Death of a Salesman
Symbolism in Death of a Salesman Essay
“Death of a Salesman” is a play written in 1949 by an American playwright, Arthur Miller. The play is based on both Miller’s personal experiences and the theatrical traditions in which he was instructed in. “Death of a salesman” revolves around the Loman family with Willy Loman, the father, who also works as a salesman as the main character.
Willy Loman has indulged himself in a myth of being well-liked and being attractive to succeed in the business world. He believes that personal talent is not as important and actually uses this myth against his neighbors and friends, Charley and Bernard, who he does not consider to be physically attractive.
Due to this belief implanted in them, the Lomans lead an unpleasant and unfulfilled life while their neighbors enjoyed success. Willy is also in a delusional mental state and is caught in between the past and the present in which he keeps having hallucinations and reveries.
He lives in a flimsy fantasy world which is full of excuses and daydreams as he desperately attempts to make sense of himself, his hopes and the world that once held so much promise.
In the play, Miller uses different styles and devices to bring out Willy’s situation, and what it is all about and symbolism is one of these styles. Here is an analysis of symbolism in the play: Willy Loman’s character, including his salesman career, symbolizes an ordinary man in American society.
He acts as a representation of the ordinary man leading a fruitless life in a flourishing nation. Somehow, Willy reflects the dilemma of the common man fighting for his survival and trying to pay his bills yet live like everyone else. This is mainly observed when he is caught in a dilemma on how to pay his last mortgage payment.
Besides, Charley, his neighbor constantly gives him money to take home to his wife as if it was his salary as his salesman job is fluttering around him and he does not earn enough from it.
In one of their conversations, he even tells Charley that a gentleman is valuable more when he is departed than when he is living. It’s ironical that in the end, he commits suicide so that his family can get his life insurance money to pay for the mortgage.
Contrary, Charley’s character symbolizes the voice of reason in Willy’s deluded world. Charley who is Willy’s neighbor and only friend is a successful man with his own sales business. He tries to offer Willy a job several times and even after Willy is fired, but Willy turns down the offers as he regards it as an insult to his image. However, Charley is only trying to help him out, but Willey couldn’t appreciate that.
In one of the scenes, Charley is present during one of Willy’s daydream and as he tries to talk to him convincingly, but instead Willy yells back at him. This confuses Charley, and he decides to leave him alone as he does not understand what is going on. Apart from his family, only Charley and Bernard, his son, attend Willy’s funeral.
In the play, leaves are often seen to appear around the present setting during Willy’s reveries. These leaves are a representation of the leaves from the two elm trees which were situated next to the house in the early days. This was before Willy cut them down to build a hammock for him to relax with his family.
The trees were also cut down to pave the way for the development of the apartment blocks around their neighborhood. When Willy first moved into the neighborhood, the air was clean and fresh and the atmosphere, serene and quiet. However, in the present day, development and construction of new apartments have taken over, and the atmosphere is no longer the same, it been over-exploited and polluted.
In parts of the flashbacks, Biff and Happy are dressed in high school football sweaters. This is a symbol of the hope they had and the success that seemed so close during that time. Biff was the star of his high school football team and was even invited to attend three universities during his senior year.
Bernard even begs Biff if he could carry his helmet as he goes for the Ebbets Field game in his senior year. (Miller 165) notes that “In the scene at Frank Chop’s house, Happy goes on to brag to the woman he’s flirting with that Biff is a quarterback with the New York Giants, which is a lie.”
The jungle, which is constantly mentioned in connection to Ben, is symbolic of life. Willy even says “The woods are burning! I can’t drive a car!” (as cited in Miller, 22) when he has a foreboding sense of his life crashing around him. Ben is Willy’s dead brother who had gone to Africa, discovered a diamond mine in the jungle and became very successful.
Ben says in the play “When I was seventeen, I walked into the jungle. And by twenty-one, I walked out. And by God, I was rich!” (as cited in Miller, 49). He asked Willy to go with him at the time but he refused, and that became the cause for deep regret for the rest of his life.
In the same context, there is an appearance of diamonds which symbolize success. Willy idolizes Ben as he seems to be living the American dream while he is stuck in a rut he can’t pull himself out of. As the play comes to an end, Uncle Ben refers to the jungle by saying that “You must go into the jungle and fetch a diamond out” (Miller 65). Willy keeps wishing that he had followed Ben to Alaska and then Africa, then he might have been just as rich.
Stockings are another form of symbolism depicted in the play. They symbolize Willy’s infidelity and his uncaring attitude towards his wife.
Willy gives the stockings that his wife mends, to his mistress as gifts. During one of his flashbacks, Willy hears “The Woman’s” laughter and becomes agitated. He immediately gets angry and starts shouting at his wife, Linda, and Bernard. He even orders Linda to throw out the stockings and reprimands her for mending them.
His infidelity also costs him his relationship with his son when Biff accidentally found Willy with his mistress. Biff is dejected, and he loses all respect for his father. Consequently, the guilt Willy feels is the cause of his tense relations with Biff and his disconcerted behavior around his wife.
The recorder is another form of symbolism that is used in the play. When Willy goes to his boss, Howard Wagner, to try and get him to relocate him to the New York office, Wagner does not give him time to talk. (Miller 45) Says that “Instead, he interrupts him and makes him listen to his wife and kids on the wire recorder. This recorder and the voices in it symbolize the success that Willy has always dreamed of and wished he had.” In all his endeavors, this success seems to elude him even though he never gives up hope.
Willy goes on and tells Wagner that he would get a recorder as well, which is a symbol of his pride since there is no way he could afford to buy one. Eventually, his boss does not listen to him, turns down his plea and ends up firing him.
In the play, tennis rackets have also been used as a form of symbolism. They are a figure of Ironic metaphor of Bernard’s success. Bernard is seen going to take part in tennis with an associate of his, who owns a tennis court. This symbolism is seen as ironic because a glimpse from the past projected that the Loman brothers would be the ones to be successful in the sports department.
From the first act, Bernard would continuously be seen trying to intervene in Biffs academic life, which he did not seem bothered with as he was busy concentrating on his football vocation. In the end, due to neglecting his grades, Biff ends up losing football as well, whereas Bernard, who focused more on his books, becomes successful even in sports.
The flutes and flute music have been used to symbolize the far gone and good times when Willy was a stable person. They bring nostalgia and memories of the old times when he was younger and with great hope for immense success in the business world, comes the future. For instance, in one of the scenes where Willy goes into a reverie, he is talking with his brother Ben about his father, who used to manufacture and sell flutes.
Ben brags about how their father was a great man and inventor, and it is obvious from this talk that Willy’s father was just as successful as his brother is. Willy is therefore left wondering why the same fate did not befall him as he believes that his family is of a thriving heritage.
In the last Act, as the play is about to come to an end, Willy is seen planting seedlings in the garden. (Miller 47) notes that “The seeds symbolize a natural process of growth that prevails in nature and the garden is symbolic of Willy wanting to leave something as a commemoration of him.” He hopes to leave something that people will look at and be reminded of him as a great man.
He plants the seeds in the hope that the garden will one day grow into something substantial enough in contrast to his life which he considers a failure.
As he plants the seeds, he has a conversation with Ben about a $20,000 deal that would give Biff a good startup boost in his life and his business. In the end, this deal he is talking about ends up being his life insurance.
In conclusion, Miller uses symbolism in the play to bring out the hopelessness in the Loman’s family. Through this, the audience can empathize with them and their situation. It becomes evident how the ‘American dream’ myth can adversely affect a person as they try to pursue it.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Oxford, UK: Penguin Classic, 1998. Print.
