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Death of a Salesman - The Pleasant and Unpleasant Feelings of a Car

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Theatre
Wordcount: 1504 words Published: 11th May 2021

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Cars play an important role in both Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller and My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante. Cars became a challenge in Death of a Salesman, “That goddam Chevrolet,” (36) and My Brilliant Friend, “The two sons of Silvio Solara, Marcello, who was around twenty, and Michele, just a little younger, bought a blue-and-white Fiat 1100 and on Sundays paraded around the streets of the neighborhood.” (107). Cars focus on different characters’ desires and anxieties; for Willy Loman, Marcello Solara, Michele Solara, and Stefano Carracci, they represent a means of superiority and for Elena Greco and Lila Cerullo, they are more so based on their apprehensions.

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For Willy Loman, in Death of a Salesman, cars serve as a reflection of his desires; his desire is achieving the American Dream, in which he thinks that one would have, or quite notably, collect tangible goods and luxurious products like cars. Willy owns a couple of cars like the red Chevy and seems attached to this particular vehicle, and so he says to his wife, Linda, “‘I was thinking of the Chevvy … I coulda sworn I was driving that Chevvy today.’” (19). He continues on reminiscing about the car and converses with his wife about it. Willy Loman praises the car when his spirits are high, thinking he’s getting closer to achieving the American Dream. He answers his wife’s question about how good the red Chevy is, “‘Chevrolet, Linda, is the greatest car ever built,” (34). He starts congratulating himself on making a lot of money in different states. However, not even a while later, he seems to detest the car, “‘I’m not going to pay that man! That goddam Chevrolet, they ought to prohibit the manufacture of that car!’” (36).

When the truth starts to seep out — he actually did not make that much money and overstated the amount — he starts criticizing and loathing the red Chevy.

Another case in which Willy neglects the value of his possessions when money is involved would be with his other car, the Studebaker. His wife explains again to him that they don’t have sufficient money to pay off their debts and to those they owe, “‘Because we’re a little short again … You had the motor job on the car.’” (73) and his response was, “‘That goddam Studebaker!’” (73). This goes to show that when money becomes one of the greatest worries for Willy Loman, he has the tendency to be ungrateful and vilifies the vehicles that he owns, and if the Lomans’ financial situation is improving, then Willy would praise his cars.

Like Willy Loman, owning a car seems to fuel power and ego for the boys in My Brilliant Friend. Marcello and Michele Solara, the two infamous sons of Silvio Solara, are known to be strolling around in their Fiat 1100. They first started off as just cruising down the streets of their neighbourhood, “The two sons of Silvio Solara, Marcello … Michele … bought a blue-and-white Fiat 1100 and on Sundays paraded around the streets of the neighborhood.” (107). However, over time, the boys got a bit too comfortable. The pair have been given the reputation of bringing girls into their car and driving them around town, “On Sunday …  Michele grabbed her by the arm, opened the car door, and pulled her inside. They brought her an hour later to the same place.” (113). The car seems to attract the girls in the neighbourhood because it is expensive, and attracting girls feeds their ego, which makes them conceited. The brothers seem to lean on their luxuries and the girls to boost their self-esteem and mentally assure them that they are better than the other boys in the neighbourhood. So, in a way, the possession of a car is a big deal in their neighbourhood due to many impoverished families.

The Solaras’ brothers showers every girl that rides with them in the car, with gifts and money, “We didn’t even notice the two brothers, we were so struck by the girls who were waving from the windows: Gigliola and Ada. They looked pretty, with pretty dresses, pretty hairdos, sparkling earrings.” (191). Since the Solara brothers’ car entices most girls in the neighbourhood, Marcello and Michele use that advantage and use their money on the girls, to enhance their appearance and beauty. Having pretty girls ride in their car feeds their ego, and lets everyone know that the girl they are riding with is the most attractive, which again, makes the Solaras’ brothers feel good about themselves.

Even then, when the Solaras brothers’ car got slashed and they were severely beaten down by Pasquale, Enzo, and Antonio, they still managed to buy another car:

There was a big uproar about the Solaras’ 1100. It had been demolished. Not only that: the two brothers were savagely beaten … But Carmela and I knew very well that there were only three attackers … The time passed, Marcello and Michele bought a green Guilietta and began to act like the masters of the neighbourhood again. (274-275).

The Solaras’ brothers continue to prove that they are the most handsome and are the wealthiest in the neighbourhood. They made a quick comeback and are letting everyone know that they are the ones who dominate the neighbourhood.

 However, contrasting how cars affect the boys — by feeding their ego and making them feel superior — for Lila and Elena of My Brilliant Friend, it brings out less of their desires and more of their apprehensions. Elena experiences first hand how the whole process goes — the Solaras’ brothers giving rides to the girls of the neighbourhood. She encounters them one day, “They followed me the whole way, I on the sidewalk and they next to me, in the 1100.” (112). For a car to follow someone, especially a girl, it makes them anxious about the unknown or what could happen. The Solaras’ brothers chat with Elena and insist on taking her up for a ride. She refused, “I said no and kept saying no all the way to the gardens, where the car accelerated and disappeared.” (112). They were persistent and because of this, they harassed her. Situations like this make girls feel terrified to even be near boys, or something as little as being hit on by males. Like Elena, Gigliola was approached by the Solaras’ brothers, “The Solara brothers made some vulgar remarks to her.” (113). Even then, small comments and being hit on causes girls to be filled with worry. A more serious situation in the novel was when the Solaras’ brothers pulled up on Lila and Elena. The brothers wanted to take the girls out for a ride:

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The Solaras’ 1100 pulled up beside us. Michele was driving, next to him was Marcello, who began to sing softly, in dialect, phrases like: what lovely young ladies, aren’t you tired of going back and forth, look how big Naples is, the most beautiful city in the world, as beautiful as you, get in, half an hour and we’ll bring you back here.

Girls being harassed by men makes them inclined to believe the worst and creates scenarios in their heads of what could happen. What Marcello does takes the situation a step further: “Marcello’s fingers around my wrist made my skin turn cold, and I pulled away in disgust.” (135). Marcello gets physical with Elena, and even though it was a mere hold on her wrist, she is still repulsed by his actions, hence why she “pulled away in disgust.” The action that escalates the situation is that Marcello grabbed Elena a second time, “He was smiling, friendly, he tried again to grab my wrist as if to establish a familiarity that would soothe me.” (135). Because of this simple act, Lila becomes very protective of Elena. Lila fearing that something may happen to her she whips out a knife, “Lila, half the size of him, pushed him against the car and whipped the shoemaker’s knife under his throat.” (135). Small acts like what Marcello did to Elena is what is alarming because girls feel inclined to defend themselves in case anything happens, which is why Lila brought a knife to Marcello’s throat.

In both Death of a Salesman and My Brilliant Friend, cars represent different traits like wealth, power, and domination, and spark up unpleasant emotions such as fear, and feeling the need to protect. Cars mirror Willy Loman’s desire — achieving the American Dream, which is shown through how he feels about his cars. For the Solaras’ brothers, it is a means of power and dominance, since they use their car to appeal to girls, in turn, boosting their ego and letting people know the immense amount of power that they hold. Though cars seem to provide in different ways for the men of both texts, it is hardly the same for the girls, since the cars are what triggers their fight or flight moment and causes them to feel anguish.

Work Cited List:

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York, New York: Viking Penguin, Inc, 1949.

Ferrante, Elena. My Brilliant Friend. Translated by Ann Goldstein, New York, New York: Europa Editions,


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