A Dream Needed for Misery: Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

            Background: Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play by Arthur Miller, which tells the story about the slow dissolution of Willy Loman’s life. It is a tragedy of unraveling dreams, and the regrettable meeting of an unshakeable optimism, and an unmoveable (and indifferent) reality. It will be considered how Willy Loman’s dreams are not merely self-deceptions, but are the necessary sustenance of his life – a life that is simultaneously condemned to misery by those dreams. It can be difficult to read Death of a Salesman and not see Marx lurking offstage, watching his insights come to life, as Marx is a political philosopher of some repute. For explicit examination of the concepts that are offhandedly mentioned in this article, the essay “Estranged Labor” by Karl Marx is recommended. 

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The Non-existence in Silence: Marilynne Robinson’s jack

            Background: the novel jack by Marilynne Robinson is the fourth installment alongside her novels, Gilead, Home, and Lila, and accounts for the existential listlessness of the titular character, Jack. The emphasis here will be on how the experience of sound, and the further differentiation between quietness and silence, can account for one aspect of Jack’s relentless unease in the world. Jack’s attuned awareness to his own situation is what makes him preternaturally alert to his own suffering, and rather than providing a potential salvation, his knowledge is a precondition to his misery. Although it will not be discussed in length, a Heideggerian understanding of “dwelling” and its relationship to “being” is recommended, but not necessary (the concepts are discussed in his work Poetry, Language, Thought). For further reading on the philosophy of sound and ethos, the following books are recommended: Jennifer Lynn Stoever’s The Sonic Color Line; Lawrence Kramer’s The Hum of the World; and Nancie Erhard’s Moral Habitat.

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