Willy Loman is a Tragic Hero According to Arthur Miller’s Essay Tragedy and the Common Man
A tragic hero is person who usually appears in romantic literature. To make it clear, it should be mentioned that the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is created in Romanticism genre as the main character has visions which divide his life into two parts, real where Willy Loman and his sons are unable to achieve success in sales, and unreal, where everything is great. Willy Loman’s family got used that he talks to himself and do not react to this anymore.
There is a statement that Willy Loman is a tragic hero according to Arthur Miller’s definition of what a tragic hero is in his famous essay Tragedy and the Common Man. To make the situation clear, we are going to discuss the main features which confirm the statement and make Willy a tragic hero.
Willy Loman Is a Tragic Hero
The essay Tragedy and the Common Man written by Arthur Miller presents the main characteristics of a tragic hero in romantic literature. One of the main features is the referencing of a hero to a common person. Miller states that “the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (Miller ‘Tragedy’ 1461).
Willy Loman is a simple person who used to work as a salesman, but due to age and health problems he wants to settle less active life. This is the first argument which proves that Willy Loman is a tragic hero.
Arthur Miller also believes that a hero becomes tragic when he is “ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing – his sense of personal dignity” (Miller ‘Tragedy’ 1462).
This is exactly what has happened with Willy when he got to know that all he was trying to reach (to make his children be successful by means of making them good salespeople) was ruined, he did not manage to achieve this goal. Thus, he understands that he is not a person, that he has not fulfilled his life goal. “Nothing is planted. I do not have a thing in the ground” (Miller ‘Death of a Salesman’ 122).
Saying these words, Willy means that all his life is spent in vain and there are no results of it. Willy understands that salesman is not the best profession and his desire to sacrifice his life for the benefit of his family is nothing but the desire to save his dignity and do not declare in public that all he has been planning was ruined. This is the second argument in support of the idea that Willy Loman is a tragic hero.
Arthur Miller is sure that one of the main characteristics of a tragic hero in the play is the understanding of the difference between real and unreal worlds. He says, “The quality in such plays that does shake us, however, derives from the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world” (Miller ‘Tragedy’ 1463).
The main character is a tragic hero as he has been torn away from the world of illusion where his sons are successful salespeople and has been put in the reality where they have failed to become wealthy and have nothing to do.
He realizes that he was a bad father, except for the imaginary world where he was the best. The tragedy of the hero is characterized by the fact that he was torn from his imaginary world and put in cruel reality where his dreams were not realized. This is the third argument in support of the fact that Willy was a tragic hero.
Reading an essay Tragedy and the Common Man by Arthur Miller, it is possible to state that concluding statement about a tragic hero is exactly what can be seen in Willy Loman, a character of his play Death of a Salesman.
The author writes that the main essence of a tragic hero is “intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity” (Miller ‘Tragedy’ 1464). This is the main characteristic feature which shows Willy as a tragedy character, as searching for something in his life, he has failed to become a personality.
To sum it up, it should be mentioned that the ideas Arthur Miller presents in his essay Tragedy and the Common Man are perfectly reflected in his play Death of a Salesman. The main character of the play, Willy Loman, is a tragic hero as it is stated in the author’s essay.
All the reasons the author provides in the essay are confirmed by the character’s description in the play. It seems that the author tried to reflect all this ideas about a tragic hero in Willy Loman to show the reader that such characters exist.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York, NY: Penguin, 1998. Print.
Miller, Arthur. “Tragedy and the Common Man .” Discovering Literature. Eds. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele L. Rico. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993. 1461-1464. Print.
Comparison of writers Term Paper
The author Arthur Miller as analyzed through the book “Death of a sales man” and the author Flannery O’Connor as analyzed through the book “A good man is hard to find” are both similar because the authors are inclined towards tragedy. In other words, their works both end disastrously.
However, the circumstances surrounding these downfalls are very complex and dependent on the dissimilar surroundings that the two writers were focusing on. In Death of salesman, the author talks about a delusional and self obsessed man. However, his tragedy was partly a direct result of his own inadequacies.
Therefore, Miller breaks away from the traditional form of tragedy because the protagonists’ ruin was his own undoing. He was under the misconception that greatness could be achieved merely through one’s personality yet this was not so; such kind of thinking led to his self destruction.
In this regard, the death of the protagonist also causes readers a sense of despair because the main character was not transformed prior to his death. All lessons are to be learnt by the audience only.
On the other hand, author O’Connor focuses on growth or transformation in her main character (Votteler, 53). Initially, the grandmother is a selfish and overbearing individual who wants to bully the whole family into going for a vacation at her choice destination.
Her selfish ways are also seen when she attempts to save her own life during the encounter with the Misfit. However, at the end of the story, grandmother is overcome by grace and soon realizes that she has been living a pretentious life. Therefore, although this play is still a tragedy in that the main character died, the author created a different twist to her character by illustrating that she has undergone a transformation and is now more charitable and graceful.
O’Connor and Miller also resemble one another in their attempt to depict an everyday person. Readers can relate to both types of writings because the characters embody everyday Americans.
Miller and O’ Connor also want to bring back their characters to reality and if this eventually involves some form of violence or even their own demise, then the authors were willing to take it there. In Death of the salesman, Arthur Miller continually illustrates the importance of taking reality seriously through Willy.
Willy asserted that in order to be successful, one should be well liked (Miller, 1949). However, when he soon finds out that this was not insync with reality then he immediately looses hope. Also his continual resistance to technology and the new developments in society put him at odds with it.
He believes that he has more worth if he were dead than if he were alive. Eventually, this despair causes his tragic end. O’Connor also stresses the importance of reality through the grandmother. This protagonist has been living under the illusion that she is the perfect Christian.
She has her mind fixated on her own ways and does not really care about the perspective of the people around. Since grandmother’s head is so deeply separated from reality, the only aggressive way of bringing her back is through an act of violence.
The violent acts of the ‘Misfit’ eventually caused the protagonist to look at herself and realize that she is indeed a mirror image of the hardcore criminal who has attacked them in their trip. Even the murderer remarks that grandmother was meant to be a good person the only thing she needed was to be shot everyday. In other words, O’Connor sacrifices the life of the main character in order to prove a point on reality.
To this author, violence was the only way that grandmother would ever look at herself for who she really is. Likewise, Miller saw that Willy’s end was the only way that readers could identify with the importance of reality (Sandage, 2005).
These writers’ literary works may also be viewed as commentaries on society. Miller wanted to despise the individualistic nature of American culture, corporations and its people.
These entities have become carried away with image/perceptions rather than solid character. Many Americans can identify with the protagonist Willy because salesmanship has permeated all aspects of American’s lives. Everyone seems to be in a continual quest to be the best but this is never really possible for everyone.
Nothing drives this point home like Willy’s situation. Similarly, O’Connor also gives a commentary about society. She wanted to illustrate that most people lack an understanding of true spirituality. They are obsessed with self preservation and may border on being deceitful and egotistical.
The authors also had mostly unlikeable characters in their works. O’Connor chose Grandmother – who was always quite petty and dominating – for a reason. She wanted to illustrate that even the worst of us deserve a little grace.
There were plenty of opportunities for the protagonist to mend her ways and become graceful but she chose not to take up those challenges because of her spiritual blindness.
Many characters in this story also miss critical moments of truth because of this blindness, however, when they finally do, it is clear to realize that even the most unlikeable individuals still deserve grace.
