Women as Second Class Citizens – Death of a Salesm
anWomen as Second Class Citizens
Women have been regarded as second class citizens throughout history. It is common knowledge that almost every language and culture tends to be male-dominated. Some think that the feelings of superiority by men can be traced back to the biblical times of Adam and Eve as Adam was created in Gods image and Eve came from Adam. Women did not gain equal rights until the early 1970s in the United States. They were finally allowed to possess a credit card without their husbands names on it. Before this, they earned the right to vote, serve on juries and to have the same minimum wage as men. However, just because equal rights are given, equal treatment is not a guarantee. This discrimination and dominance of women is displayed in Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman. During the time that the play takes place, 1928 – 1945, women were still in a battle for equal treatment and equal rights. Miller shows the sexism in society at this time by not including any strong female figures in the play.
The only main female character in the play is Willy Lomans wife, Linda. Linda seems to be living in a fantasy world as she thinks very highly of her husband and constantly caters to his very need. He was even disappointed with her when she purchased a new American type cheese that was whipped. Willy claims that he likes Swiss and is disgruntled by this. However, Linda only bought this cheese because she thought that he would like to try something different. This disagreement and unappreciative attitude displayed by Willy is just a glimpse of how awfully he treats her. Through all of Willys violent outbursts and his failing health, success, and loss of reality, Linda is always by his side making excuses for his behavior. Willy is not at all interested in her input in conversations, as he tells her to shut her mouth and shut up when she tries to add something to a conversation. Linda plays the role of a doormat for Willy as it seems that he wipes his feet with her and she just lays there doing nothing about it.
Although this display makes Linda look bad, she had to take an excessive amount of Willys abuse so, it, in turn, made her stronger. She had to be emotionally sound herself to find happiness in all these years of marriage to Willy. She never gives up on him, even when he kills himself. Upon his death, she claims that He was so wonderful with his hands and asks him for his help. It seems that she does not know what to do with herself now that she has gained her independence. Linda cannot be necessarily blamed for her behavior because it was popular at those times and accepted in society that women did not work and the men ran the house. However, Linda did not realize how capable she was of being a strong person that made her own decisions and, therefore, to live a happier and more fulfilling life.
Miller also shows a reflection of the treatment of women at the time of the play with the attitudes of Willy and Lindas sons, Happy and Biff. These tow grown men still living in their parents home treat women like objects. This is usually a phase that is outgrown by men in their mid twenties. However, as a reflection of the society in which they live and of their fathers actions, they seemed to never outgrow it. Biff has even caught his father having an affair with another woman in Boston. This event shattered his previous view of his father and their relationship. This could be the main reason for Biffs behavior as the only male role model in his life is an adulterer. Happy seems to have no remorse when he sleeps with an engaged woman. The woman is even engaged to a person that he knows. He has, in a sense, ruined her, making her a liar also. However, it does not seem to be that big of a deal to him. Another factor in the tow brothers behavior is the fact that their mother, Linda, never stood up to their father and was not strong. This could have given Biff and Happy the idea that a woman is supposed to be like this and that women come second to their men. Biff and Happy are supporters of sexism at that time, whether they know it or not.
In this play, Miller uses the behavior of the characters and the fact that there are no strong female roles to create a reflection of the views of society at that time. The fact that sex differences can be easily recognized upon first meeting makes it an easy target for social organization and superiority. Unfortunately, the repression of women, like the repression of minorities, has just caused society to be held back. Different views and experience can lead to a more intelligent and productive society.