“Death of a Salesman” by Steven Erickson Critical Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


Authored by Steven Erickson, Death of a Salesman is a captivating must-read chef-d’oeuvre set in New York and Boston in 1948 staring Willy Loman (David Ryan) and Howard Wagner (Isaac Wood). The arena of the theatre is quite recommendable.

Erickson’s choice of using the house with well-positioned and packed apartments was the best to depict the characters as a family that was going through the normal vicissitudes of life. The two amongst other characters share the hallucination that they can achieve the American dream. Willy Loman is an old salesperson who has been largely unsuccessful in his ventures and who has come to the realization that he should not be driving.

He returns home from a business trip. Linda his companion advises him to ignore his current occupation as a sales clerk. She proposes to him that he meets his manger to inquire for an opportunity to work in the office. According to her, her husband has to get the job based on his status as a man whom people like. In a sad note, the masterwork ends with tragic demise of Willy.

As the piece ends, Linda is in tears following her tragic parting with her beloved husband. In my opinion, the production has been coherent in the sequence of events in the play. The audience cannot miss out that Willy Loman as a frustrated sales clerk is on the verge of committing suicide. The author brought it out clearly to the point when Willy could no longer handle his frustrations.

Discussion of Actors playing the Characters in the Play

David Ryan acting as Willy Loman is the protagonist and a devoted salesperson. He is a family person with two sons Biff and Happy with Biff having returned home from working in a farm in the West. He believes that Biff can end up being a worth emulating character if at all he can seize and utilize his God-given talent to do what he has some passion for in order to be wealthy and a useful resource in the family.

Willy starts to have flashbacks and talking to imaginary people as if in a real conversation with them complaining that Biff and Happy need to wake up and focus on anything that worries them having never witnessed their father in such a state. His whole life shows a lot of potential. However, he portrays himself as having a high degree of self-deception and misguided life goals.

According to him, the key reason of living is to gain people’s attraction and possessions. He stands out as a very disillusioned person who has always been consoling himself and his people that things will be better one day. Throughout the play, he appears as a firm believer of the American dream.

Although he has never succeeded in any of his attempts in life, he still holds to the myth that any appealing person such as him can achieve his ambitions in life. Finally, this break between his ambitions in life and authenticity of things induces much pressure on him to the extent of tampering with his psychological wellbeing where he recounts his experiences.

However, he cannot take anything positive and helpful from such encounters to mould his future. He invests his entire hope in his sons. Worse, life continues to haunt him since his doomed character and unrealized ambitions seem to follow Biff and Happy.

Cassidy Moore who plays as Linda Loman comes out as a naive woman as she does not seem to be aware of her husband’s affairs right from his finances to job as his mistress. She stands out as a loyal woman based on how she defends her husband’s behavior even when he has attacked her.

She remains stanch to him despite the much misbehavior by her beloved partner especially in the part where he engages in extra marital affairs with The Woman who plays as Caitlyn Walsh at a tender age, and ultimately killing himself with the misguided conviction that he will find the underlying cause of the family’s tribulations. She has been depicted as the moral center of the play due to her occasionally stern stand.

She is not frightened to deal with her children about how they are being mishandled by their father.

Her honesty stands out when Willy begins to talk to himself so loudly in the middle of the night to the level of waking up everyone where Linda confesses to her sons that the two are struggling financially and that their father had become suicidal. An argument erupts with Linda accusing Biff as being the source of her husband’s unhappiness.

Olexiy Kryvich, as Biff, appears as a lazy character who puts less effort in studies and ends up failing in math. However, he is also loving and caring as he is concerned about his father’s welfare. He wants to achieve in life so that his father can regain happiness.

Therefore, his strength of mind is evident when he realizes the need to reside abode and toil on his association with his father besides taking the chance to converse with an ex- worker, Bill Oliver, requesting him to provide him with some credit to establish a company. He emulates Willy’s personality of a candid person who yearns to attain the American dream from which his father disastrously leaves.

Dakotah Myers who stands as Happy shows some sense of self-importance, ambition, and wild societal expectations by believing in the American dream. Additionally, he is uncouth based on her unprincipled sexual interactions with women of his managers. He epitomes the most horrible elements of Willy’s temperament because of the weight he allocates on pressing on and in his willingness to fool himself.

He has no value attached to women as they are all sexual vessels to him while those whom he has ever abused being useless and valueless to him. He stands out as a difficult character who will never support other characters’ discussions.

In fact, when Willy comes in to quarrel with Biff, he (Happy) comes in arguing that Biff has to meet Oliver to chat about the credit arrangement. Everyone goes to bed expecting to make dreams happen the next day as Willy was also expecting to get the local job.

Eric Lewis Johnson, as Charley, stands out as the vote of basis and expedience in Willy’s world of fantasy and mystification. He is straightforward, aloof, meek, modest, and a worth emulating figure. He shows some level of self-confidence.

Unlike Willy, he fits himself within the shoes of other people such that none of those he encounters will view him as strange. Charley is also charitable and accommodating since he updates Willy on his persisting predicament as well as providing him with financial support and working opportunity.

Nate Polzin, as Uncle Ben, is Willy’s older brother who is adventurous and lucky in his business ventures. Being lifeless, he only comes on the stage as Willy’s thoughts about the earlier periods. He depicts the incarnation of the most conventional feature of the American dream and the misguided credence that a man can reach the wasteland by himself and return affluent.

Bernard who acts as Cameron Thorp is Charley’s only son. He is gifted and conscientious though he lacks the extroverted qualities of any of Loman’s children. This lack of his sociable nature makes Willy believe that he will never be a true success in the business world.

However, he proves to be far more successful relative to Willy’s imaginations. He has qualified as a legal representative to present a legal proceeding before the highest courtyard.