Similarly, Arthur Miller has used an unlikeable character to drive his main point across. Willy thinks that he and his sons are likely to succeed in the business world owing to their greatness.
He thinks that likeability is all one needs to be successful. This grave misconception causes the audience to realize how pitiful Willy is. Furthermore, as the play continues, Willy’s mental state gets further and further away from the norm. He is always resisting change and often questions any new technological developments.
These are all issues that make his character seriously flawed. However, in the midst of all this, the author is still able to make his main point which is that the frantic and often self obsessed American culture has its casualties and never really offers real solutions to problems.
Comparison of O’Connor, Miller and Faulkner
Faulkner is similar to O’Connor in terms of his description of the American South at that time. It may be true that the South may have changed from 1939 when Faulkner wrote “A barn is burning” and 1952 when O’Connor wrote “A good man is hard to find”, nonetheless; these authors were still writing about a region that was rarely the focal point of literary works.
In fact, these writers sparked off a lot of controversy because of this. O’Connor’s protagonist comes from the South and she was representative of what actually goes on in most households there.
Non southerners misunderstood the Grandmother and wrote her off as nothing more than an evil character. However, when a Southerner reads about her, one can easily relate to her because it is likely that the reader also has a relative who is just like Grandmother. In fact, this makes Southerners more sympathetic towards the protagonist in “A good man is hard to find” because they all realize that she means well (Oschshorn, 1990).
Miller and Faulkner are also quite similar because they both utilize protagonists who are not sure about themselves. In Miller’s “ Death of salesman”, Willy is a product of the harsh corporate system that used him down to the last drop then poured him out once he was of no use to them.
His identity is therefore shattered because he can no longer be the salesman that he was so used to being. He is in dire need of curving out a new identity but his inability to do so has caused him his demise. The same thing goes on in William Faulkner’s Barn burning. Sarty is struggling with his identity as well.
He does not know whether to take actions based on loyalty to his father or whether to focus on his own moral principles (Faulkner, 154). This individual is quite confused and even goes through an emotional rollercoaster. At the beginning, Sarty sticks to his family inclinations when he expresses solitude and support to his father.
He stretches this loyalty when he becomes a partial accomplice to his dad’s ill actions by fetching the fuel to be used in lighting the fire. However, he eventually sheds off this identity of a good son by listening to his inner conscience. The story is therefore characterized by a continuous battle to find himself as a person.
Faulkner also resembles O’Connor because protagonists in both narratives get to redeem themselves or to find themselves. Sarty avoids becoming a victim to his father’s manipulations, threats, paranoia and selfish thinking by running away from him.
It is these inadequacies that bring Sarty and the family much discomfort; his father causes them to become poor plus they are always in a state of transit. Eventually, this protagonist sees his dad for who he really is and thus frees himself from such bondage. Similarly, Grandmother also goes through a similar experience by the end of the narrative.
At first, she is driven by her own needs and thinks that she is the ideal Christian. Eventually, she redeems herself when she sees a reflection of herself in the hardcore criminal who had attacked her family (O’Connor, 1955).
Generally, all three writers focused on tragedies but these were dependent on the ideals prevalent at the time of composition i.e. modernist and realist thoughts. Their portrayal of the tragedies was also dependent on their themes and the ends that the authors were trying to achieve at any one time.
Sandage, S. (2005) Born losers: a history of failure in America. Cambridge: HUP
Miller, A. (1949). Death of a salesman. NY: Viking press
O’Connor, F. (1955). A good man is hard to find. NY: Harper
Oschshorn, K. (1990). A cloak of grace: contradictions in a good man is hard to find. Studies in American fiction
Faulkner, W. (1939). Burn Burning: selected short stories of William Faulkner. NY: Modern Library
Votteler, T. (1969). O’Connor, Flannery on her own work. Gale research Inc, 21(5): 1-67
Characters in The Glass Menagerie and The Death of Salesman Research Paper
The article of Debra Brunch is characterized by a properly organized structure and clear analysis of the characters from different literary works. This author introduces the characters, which need to be analyzed, and presents enough powerful reasons of why this attention to physiological characteristics is important.
This article turns out to be helpful because the main characters of Death of a Salesman and The Glass Menagerie are not only properly defined but also characterized according to their emotional state. For example, one of the main characters in Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is identified as a “mentally and emotionally confused” person (Bruch 8); the male character of The Glass Menagerie is under a threat of “his consciousness of his wants” (Brunch 7).
In this article, the author pays her attention to such important details as characters’ clothes and the ways of how they speak. To represent a proper analysis of the characters, it is necessary to evaluate emotional, physical, and psychological state of the characters. The article under discussion may become a good example of how male characters may be represented to the reader and what literary techniques and writing tools are better to use to achieve the necessary success and understanding.
A definite structure of the article helps to comprehend what aspect is analyzed and what features should be mentioned at first. This article is not only an educative source for future writers and those, who want to improve their understanding of the plays by Tennessee and Williams, but also a reliable structure according to which it is possible to represent the analysis.
Analysis of Female Characters
King, Kimball. “Tennessee Williams: A Southern Writer.” The Mississippi Quarterly 48.4. Fall 1995: 627-647.
The article by Kimball King is mostly focused on the works and achievements of Tennessee Williams and the impact of his works into the world of literature, and The Glass Menagerie is one of the plays under consideration. The creation of male characters takes an important place in Williams works, this is why the author of the article decides to analyze not only Williams’ approaches to plays’ development but also compare his methods with the other not less popular works like Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
The peculiar feature of this article is the concentration on one particular writer and the ability to evaluate other representatives of Southern literature.
The author of the article admits that Williams’ works as well as the works of other significant writers are characterized by a perfect reflection of “the characteristics of Southern writers noted by literary critics in the modernist era, beginning in the twenties and thirties, and they anticipate the postmodern dilemma in an era begun by integration and the growth of the formerly despised middle classes” (King 627).
In this article, certain attention is paid to family relations, which are described by Williams and Miller in peculiar ways. The universal significance of these plays is investigated by Kimball King; he underlines that the role of women in society is represented by Tennessee and Williams in different ways. Miller always restricts female duties and rights; and Williams, in his turn, tries to present his women as complex and powerful beings, who make numerous attempts to achieve the necessary control over situations and their bodies.
Bruch, Debra. “Character Analysis.” Apollo’s Voice 9,5 (June 2002): 6-8.
King, Kimball. “Tennessee Williams: A Southern Writer.” The Mississippi Quarterly 48.4. Fall 1995: 627-647.
Death of a Salesman Conflicts and Themes Critical Essay
The play ‘Death of a Salesman’ has many themes and conflicts. This essay will briefly discuss the main ideas and conflicts depicted in the play.
The Theme of Confusion
This is a theme that Miller exploited so well. There is confusion all over the play; the main characters are engulfed in turmoil. It is not hard to point out the kind of awful mess that the Lomans are in. Willy is entirely unable to differentiate reality from illusion. Will is so disillusioned that he believes that he and his sons have everything to propel them to success. Willy and his sons in a real sense do not have anything that can enable them to be successful.
It is a significant confusion that Willy has thought that for one to be successful, he has to be well-liked by people. Willy quite often falls back to thinking about circumstances which occurred in the past. At the end Willy is seen more confused than ever; he claims that a person can be “worth more dead than alive” (Miller 2007, p. 77).
Death of a Dream
Willy had a vast dream of living the American life. He looked up to Ben as his model and wished he could live his way of life, “The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich” (Miller 2007, p. 32). Willy wanted his sons to be successful and live largely.
