Survey of Literature

This week’s focus is drama and the reading includes a brief history of drama and a discussion of the elements of drama. Additionally, five dramas are included in the textbook reading. The first play, Trifles by Susan Glaspell, is a one-act play that Glaspell based upon a true story of a murder she covered as a journalist. Glaspell is one of America’s earliest dramatists. The chapter also includes one of the best known American plays by one of our preeminent dramatists: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Three plays by world dramatists are also included: Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Antigone by the ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles, and A Doll’s House by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Film versions of each of these plays can be found in the Kanopy database available through Bethel’s library. To access this database, click on the Library button at the top of the page and then click Articles. Scroll down and click All Bethel’s Databases and then click the K tab. You’ll find Kanopy Streaming Videos listed. In Kanopy, you can search for the title of the play you’re interested in in the search box at the top of the page. I hope you enjoy this week’s readings and once again see how—no matter the time or place written—literature serves as both a window and a mirror.

Let’s discuss the idea of the American hero regarding Death of a Salesman. The American idea of a tragic hero differs substantially from the Ancient Greek idea of the tragic hero and one’s tragic flaw. How do you find value in reading about such American tragic heroes such as Willy Loman?

Be sure to support your ideas with details from the play as well as quoted passages. As always, make sure you use in-text citations and an end reference.


In what ways does Will Loman recognize (or fail to recognize) his own shortcomings? Why does this matter? Would you say that Willy Loman’s lack of self-awareness is a major part of the tragedy?


What did you personally learn about human behavior from the historical aspects of the play and does this play’s commentary on American consumerism resonate with what we see and experience in our society today?


Is Willy Loman completely responsible for what became of him and his keeping-up-with the Joneses obsession or can we also blame the social and cultural environment in which he lived?

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