Death of a Salesman vs. Fifth Business, Feminist Perspective Essay

Independent Study Unit ENG4U1 – Ms. Martin Bianca Mastroianni Comparative Essay Fifth Business by Roberson Davies and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Throughout most of history woman have faced an imbalance within their social class opposed to the male gender. They have had fewer rights and much fewer career opportunities, the stereotype that a women’s place is in the home is due to the most socially accepted and common career of wifehood and motherhood. Through the comparison of Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and Fifth Business by Robertson Davies the contrasts between both works are explored from the feminist perspective.

The status of woman in the early and mid nineteen hundreds is reflected by the lifestyles of Dunstan’s mother Mrs. Ramsey and Linda Loman. Dunstan’s and Happy’s attitude and the ways in which they care for the woman they have been intimate with throughout their lives. Lastly examined is contrast between the impacts of Mrs. Dempster’s episode of infidelity opposed to Willy’s similar affair. The relationship between Linda Loman and Dunstan Ramsey’s mother begins with the characteristics of their everyday lives.

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Linda’s character is a typical housewife of the late 1940’s, she is left with the responsibilities and the care of her husband Willy as he is going through a declining mental state. What mainly links Linda to the typical role of a silenced house wife is her unconditional love for her husband. While somewhat portrayed in control of Willy’s life and her own she is constantly belittled and degraded by her husband, although passive towards his attitude she is forced into a life of submission. Willy’s constant demands to silence Linda such as “Don’t interrupt! (Act 1) in response to Linda’s question “Isn’t that wonderful? ” (Act 1) in addition to “I’m so tired. Don’t talk anymore. ”(Act 1) express his dominance as not only a male but his role as her husband. Her position is below the place of her husbands, and to his needs and demands she follows. Linda is a reflection of the very typical lifestyle of woman in the mid 1900’s with limited social achievements the position of a housewife was truly the most common and socially accepted standard of living for woman. Much like in Fifth Business Dunstan’s mother is also a common housewife.

After the episode of Mrs. Dempster’s pre-mature birth, Dunstan’s mother takes on the responsibility of being a care giver, almost a stand in wife to aid to both Mrs. Dempster and her new born son’s needs. She acts as a teacher in showing Mrs. Dempster how to maintain her household and care for her son. Dunstan’s mother, being a housewife of the early 1900’s, makes it evident in the book that the role of the housewife, and the qualities especially, were required. The statement “Why had Mrs. Dempster’s mother never prepared her for these aspects of marriage? (pg 20) make it apparent that it was an abnormality to be uneducated in the field of housekeeping and wifehood. Dunstan Ramsey’s first physical love affair was with a woman by the name of Diana Marfleet. She was a nurse at the hospital Dunstan was transferred to while in a coma due to harsh injuries from the war. The relationship they shared began on a quite personal level due to the fact that she had taken the duty to nurse him back to health. Dunstan with time becomes intimate with Diana, her taking his virginity as well being his first intimate encounter at the age of 20.

Diana, having fallen in love with Dunstan makes a point of soon having a marital future, it is at this point that Dunstan make its clear he has lost interest, and does not feel the same way. His explanation towards their failed relationship was due to the fact that he felt she was to much like a mother to him, because of her aiding him back to a healthy life. “She was to much a mother to me, and as I had had one mother, and lost her, I was not in a hurry to acquire another. ” (pg 81) Dunstan’s upbringing , although raised with discipline and manners lacked attention and sensitivity from his mother.

Her role as within the household and the responsibilities she had given herself to show Mrs. Dempster the ropes left substantial scares within Dunstan as he matured, thus forming issues with commitment and intimacy. Dunstan’s mother because of her household tasks within the era of his childhood left her with the devotion mainly to her husband and later to Mrs. Dempster. In relation to Death of a Salesman Linda and Willy’s son Happy developed similar characteristics because he was hidden in the shadow of his brother Biff, Willy’s favored son.

For the reasons of his rejection and neglect his trust, commitment, and intimacy were affected in regards to his relationships with woman. Linda protests to Willy her concern towards Happy’s manner towards woman “He’s to rough with the girls, Willy. All the mothers are afraid of him! ” (Act 1) as well Happy justifies later in the text “You know how honest I am, but it’s like this girl, see. I hate myself for it. Because I don’t want the girl, and, still, I take it and – I love it! ” (Act 1). These excerpts from the script highlight Happy’s desperation for attention as he uses woman as sexual objects.

Because Linda’s attention was fixated among the male dominate within the household, that of which being Willy, she failed to give Happy an equal amount of care such as the type that Willy expresses for Biff. Linda in this scenario is depicted as weak because she fails to argue or change Willy’s priorities of consideration between his sons and instead of taking the opportunity to build a relationship with Happy her weakness results in agreement with Happy’s neglect. Consequently causing him to mistreat and emotionally abuse the relationships, he encounters, lacking commitment, respect and compassion.

In the era’s of both the early 1900’s and the last 1940’s the view of woman was incredibly unequal in comparison to men. If involved in sexual acts with more then one man, especially outside of marriage they were instantly degraded to the title of a “whore” and automatically devalued. Mrs. Dempster’s act of infidelity caused a great shock to the small town of Depford in which she lived. Although not a murderous crime, she was instantly alienated and negatively harassed by many individuals. “That was what stuck in the craws of all the good woman of Depford: Mrs.

Dempster had not been raped, as a decent woman would have been – no, she had yielded because a man wanted her. ” (pg 43) This quotation outlines the treatment and judgments Mrs. Dempster was forced to face after her sexual encounter. Robertson Davies, depicts her now as “bad” since it is made clear that her adultery would only be socially acceptable if she had been raped like a “decent” woman, this reflects the social rank of woman and the expectations of purity that they were anticipated to live up to during the time in which the book was written.

Where as in contrast to Death of a Salesman Willy Loman also encounters acts of unfaithfulness and disloyalty but the consequences he later faces are characteristics of personal guilt. Arthur Miller does not make Willy endure any aspects of becoming a social out cast or a declined social classification. As a result this highlights the differences between the common freedom of men and woman. “What happened in Boston? ”(Act 2) is a referral to Biff’s knowledge of his fathers unfaithful actions.

Although he caused Willy to face a greater amount of personal guilt, the male dominance within the script magnetically grips Biff’s loyalty to his father, leaving Linda as a victim of betrayal. In both works, Death of a Salesman and Fifth Business many aspects stand out within the way in which they are written as well as the occurrences throughout stressing the inequality of woman within the period that they are written.

The comparisons made between Dunstan’s mother and Linda Loman point out the limited characteristics of their lifestyles while the relationship found between Dunstan and Happy make it evident that male dominance within the family affected their relationships and the ways in which they treat the woman they encounter within their lives. Finally the inequality of social consequences to infidelity reveals and truly emphasizes the dramatically different lifestyles men and woman faced not only within literature but within the reality of the time periods too.


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