Willy used a wrong approach in trying to achieve the American dream. He wished more than he worked and as a result could not reach his goals. He is also seen using some facts in the wrong way, for example, he claims that if people like you well then you are going to successful; people liking can be used tactfully, but we do not see Willy doing that.
Conflicts in the Story
The death of a salesman is full of conflicts which are evident all over the play. Willy is living a conflicting lifestyle. He has a deep desire for recognition and profoundly wants to live as a successful businessman with a lot of money which is hard to achieve because he does not have the cash to sustain such a lifestyle.
His life generally is a significant conflict to that of his brother Ben who is rich. Willy and his sons more often than not are in conflicts. Willy wants them to adapt to his way of thinking, but his sons are not of his opinions. I view it as a significant conflict that Biff after realizing the mistakes committed by Willy he went ahead to declare that:
I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have–to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him. (Miller 2007, p. 131)
It is evident that instead of learning from the mistakes of his father Biff instead chooses the very same path that his father walked. Most likely Biff will end up failing contrary to what his father wanted him to be – a successful man.
Miller, A. (2007). Death of a Salesman. India: Pearson Education.
Death of a Salesman Relationships Analysis Essay
Death of a Salesman is a figurative play that uses death not only symbolically represent physical/mortal death but also to allude to the end of personal dreams, wishes, and aspirations. It is a satirical play that highlights the life of Willy Loman, the main character, a traveling salesman who has worked for Wagner Company for thirty-four years and ends up a failure because it is not his trade to be a salesman. Willy is a gifted carpenter. In this paper, Death of a Salesman relationships shall be analyzed.
This play is a case of reality versus illusion. Willy is a delusional character whose search for higher ideals, far higher than he can attain, leads to his disillusionment. Willy spends his entire life trying to be a successful salesman, like his mentor Mr. Dave Singleman who was a successful and famous businessman. Thus Willy forms the opinion that to be successful, one has to be physically attractive and liked by many.
He tries to impose these ideals to his sons Willy and Happy to no avail. The result is that he ends up a failure and decides to kill himself, hoping the insurance premium will benefit his family. This play is, to some extent, a reflection of Arthur Miller’s life. Biff reflects Miller the real character: Miller was not much an academician and surprised his teachers when he wrote this play. The author was attracted to sports and physical activities rather than books. It was, therefore, a surprise that he would end up an author of a playwright.
Three characters in this play highlight Willy’s unique relationships with people. Biff, Willy’s eldest son, and the two enjoy love-hate. During his childhood, Biff adores his father but later comes to loathe him upon discovering that his father had led him to live a lie. It is through Biff that the reader sees Willy’s disillusionment.
Willy’s mistress is a secretary of one of his clients and represents Willy’s craving for love and affection rather than for pleasure. She makes Willy feel loved. Lastly, Willy’s brother, Ben, a successful businessman, is an illustration of Willy’s unwillingness to come to embrace reality; Ben only appears to Willy in daydreams.
Even though these three characters, as well as the other characters in the play, highlight Willy’s delusional self, it is Biff, the eldest son who illuminates Willy’s disconnect with reality. This paper endeavors to explain Willy Loman and Biff Loman’s relationships and how each is affected by this relationship.
Although Biff Loman is Willy’s and Linda’s eldest son and the personification of Willy’s wildest dreams and desires, father and son enjoy an emotional love-hate relationship throughout their lives. Biff represents everything Willy wanted in life: success.
Biff is the illumination of Willy’s notions of popularity and physical attractiveness rather than hard work honesty and integrity as the way to success. However, being popular does not help Biff to succeed. Willy had created a false impression (in Biff, as well as other family members) about his popularity and how it brought him much success (Miller 100).
Biffs’ search for success through popularity ends up in failure and he later notes that “(he has) always made a point of not wasting (his) life, and every time (he) comes back (he knew) that all (he will have) done is to waste (his) life” (11). Thus Willy’s delusional theory on happiness and success ends up having a very negative impact on the very son that he loved and wished to nurture to success.
Initially, there is so much love between father and son. Willy loves his son so much that during one of the football games that Biff is playing, Willy tells Linda that Biff is “(a) star… magnificent, (and) can never really fade away!” (51).
This love is informed by the unrealistic need to make him attractive and thus liked by many, which is to eventually lead Biff to succeed in life and also as a salesman. Willy encourages Biff to a positive image of himself through dress and not to talk too much less Biff makes a false impression, as the right personality would win him success (21, 48).
Willy goes to great length to prove that popularity is the key to success and encourages Biff to fight with his uncle Ben, something that has an important meaning and infuriates Lindah so much.
However, Biff falls to his uncle Ben who advises Biff, “Never (to) fight fair with a stranger, boy. (or) You’ll never get out of the jungle that way” ( 34). Biff believed in his father so much that he did not put any diligent hard work in whatever he did. His adoration for his father stated to take a toll on his life because, as Willy commented that “his (Biff’s) life ended after that Ebbets Field game because from the age of seventeen, nothing good ever happened to him” (71).
Biff’s belief in the essence of popularity take s him to seek his father in Boston as he thought that Willy’s popularity would make Biff’s math teacher change his grade and allow Biff to graduate. However, their relationship takes a sudden change for the worst when Biff realizes that his father has been unfaithful to his mother, by keeping a mistress in his hotel room in Boston.
The changing nature of their relationships in Death of a Salesman is reflected through their dialogues and conversations, which expresses anguish, pain, and betrayal. Biff no longer trusts his father and realizes that Willy had led them all in living a lie and a pretentious life (104). Willy retaliates by telling Biff that he has been nothing but a failure (103). As such, Bill comments that:
“(he had been) trying to become what (he didn’t) want to be… (And asks Himself) What (he was) doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of (himself), when all (he) wanted (was) out there, waiting for the minute (he) say (that he) knew who (he) wanted to be! (105).
This is an emotional realization of the betrayal that Willy led him to believe was the truth. Their relationship was never the same again.
Willy’s greatest need was emotional and psychological. Willy needed to feel liked and loved not only by his family but also by his clients and friends. From his mentor Dave Singleman, Willy thought that success was brought by popularity and attractiveness, and these two ideals subordinated virtuous ideals such as honesty, integrity, and hard work.
As the analysis essay on Death of a Salesman shows, this is delusional and far from reality. Willy strived to make his son Biff like him so much and instead of rewarded his mistakes instead of reprimanding. This ended up destroying not only Biff but also the relationship the two had, which displays the main theme and tragedy of the play. The play is also a reflection of how self-denial can lead to failure. Arthur miller encourages people to discover who they really are and not to be influenced by the successes of others as this is just an illusion.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books, 1986. Print.
Hardships, Family Relationships, Insanity and Death in Two Renowned Dramas Fences by Wilson and Death of a Salesman by Miller Essay
Authors often use such themes as family relations in their literary works. Arthur Miller and August Wilson also resorted to this eternal issue. Their vision, their works Death of a Salesman (Miller) and Fences (Wilson), was praised by many people and is now regarded as conventional. Both plays received many awards and Pulitzer Prize among them.
In-depth analysis of human relationships made the two plays significant literary works. The two authors illustrate hardships of aged men who fail to reveal their affection and care towards their family members. Apart from the depiction of relationships between family members the two authors also touched upon such issues as social and economical hardships and their impact on peoples’ relationships, insanity and death. The two plays explore the same themes which can be regarded as eternal since even nowadays they are up-to-date.
