Death of a Salesman To state that the playwright by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman cannot translate or cross cultural and racial boundaries is complete ignorance and goes against what makes this piece of literature a classic. The timelessness and universality of a work of literature is what makes it great and stand the test of time.

If Death of a Salesman did not have this “universality,” this ability to translate to any audience within any time period then it would not be thought of as classic American literature and would have certainly not been performed around of the world in several difference languages as it was throughout the years.

According to August Wilson in 1996, “To mount an all-black production of Death of a Salesman or any other play conceived for white actors as an investigation of the human condition through the specifics of white culture is to deny us our own humanity, our own history…” I believe that this statement is partially true however not entirely. By considering the time period in which the playwright takes place (1949) it is plausible to say that not all, if not any African Americans shared the same obsession to be a great salesman like Willy Loman.

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However in my opinion the time period in which the playwright takes place is not a major factor and does not affect the characters drastically because regardless of the time period working class Americans have always struggled, whether in the 1940s or 2000s. Death of a Salesman has universality mainly because the characters are so easily relatable; not only are the characters relatable but so are the situations in which those characters face.

Willy has trouble paying his pays bills which is easily relatable to anyone who has ever owned something of their own. What I believe makes this playwright personal and the reasons why so many people around the world enjoy it are the relationships in which the characters have with each other. Many people regardless of race or color have personal problems with their father or mother who puts pressure on them to be successful when all they are ever trying to do is find out who they truly are.

To me this is a common theme in life because so many people go through this and it isn’t always pleasant. Although John Lahr makes some well supported arguments on why he believes Death of a Salesman cannot be performed by an all African American cast, I believe he is making too much of an emphasis on the time period. Without a doubt African Americans would not be obsessed with being great salesmen in the 1940s because they are struggling with more important dilemmas like trying to survive.

However this playwright is timeless and nowhere in the play does it mention an exact date although it is suggested, but suggested or not the problems and character are those of everyday life, no matter what the race. Everyone can relate to this playwright in some way shape or form which is why it has stood the test of time. It sends a strong message to the audience and whether or not it can be performed by an African American cast or a Chinese cast or Spanish cast is simply a matter of opinion because no matter what the time period we all go through the problems the Lomans have.


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