Isaac Wood who plays as Howard Wagner is Willy’s boss is an extremely silent but egotistical who inherits his triumph without structuring any valuable decision by himself. The personal association between Willy and his father does not sway him.

He does not factor the connection he has with Willy when he announces to him that he cannot get any chance to work in the office as he had requested. Largely, he portrays himself as unsympathetic. In fact, despite Willy’s bad state of affairs, he still fires him.

Caitlyn Wash acting as The Woman is Willy’s mistress in Boston. She stands out as manipulative based on how she decides to have Willy has her partner only to misuse him for her personal gains. Lastly, Kristen Carter acting as Jenny is Charley’s secretary.

Jordan Stafford, as Stanley, is a waiter at Frank’s Chop House. He is friendly and helpful as he sympathizes with Willy’s plight by taking him home from the restaurant where his sons left him. Lexee Longwell, as Miss Forsythe, is a call girl whom Biff and Happy met at Frank’s Chop House while Tillie Dorgan, as Letta, is a friend to Miss Forsythe

Discussion of Design Elements


The play is set in the east coast America at the twentieth industrial society that was characterized by financial difficulties and the pressure for success. The pressure is evident following scarcity of jobs and resources to sustain lives of people-a case that leaves other mad. In fact, Willy meets Howard in need of a job. However, contrary to his expectations, he does not get it.

Rather, he is fired. Troubled by the news, he starts to hallucinate by dialoguing with unseen creatures as he sets off to congregate his two kids at the hotel. As they wait for their dad at the restaurant, Biff tells Happy that Oliver did not see him because he could not recognize him. It finally dawns on Biff that he was mistaken to think he was going to ever get a loan and that his family had false hopes in their whole lives.

Again, financial pressure is evident when Willy shows up at the restaurant where Biff is hard pressed to explain to his dad that he did not get the loan without disappointing him. Upon delivery of the disheartening news by Biff, Willy cannot manage the distress. In fact, he can now think about his past accounts such as the time when Biff realized he was having some extramarital affairs with another woman.

At this moment, Biff and Happy leave him, as he comprehends the reality. Therefore, she setting shows clearly that America, being the land of opportunity, also has a fair share of challenges as Willy discovers and that it is unable to achieve all its ambitions.

However, the staging of the play does not show the socio-economic environment where Willy tries to achieve his dream. Rather, it sticks to his search for his dream only with no detailed reminders of place and time.


Music manages to set the mood of the play. The melody heard at the opening of the stage can be associated with nostalgia. It connects with Willy’s imagination of the happier life in the past when he had a promise of better things to come in the future.

As the act is about to end, there is a calm sound of a flute, which can be viewed as a depiction of Willy’s delusional-blinded assurance in the American reverie. In fact, he remains on the stage alone and distressed following Biff and Happy’s decision to go back home from their outing where their mother quarrels them about leaving their dad at the restaurant.


Erickson has strategically used light to deliver certain messages to his audience. For instance, the illumination mainly adjacent to the apartments, which can be defined as dim orange, is a clear indication of the sorrow that people have after they have strived hard but never realizing their ambitions in life. In fact, Biff is an epitome of such people who have completely lost hope of their days to come.

In other words, their future life is dim. Willy’s situation also matches with the intensity of light. An argument ensues in his family where nobody wants to bring any constructive contribution concerning his pathetic state just as the light manifests. Biff manages to state to the members that he cannot match his dad’s unrealistic expectations since he has failed in life.

He even tells his family that it has been living trying to achieve unrealistic dreams symbolized by the dimmed light. Moreover, illumination has also been employed as a strategy to indicate ambiance and the frame of mind of the characters. When Willy is thinking of his past memories, lighting covers the stage to create a seemingly joyful atmosphere.

In fact, a working illustration of the use of lighting is evident following the way Erickson illuminates scenes in the hotel when sorrow dominates it.

The use of light again has been used throughout the play to show the unwelcoming environment and situations of the characters who are living in a time when nobody has a reason to smile following the many crises ranging from financial, relationship, family, and even psychological imbalances. It has also been employed as a way of telling the exact position of the happening of any act in the masterpiece.

For instance, when Willy begins his hallucinations, Erickson utilizes a unique light to show some variations of his state of mind and time when such scenarios are happening to Willy.

A working illustration by Erickson is evident when Willy is meditating about his encounter with The Woman as Linda waits in one of the house apartments and specifically the kitchen. Viewers are not left to question about her absence since the illumination strategy is enough to tell them that whatever is taking place does so when Linda is elsewhere in the house.


Sound in the play is used to show the tragedy of Loman’s family by setting the stage at the beginning only to end with Willy Loman regretting his life. It stands out as a crucial element to denote Loman’s historical times when he could boast of joy and hope before things turned worse on his side.

In addition, Ben’s key music is indicative of him being the figure that Willy adored as a source of his hope in life. Sound has also been employed to enhance appreciation of the characters and the scenarios in the work thus preparing the minds of the viewers of the tone of the happenings of things in the work as evidenced by Ben’s scenario to indicate feeling.


In my opinion, the director to some extent does not capture the audience with suspense mostly because even the title of the play gives away everything about the play although the audience is left anticipating witnessing how the death of the protagonist will occur.

One can also learn very early in the play that Willy Loman, the main character in the play, has failed in his professional life and that he is suicidal thus making the audience predict that he is destined to kill himself even before he does it.

He spoils the play by killing himself at the end of it well before the conclusion although his decision to kill himself for the $20,000 insurance money comes as no surprise since the event is out rightly foreshadowed throughout much of the dialogue.

However, the director has been effective in the sense that Willy Loman, unlike other characters in the play who seem not to offer much, delivers most of the themes through his complicated tangle of regrets and undying hopes, which make the play effective in delivering its message to the audience.

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