The importance of the main themes of the plays is unquestionable
I have chosen the plays Fences and Death of a Salesman because they deal with issues which are topical at present. People face similar problems in modern American society. Economical hardships made people more concerned with earning money rather than paying attention to building proper relationships with their family members.
Moreover, people tend to close themselves into their shells. Thus, the main characters of the two dramas were the major decision makers in their families. They tried to be the real heads of their families. Unfortunately, this led one of them to insanity and the other one to alienate himself from the rest of the family. Admittedly, when people face problems in outer world the only way to overcome these issues is to construct metaphorical fences around their families which will support come what may.
The two plays have very much in common in terms of the themes revealed. They are written at different times but dwell upon the same issues. The issues remain unsolved because they are really ever-lasting. Perhaps, only in several hundred years people will see the only possible solution which was suggested by Miller and Wilson in the twentieth century. Thus, the main reason I chose the plays is that the themes disclosed in them are really important for people.
Family relationship is the main theme in the plays
The major theme of the two plays is family relationships in hard times. Both families have certain financial constraints. The both protagonists of the plays believe that a “man got to take care of his family” (Wilson 38). This seemingly perfect formula is not realized by them. Troy Maxson and Willy Loman focus on things that are not of primary importance.
Of course, it is essential for the head of the family to earn enough money to bring up his children and support his wife. Nevertheless, the two protagonists fail to fulfill the most important part of being a father and a husband: to build proper relationships with their children and wives, to support not only financially but psychologically. In both plays children get tired of their fathers indifference and the lack of their support.
This distance between the father and the children is better revealed in Fences where Troy’s wife, Rose, that their family consists of “halves” (Jacobus 884). The family has three children from three mothers. The father is alienated from all of the children and his wife. Troy is concerned with racial issues and social injustice, his mistress Alberta and his glorious sport past.
Troy stipulates that he has to take care of his family though none of his children or wife has his support. Cory, his son wants to achieve something in his life playing football, though his father does not want him “to get all tied up in them sports” (Wilson 34). Tory believes that there is no place for non-white people in sports since he was once rejected. Troy is disappointed in his first son, and simply hands in his born out of wedlock child to his wife, Rose.
Miller’s protagonist Willy is also somewhat alienated from his family. Just like Troy Willy fails to keep the proper relationship with his children who do not feel their father’s support. However, in this play the father is eager to be a good father, but makes only mistakes. He has tried to find the way to make money for all his life: “Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it” (Miller 10). Another excuse for Willy is his insanity. He cannot possibly pay much attention to his family since his own brain alienates him from reality.
The plays have other themes in common
Building fences is an important theme in the plays
The theme of building relationship with other people is supported by another theme: fences. Both protagonists of the plays created fences around themselves. They isolate themselves from the rest of the world. For instance, Troy only sees obstacles and does not want to find the way out.
He tries to rebel but fails – he loses his job. He does not believe that his son will not succeed in sport because Troy constructed a fence when he could not make it out in sport himself. Willy’s fences are even more substantial. His mind starts creating barriers. His children try to stand their father’s insanity though they fail.
Willy is alienated from his own children because of his mental disorder. It is important to add that these fences do not make Willy and Troy invisible and invincible. Vice versa, the fences prevent them from seeing the real world. They do not estimate situations correctly. Eventually, they both lose their jobs and this makes them build new, more substantial fences.
Thus, one of the greatest fences Troy and Willy has built is their reluctance to accept changes. They would like to live dreaming about their past success. Troy is fond of his sport career. He is proud of it. However, he does not want his son to devote his youth to sport, because Troy does not believe in changes.
He still thinks that it is impossible for a colored boy to make a good career in sports. Willy is also concerned with his past success. Of course, in the play he is not that successful salesman as he used to be. Perhaps, this is the reason why he does not like changes as well.
Insanity is also dwelt upon in the plays
The two plays also highlight the theme of insanity. Of course, this issue is revealed in different ways and insanity plays quite different roles in the plays. However, this theme is very important for both plays. Thus, in Death of a Salesman the main character becomes insane because of the hardships he had to overcome. His insanity is manifested by his talks to imaginary people. This insanity alienates the protagonist from his children.
Of course, it leads to his death. As far as the play Fences is concerned, it is necessary to point out that it also pays significant role. To my mind, the insanity of Troy’s brother Gabriel positively influences Troy’s life and gives him salvation. Gabriel’s insanity enables Troy to build his house.
In the end Gabriel opens heaven’s gate for his brother. Thus, Troy’s fences are destroyed (metaphorically, of course), he becomes less alienated from his family after his death. Eventually, the family members try to be respectful to their fathers after their death.
The authors would appreciate each other’s works
In my opinion, the authors would appreciate each other’s works since the plays reveal burning issues and evoke many thoughts. Both plays deal with certain disappointment in life which led to worsening of family relationships. Of course, if the plays were identical the authors would not like them. However, Fences and Death of Salesman depict similar problems in families pertaining to quite different worlds. The Lomans have some financial problems but still have more opportunities than the Maxsons who have to face racial intolerance and suppression. Thus, both writers reveal different facets of the same social and personal issues. This could be the main reason why Miller and Wilson would like the works of each other.
On balance, the plays Fences and Death of a Salesman contain several similar themes. Both plays’ main theme is the family relationship in the times of changes. Apart from this the plays dwell upon such issues as success, insanity and personal alienation. Attention to such important themes makes the plays best examples of the perfect literary works which can inspire people to act or react.
The works like the two plays can help many people think of their own problems from the different angle. Moreover, I am sure that many people will find the necessary solutions for their real life issues.
Jacobus, Lee A. Bedford Introduction to Drama. Boston: Bedford / St. Martins, 2008.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 1998.
Wilson, August. Fences. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 2010.
Death of a Salesmen Research Paper
One of the reasons why Miller’s play Death of a Salesman is being often referred to as representing a particularly high dramaturgic value is that, it is not only that this play contains a number of truly innovative themes and motifs, but that play’s staging itself accounted for nothing less than triggering a ‘revolution’ in the field of dramaturgy. In this paper, I will aim to explore the validity of an earlier articulated thesis at length.
The significance of themes and motifs
The significance of themes and motifs in Miller’s play cannot be effectively discussed outside of what happened to be the particulars of playwright’s biography. Therefore, before we proceed with exploring how historical context influenced play’s thematic sounding and what accounted for the qualitative specifics of its first production in 1949; we will need to make a brief inquiry into Miller’s biographical background.
Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915, in New York. In its turn, this partially explains why most of his dramaturgic works feature essentially ‘economic’ motifs – Miller’s formative years were strongly influenced by the Great Depression (Jacobson 248). After having graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, Miller worked as a shipping clerk in an automotive parts warehouse, while being often required to take an active share in promoting these parts to the potential customers.
After his graduation from the University of Michigan, Miller returned back to New York, where he started to participate in a number of theatrical projects, such as Federal Theater Project – hence, gaining an insight into the essentials of a theatrical production. Around the same time, Miller also began exploring his potential in playwriting.
Miller’s first critically acclaimed play was 1947 All My Sons. It was namely this particular play, which marked the beginning of Miller’s preoccupation with exposing the inconsistencies of a so-called ‘American dream’, which author never ceased referring to in terms of people’s highly irrational and emotionally damaging pursuit of riches. All My Sons instantaneously established Miller as one of America’s most prominent playwrights of all times.
Nevertheless, it was after the staging of Miller’s tragedy Death of a Salesmen in 1949, that he gained himself the status of a ‘cult figure’ in American dramaturgy. As it will be illustrated later in the paper, there were a number of objective preconditions for this to be the case.
