crash, and the echoes of Chekhov’s ‘The Cherry Orchard’ (1903) in the climactic music (“the soft pulsation of a single cello string”, p. 109); and (vii) the location of Willy’s grave on the stage, exactly where he had been planting his carrots moments before.
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 II – “I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you!" [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/miller-death-of-a-salesman-mcrae/act-ii-i-m-a-dime-a-dozen-and-so-are-you
McRae, J. "Miller: Death of a Salesman – Act II – “I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you!"." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 22 Jan 2021, https://www.massolit.io/courses/miller-death-of-a-salesman-mcrae/act-ii-i-m-a-dime-a-dozen-and-so-are-you