How does Miller make this scene (pages 31-34) such a dramatic and revealing moment in the play? In the scene involving pages 31- 34, Charley and Willy are playing cards, during which Willy has a flashback of his first meeting with his brother, Ben. Many characters are introduced during the course of the scene: Ben, Charley, Bernard as well as Biff, Happy and Linda.
It is the second flashback that Willy has during the book and the new character of Ben, Willy’s brother is introduced into the story.In order to understand how Miller makes the scene so dramatic and revealing I will be looking at the pace of the scene, the use of foreshadowing, Willy’s desperation, and the relationships between the characters. The appearance of Ben in the scene triggers many interjections. When Biff and Ben are mock fighting, short exclamations are heard,’ Oh, no Sir! ‘ and ‘Okay. ‘ These quick outbursts are surprising to the audience, as they come from various characters at various times. As these cries build up, spontaneous events begin to happen.
‘Suddenly [Ben} comes in, trips Biff….the point of his umbrella poised over his eye. ‘ As the scene so quickly switches from fun to a tense atmosphere, this makes the scene dramatic.
The event is out-of-the-blue that it highlights in the instability between the characters behaviours, and the pace at which the scene is moving is very swift. When Ben says he has to go, Willy bursts out saying, ‘We’re gonna rebuild this entire front stoop right now. ‘ The fact that he has to show off to Ben, and go out on a complete whim to impress him, emphasises how hectic the scene is and to the extent that Willy will go to just to have Ben’s approval.The fast moving nature of the scene makes it so dramatic as the audience cannot anticipate what may happen next. The unpredictability and unsettling pace of the scene are also revealing as they show the mentality of the characters especially Willy. There are many important prophecies during the course of the scene.
Charley sees what Willy cannot. In the previous scene, Charley tells Willy that, ‘if a deposit bottle is broken, you don’t get your nickel back. ‘ He warns Willy that Biff, is troubled and tired of being reminded of being successful, and that Willy needs to accept Biff as he is.Again in the scene, Charley gives Willy valuable advice which is ignored. ‘Willy, the jails are full of fearless characters. ‘ Charley foreshadows Biff’s spell in jail, he also says that fearlessness or someone who tries to become a brave character may end up in trouble if they do not control their ambitions. It is very troubling that Charley is ignored during the scene, as Charley is the voice of reason and of reality, in between the various characters in the story.Charley’s predictions are make the scene revealing as even though the pace of the scene makes it so erratic, the audience are given clues to what may happen later in the story and more importantly Biff’s future.
Willy overlooks Charley’s sensible opinions and it is so alarming that Willy does so making the scene very dramatic. Willy desperation is another important factor during the course of the scene. Willy is in need of reassurance and guidance from Ben. As soon as Ben comes, Willy asks, ‘What’s the answer? ‘ and ‘How do you do it? ‘. Willy’s gushing questions magnifies how insecure and unconfident Willy is.
He is so desperate for Ben to help him that he does not care about Ben’s mood. Willy also needs Ben to tell him about his heritage and his childhood. As Ben tells Willy, that father ‘made more in a week [with one gadget]’ it reassures Willy that in any one week he could become very rich and successful. Ben is a connection to Willy’s childhood. ‘Was it Nebraska? ‘ questions Willy. ‘I feel temporary about myself.
‘ Willy is so anxious to feel comfortable about himself and he believes that being knowledgeable about his childhood and family will bring him closer to this. In previous scenes he has made his own insecurities known to Linda.’I’m fat’ and ‘I talk too much,’ are excuses he uses for not bring home much money, when in fact he just can’t accept the fact that people won’t always like him or people don’t like him the way he is. To Willy, Ben is the American dream. Willy is despairing for Ben to stay.
When Ben says that he only has ‘only a few minutes. ‘ Willy responds shouting,’ No! Boys! Boys! ‘ He demands that Ben must stay, hoping that success will rub off onto Willy as well as his boys. ‘You see what I’m talking about? ‘ The greatest things can happen. ‘ Willy tells his boys that if success can happen for Ben then it can happen for all of them.However, Ben contradicts Willy and the American Dream.
Success came for Ben in Africa not America. Ben tells Biff to, ‘never fight fair with a stranger. ‘ This suggests that Ben did not ‘play the game’ correctly and there is corruption behind the way in which Ben achieved success. Ben never says clearly how he accomplished his wealth he just repeats the phrase,’ When I was seventeen I walked out, and by God I was rich. ‘ Willy’s desperation makes the scene revealing as it shows Willy’s state of mind.
He is uncomfortable in his own skin because of his driving ambition to attain such levels of wealth like Ben.The scene demonstrates various relationships between characters. Between Charley and Willy tensions are high.
Willy accuses Charley of playing unfairly. ‘Since the beginning you never knew how to play cards. ‘ Willy does not want to admit that Charley has been more profitable, so he accuses Charley of cheating him out of his fortune. Willy is jealous of what Charley has gained but he does not want to admit it. The relationship between Ben and Willy has a big imbalance. Willy is the admirer seeking attention from Ben, whilst Ben patronises Willy, Willy just ignores it.’Good luck with your- what do you do? ‘ Ben does not care for what Willy does, his tone suggests he came to Willy just lord his wealth and success over their family.
Charley and Linda are concerned about Ben’s influence on Willy. Linda does not understand Ben’s intentions. She ‘withdraws her hand coldly. ‘ She is unsure of him and therefore does not trust even though he is a relative. Charley contradicts Ben.
Charley is actually trying to help by telling Willy,’ the jails are full of fearless characters,’ but Ben interjects saying,’ and so is the stock exchange.’ He even adds, ‘my friend,’ to make Willy come round to his way of thinking, and so he is believed by Willy. The various relationships between the characters are revealing as it shows the control that Ben has over Willy. The scene is also dramatic in the way in which Charley, Linda and Biff react to the arrival of Ben.
In conclusion, the most important factor making this scene revealing and dramatic as is shows Willy’s state of mind. The way in which Willy can be influenced by Ben and the way in which his ambitions manipulate him and his sons,