Throughout the course of his life’s latter phases, Miller never ceased being strongly affiliated with dramaturgy. Even though his consequential plays, such as 1961The Misfits, 1969 In Russia, 1994 Broken Glass and 2002 Resurrection Blues, were not quite as successful with the audiences as Death of a Salesmen, they nevertheless did strengthen Miller’s fame as one of the greatest playwrights of all times. Arthur Miller died in 2005.
The production of the play
The first production of Death of as Salesman took place on February 10, 1949, at the Morosco Theatre in New York. The production was directed by Elia Kazan (who previously directed the production of A Streetcar Named Desire), with Lee Coob playing the character of Willy Loman, Mildred Dunnock playing the character of Linda, Artheur Kennedy playing the character of Biff, and Cameron Mitchell playing the character of Happy.
This production turned out to be a huge success, which in turn contributed rather substantially towards play’s popularization throughout the world. According to Most: “The popularity of Death of a Salesman is unmatched in the history of American realism. Within a year of the Broadway opening, productions had been mounted in Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden… Play has seen three successful Broadway revivals since its opening in 1949” (548).
It appears that there were two major prerequisites, which caused the first production of Miller’s Death of as Salesman to end up being instantaneously referred to as nothing short of a revolutionary theatrical event – the fact that Miller’s play parted with the conventions of dramaturgical tragedy and the fact that the staging of Death of as Salesman combined the elements of expressionism and realism (something that has never been done before).
Whereas, prior to Miller play’s first production in 1949, it was assumed that the act of a tragic hero had to radiate the spirit of nobleness, after 1949, this effectively ceased to be the case.
After all, even though that the process of main character Willy Loman’s mental deterioration, resulting in his ultimate demise, could indeed be discussed in terms of a high tragedy, Loman did not fall victim to the external circumstances (as it is being usually the case in classic tragedies) – main character’s death came as a result of him being intellectually inflexible.
Hence, one of the essential aspects of Miller’s dramaturgic genius – the fact that he proved that, just as it is being the case with existential decline of socially prominent individuals, the existential decline of many ordinary people is being just as capable of emanating the acute spirit of a high tragedy. As it was noted by Otten: “One way or the other Death of a Salesman provokes critical wars about the viability of tragedy in the modern age and particularly in American culture” (281).
Therefore, there is nothing odd about the fact that every consequential staging of Death of a Salesman at Morosco Theater used to attract ever-larger crowds of spectators. Apparently, the members of viewing audiences sensed that the themes and motifs, explored throughout Miller play’s entirety, were strongly related to the very essence of their own psychological anxieties.
This, however, only partially explains the nature of Miller play’s instantaneous popularity with the viewers. What also contributed to this popularity is the fact that, as it was mentioned earlier, the first production of Death of a Salesman featured the elements of expressionism and realism, inseparably fused into one dramaturgic compound. In order to achieve this, both: Miller and Kazan had to find the way for Willy’s flashbacks and daydreams to be integrally incorporated into unraveling of the plot, without undermining plot’s plausibility.
In other words, they were striving to combine what previously used to be thought of as utterly incompatible: the methodology of Naturalist production, which aims: “To completely remove the barrier separating theatre from life, to create an illusion so powerful that it would render the theatrical medium absolutely transparent” (Williams 289), and the methodology of Expressionist production, concerned with the process of actors creating a semantic content of their own, without having to make sure that the viewers perceive this content as being realistically plausible.
In its turn, this posed the playwright and the director with the challenge of ensuring a realist sounding of play’s clearly expressionist elements, such as the scenes in which Willy cuts short his conversations with Linda, Biff and Happy, in order to reflect upon the remarks of his long-deceased brother Ben, who appears out of nowhere.
Initially, Miller proposed to go about designing these onstage-shifts, from the actual reality of Willy’s world to the ‘reality’ of his daydreaming, by the mean of taking a practical advantage of ‘curtain drops’, during the course of which, the onstage sets and actors’ clothes would be rapidly changed.
This was the actual reason why, even though play’s original script made provisions for the utilization of some sort of expressionist setting, as plans for play’s production entered the organizational phase, Miller decided that it would make so much more sense having the onstage sets designed according to the principle of minimalism.
According to Murphy: “He (Miller) has mentioned his first notion of the set, in keeping with his idea for the play as The Inside of His Heady… As the play took shape, however, he dropped this notion in favor of a minimal set, which he has variously described as ‘without any setting at all’” (10). Kazan, however, convinced Miller to choose in favor of a traditional set – the first production of Death of a Salesman featured the setting of a regular middle-class house.
The onstage switches from the actual reality to the imaginary reality have been achieved by the deployment of a rather innovative theatrical technique: “Whenever the action is in the present the actors observe the imaginary wall lines, entering the house only through its door at the left. But in the scenes of the past these boundaries are broken, and characters enter or leave a room by stepping ‘through’ a wall onto the forestage’’ (Miller 12).
To foster the realness of abrupt transitional switches from one reality to another even further, Kazan supplemented play’s staging with contextually appropriate changes in stage’s illumination and with contextually appropriate music, which emphasize the spatial aspects of plot’s unraveling (Kimbrough 157). Thus, even though that play’s action took place within the spatial framework of two alternative realities, viewers did not experience much of an emotional discomfort, while exposed to actors’ performance.
Therefore, it will only be logical to conclude this part of the paper by reinstating once again that the overwhelming success of Death of a Salesman first production was dialectically predetermined. It is not only that this production helped audience’s members to come to terms with their of subconscious anxieties, related to the much advertised notion of an ‘American dream’, but it also provided other playwrights and production directors with the insight into the whole new realm of theatrical opportunities.
Further popularity of the play
During the course of forties and fifties, it was assumed that the values of a so-called ‘American dream’ are being equally appealing to just about all Americans. During this time, Americans never ceased being subjected to the governmentally sponsored propaganda of such a ‘dream’.
Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that, through forties and fifties, most American citizens did in fact believe that their foremost existential agenda was solely concerned with the blind pursuit of riches, as something that had a value of ‘thing in itself’ (Mcconachie 4).
Nevertheless, given the fact that the extent of one’s successfulness in trying to become rich at any cost, relates to the extent of his or her endowment with nobleness in counter-geometrical progression, there is nothing odd about the fact that, while chasing a vaguely defined ‘American dream’, many Americans could not help sustaining an acute emotional trauma.
And, as psychologists are being well aware of, this type of an emotional trauma causes people to begin suffering from a split-personality disorder – something that Miller was able to illustrate rather persuasively (Olson 330).
As it was pointed out by Weales: “The distance between the actual Willy and the image Willy is so great… that he can no longer lie to himself with conviction; what the play gives us is the final disintegration of a man who has never even approached his idea of what by rights he ought to have been” (171).
Thus, the character of Willy Loman is best discussed as essentially an extrapolation of ideologically brainwashed people’s failure to live up to the standards, forcibly imposed upon them by a consumerist society: “Willy does not understand the corruptness of the (American) dream… he dies in defense of the imperative that consumes him” (Otten 36).
This is another reason why even today, the theatrical productions of Death of a Salesman never cease attracting huge crowds. Apparently, people’s exposure to the themes and motifs, contained in this particular play, helps them to realize a simple fact that money is not the most important thing in life – hence, helping them to adequately address life’s challenges.
It is needless to mention, of course, that during the initial phases of the Cold War, Miller’s theatrical exposure of what accounts for the unsightly effects of people’s compulsive strive to attain material riches, balanced on the edge of being declared ‘anti-American’ (Reeves 48).
After all, during the course of fifties and early sixties, many American citizens ended up in jail, simply because they were not particularly enthusiastic about taking an active part in McCarthyist ‘witch-hunt’, the activists of which were perfectly serious about trying reveal those who did not share the foremost value of Capitalism (greed) as ‘masked Communists’ (Reno 1069).
Therefore, it is fully explainable why, after having watched the productions of this Miller’s play, many Americans were able to substantially expand their intellectual horizons.
The reason for this is simple – in Death of a Salesman, Miller succeeded in divulging the sheer inconsistency of consumerist, patriarchal and sexist worldviews, which American policy-makers of the time were trying to forcibly impose upon just about everyone in this country (Gibson 98).
He was able to show that, contrary to the ideological conventions, peddled by the self-appointed representatives of America’s ‘moral majority’, one’s chances to ‘strike it rich’ have more to do with the concept of blind luck than with the concept of entrepreneurial industriousness – hence, the essentially existentialist (progressive) sounding of Death of a Salesman (Martin 104).
I believe that the earlier provided line of argumentation, in defense of a suggestion that the keys to Miller play’s popularity with the audiences, have traditionally been its ‘realistic-expressionism’ and the unconventional sounding of its themes and motifs, is being fully consistent with paper’s initial thesis.
It is not only that Miller succeeded in enlightening viewers as to the fact that people’s continuous exposure to a value-based behavioral ethics is being quite capable of driving them towards insanity, but he also succeeded in establishing a number of truly innovative principles of a theatrical production. Therefore, there is nothing surprising about the fact that even today; a substantial number of theatrical critics continue regarding Miller’s Death of a Salesmen as one of the finest products of American dramaturgy.
Gibson, James. “Intolerance and Political Repression in the United States: A Half Century after McCarthyism.” American Journal of Political Science, 52.1 (2008): pp. 96-108. Print.
Jacobson, Irving. “Family Dreams in Death of a Salesman.” American Literature 47.5 (1975): pp. 247-258. Print.
Kimbrough, Andrew. “Death of a Salesman.” Theatre Journal 55.1 (2003): pp. 156-158. Print.
Martin, Robert. “The Nature of Tragedy in Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’.” South Atlantic Review 61.4 (1996): pp. 97-106.
Mcconachie, Burce. American Theater in the Culture of the Cold War: Producing and Contesting Containment, 1947-1962. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2003. Print.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1998.
Most, Andrea. “Opening the Windshield: Death of a Salesman and Theatrical Liberalism.” Modern Drama 50.4 (2007): pp. 545-564. Print.
Murphy, Brenda. Miller, Death of a Salesman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print.
Olson, Eric. “Was Jekyll Hyde?” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66.2 (2003): pp. 328-348. Print.
Otten, Terry. “Death of a Salesman at Fifty – Still ‘Coming Home to Roost’.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 41.3 (1999): pp. 280-310. Print.
Otten, Terry. Temptation of Innocence in the Dramas of Arthur Miller. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002. Print.
Reeves, Thomas. “McCarthyism: Interpretations since Hofstadter.” Wisconsin Magazine of History 60.1 (1976): pp. 42-54. Print.
Reno, Raymond. “Arthur Miller and the Death of God.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 11.2 (1969): pp. 1069-1087. Print.
Weales, Gerald. “Arthur Miller: Man and His Image.” The Tulane Drama Review 7.1 (1962): pp. 165-180. Print.
Williams, Kirk. “Anti-Theatricality and the Limits of Naturalism.’’ Modern Drama 14.3 (2001): pp. 284–99. Print.
Death of a Salesman Explicatory Essay
The American Dream
Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman is one of the most brilliant works in the world drama. It reveals numerous important issues to address in any society. However, one of the major concerns of the play is the American system and capitalism, or rather the back side of it. The author contemplates the real nature of the American dream.
Eventually, the playwright comes to the conclusion that hard work does not necessarily lead to wealth and success. Miller claims that the American dream is a kind of delusion which has nothing to do with reality. The author admits that success can be possible if an individual works hard and, more importantly, has goals and takes risks.
Basically, these accounts on the American dream can be regarded as one of the major themes in the play. The theme is conveyed with the help of the plot, characters and dialogue. The author’s use of these constituents enables him to communicate his ideas on the American dream to the reader.
The Use of Plot
Miller tells a story of a salesman who works really hard to support his family. As any other person the protagonist of the play, Willy, wants to become rich. However, he only manages to occupy a rather low position in the company. In fact, the life of Willy’s family is an illustration of Americans’ aspirations. For instance, Willy complains that he should have been “in charge of New York” as he has worked really hard (Miller 4).
According to the accepted formula, his hard work should have already led to financial security (or even great success and prosperity). However, Willy soon understands that the formula contains a mistake. When thinking of (or even talking to) his brother Ben, Willy understands that there is another constituent to be taken into account. This constituent is risking. Miller understands that taking risks is important: “Why didn’t I go to Alaska with my brother Ben that time!” (Miller 26). Eventually, the main character takes a risk to succeed (or rather to help his family to succeed). Willy commits suicide to enable his children to fulfill the American dream.
However, the salesman fails to understand that his children also lack something to realize the American dream. Miller makes it clear that there is another constituent to have in mind, i.e. particular goals. Willy’s boys fail to become successful as they do not really know what they can do in their lives. They do not have particular goals to achieve.
Their energy, their gifts and their ability to work really hard do not help them to fulfill the American dream even after their father provides them with the second constituent of the success, i.e. risking. His risk, however, takes his sons nowhere. Willy exclaims: “I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain” (Miller 107).
Nonetheless, this is what does happen. Willy dies in vain as his final risk is not enough to help his children to prosper. Thus, the plot of the play helps the author to convey his idea of the American dream.
The Use of Characters
Apart from the plot, the author makes use of characters to articulate the major theme of the play. Of course, the protagonist of the play is one of the most suggestive illustrations of the disillusionment. Thus, Willy mentions: “Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it” (Miller 4). The man realizes that he has been working really hard, but he has not advanced in his chase for the American dream.
However, the illustrative power of this character is achieved with the help of other characters. For instance, Ben, Willy’s brother, is one of the necessary backgrounds to draw the reader’s attention to Willy’s life. Ben is a kind of model for Willy who says that his brother “was a genius, that man was success incarnate” (Miller 26).
Ben managed to use the right formula to achieve success. He took risks as he was not afraid of new places, be it Alaska or Africa. He also worked hard as it was no bed of roses to work in diamond mines. Finally, Ben had specific goals to reach and, of course, he was lucky enough to use all these constituents to gain success.
Another bright contrast to the protagonists is the life and achievements of his children. Biff and Happy believe in the American dream just like his father does. They also dream of becoming successful and wealthy. They try to work hard and they can achieve a lot. However, they do not have particular goals.
Biff is not sure what he wants to do. He simply concludes: “I’m one dollar an hour, Willy I tried seven states and couldn’t raise it” (Miller 102). He simply tries things, but has no particular aim to achieve. He is also incapable of risking. Even when he gets the results of his father’s risk (insurance) he is highly unlikely to make it through. He is doomed to fail in fulfilling the American dream.
Thus, the characters serve as illustrations of the major theme. Nevertheless, what makes them so conspicuous is their being so real. The characters appeal to the readers who can recognize themselves in the play. It goes without saying that everyone has had some failures and disillusionment. Of course, nearly everyone has had ideas similar to Willy’s. Thus, the playwright simply draws people’s attention to the real issues providing his own answers.
The Use of Dialogue
Admittedly, the magnificent plot as well as lively characters is not the only thing which makes the play so appealing. Miller creates perfect dialogues. In the first place, it is necessary to point out that the dialogues are real to life which makes the play so appealing. The characters speak the language which is typical for the social layer the characters pertain to and the time when the action takes place. The language is lively and, at the same time, it is really expressive. The author manages to choose the right words for each occasion.
It is also necessary to note that the author manages to convey the major theme of the play with the help of particular words. For instance, the word ‘dream’ appears fifteen times in the play. The characters often mention their (or other’s) dreams. Thus, Biff concludes: “He [Will] had the wrong dreams. All, all, wrong.” (Miller 107) Thus, it is clear that the author reveals his ideas on the American dream. The author stipulates that the American dream is nothing more than a wrong (delusive) dream.
One of the characters expresses a very interesting idea: “A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.” (Miller 107) If to focus on a narrower meaning, the playwright notes that all salesmen should have a dream, as they should be inspired by this dream. It is also possible to look at a broader meaning of the phrase. The author claims that all people need to have a dream as it helps to live. Of course, the author also shows what dreams may come stressing the necessity to choose the right dream.
As has been mentioned above, the author mentions three constituents of the success: hard work, risks and goals. However, it is also necessary to take into account luck which is important to be able to put the three constituents together. Thus, the author reveals the secret of the success to his son:
The whole wealth of Alaska passes over the lunch table at the Commodore Hotel, and that’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked! (Miller 63)
The words ‘like’ and ‘luck’ sound alike. Besides, in this case these words are synonyms. Thus, each word is meaningful and the choice of every word (and sometimes sounds) is precise.
On balance, it is possible to note that Arthur Miller created a great play that articulates many important ideas. Thus, the author shares his ideas on the well-known American dream which appears to be delusive. The author uses plot, characters and dialogue to communicate his message.
These means enable him to make the reader understand the message and, what is more important, to make the reader think of the matter. Admittedly, the play can be regarded universal as the tools chosen by Miller are still up-to-date. More so, the contemporary American society should also think of the ideas articulated in the play as this may help people choose the right dreams.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Abingdon, Oxon: Heinemann, 1994. Print.
Death of a Salesman Essay
Relationships between Willie and his sons
Willie Loman is a salesman who is constantly on the road than in his home. He also does not make much money from his sales business. However, his two sons, Biff and Happy look up to him as a role model. From the onset of the play, there is something estranging Biff from Willie. Willie has noticed that Biff has an undercurrent and becomes moody towards him. We realize that Biff estrangement from his father is as a result of Biff discovering Willie with a hooker in Boston.
When Miller wrote this play, fathers were symbols of excellence and virtue. The society expected fathers to represent the best for their children. Willie’s affair in Boston changed Biff’s life and changed him into a wanderer. Willie is sad that his son, Biff never had a job which can earn more than thirty five dollars in a week. Linda notes that Biff hates his father. She tells Biff that “Biff, dear, if you can’t have any feeling for him then you can’t have any feeling for me” (Miller 66).
Miller creates a sharp contrast between Biff and Bernard who loves hard work. Ben possesses knowledge superiority. He is not as physical as Biff. However, Biff did not believe in hard work since childhood. Willie taught him that everything in life did not rely on hard work. This idea became Biff’s downfall when he discovered that he had failed his exams.
Biff realizes that his childhood has been all lies. Therefore, he decides not to be like Willie. Biff struggles to become good after his father’s death. His father’s relationship with him created a world of lies and illusions where Biff never faced realities. He struggles to put these lies behind in order to find his true self in life. Willie nurtures Biff to have both desirable and undesirable traits during Biff’s life.
Willie brought up Happy to have little regard for women. Therefore, Happy treats women purely as objects of pleasure. Happy believes in unrealistic ideas of success his father planted in him since his childhood. He carries on with these ideas till the end of the play.
Willie’s responsibility with regard to his sons
We can say that Willie is an epitome of a poor role model to his sons. Willie gives poor advices to his sons especially about women and success. Willie advices Biff thus “Just wanna be careful with those girls, Biff, that’s all. Don’t make any promises. No promises of any kind. Because a girl, y’know, they always believe what you tell ’em” (Miller 44).
Willy’s two sons take this advice. Linda notes that Biff becomes harsh with the girls. This idea shapes Happy to become a hooker and womanizer. He constantly says that he will be marrying, but we never see that happens.
Willie tolerates Biff’s habits of stealing. Biff becomes a thief and even spends some times in jail. When Biff steals a football, his father laughs and jokes about the incident and says “Coach’ll probably congratulate you on your initiative” (Miller 9). The ultimate show of irresponsibility is Willie’s advice about work and success. He believes that charismata and popularity are the means to success in life.
When the play comes to an end, Biff leaves illusions and faces reality. Biff realizes that his habit of stealing was a sense of resentment towards his father. This struggle is an American dream in Biff.
Biff learns that his father’s actions are worse than his words when he discovers about his affairs with a hooker in Boston. This discovery creates a rebellious Biff, distant and ashamed towards his father. Biff knows his father as his role model. However, this act changes everything.
Biff realizes that Willie’s dreams were not realistic. Willie followed a meaningless dream throughout his life even the audiences are not aware of his merchandise. Biff makes a self discovery and vows that what happened to his father will not happen to himself. Therefore, Biff abandons his father’s ways of nurturing him since childhood.
The role denial and illusion in the play
Miller presents the ideas of denial and illusion. Biff, Happy, and Linda cannot distinguish between reality and illusion to some extent. Willie’s sense of denial and illusion is paramount. Throughout the play, Willie has believed that he and his sons particular Biff will one day find great success. The audiences know that Willie is a disrespected salesman. However, he refers to himself as New England man.
Willie claims that Biff is doing big things with his life, but we know that, at the age of thirty four, Biff has never had stable jobs. Biff says that “I’m not getting’ anywhere! What the hell am I doing, playing around with horses, twenty-eight dollars a week! I’m thirty-four years old. I oughta be makin’ my future. That’s when I come running home” (Miller 90). At the end of the play, Biff discovers his true self and escapes the illusions.
The standards Ben sets further traps Willie in illusions. Willie sees Ben in his mind giving him tips on how to become successful in business. Willie struggles to live with the standards that Ben has set, but this is impossible. Willie has a confused perspective on life, and the audience cannot believe his reliability. As the play progresses, Willie hallucinations also gain momentum.
Miller further compounds characters’ illusions to their pasts. Loman’s family feels that they made mistakes in life. Willie’s ideas of success and business look brilliant if he can live to prove their potentials. On the other hand, Biff only admires the days he was an athletic at high school and the days he never discovered his father was cheating and a failure.
Willie’s idea of personality and success is illusions and sense of denying the truth. Willie believes that as a salesman people must like him in order to succeed. Willie denies hard work and engages in illusion saying that it is not what people can accomplish that makes them successful, but rather success depends on how he treats people he knows.
Willie’s sons believe that they can achieve success through good looks and charm rather than hard work. This notion has created failures in Loman’s family. Willie regrets through flashback that he instilled wrong values his sons that destroyed his life.
Willie and Linda conversation shows denial of reality. Willie tells his wife that “Oh I’ll knock ’em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don’t seem to take to me” (Miller 23). It is hard for Willy to recognize reality due to his dementia and deteriorating health both mentality and emotionally.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1998. Print.