Symbolism In Death Of A Salesman By Arthur Miller
“Death of a Salesman” is a play written by playwright, Arthur Miller. This play is believed to have been one of Arthur Miller’s greatest bodies of work in the theatrical realm. “Death of a Salesman” was written from the trials of the playwright’s own life experience making for an relatable story filled with both direct and indirect symbolism about how the idea of success and achievement can drive an individual to do things they never believed they were able to do, with the flip side to that also is the narrative of how fear and failure impacts humans as well.
“There’s more people! That’s what’s ruining this country! The competition is maddening!”. Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” revolves around the Loman family in which the main character Willy Loman, the father, works as a door to door salesman. In many respects the Loman’s appear to be what we would consider in today’s society to be a middle-class family. Often times the middle-class is viewed as having the economic means to provide the essentials required to cultivate and sustain a family, however the downside to that reality is that often times those same individuals struggle accepting that fact that they are not able to live their life to the same extent as those who are financially secure.
Yet, like many who find themselves in the middle-class of socio-economic ranking, Willy Loman fed into society’s perception in which the only logical means of advancing through the ranks and breaking the cycle of middle-class label would be by ensuring that he was well liked and deemed attractive by his peers. The drawback of this belief, was that the Lomans’ live an unfulfilled and unhappy life while they believed their neighbors and peers were reaping the benefits of their success. “When I was seventeen, I walked into the jungle. And by twenty-one, I walked out. And by God, I was rich!”.
Have you ever felt as though no matter how hard you tried to accomplish. For example, have you ever wondered how certain career advancements and promotions don’t always go to the individual who is more qualified, but rather to the individual who is deemed to be likeable? That kind of disappointment could push a person to betray anyone if it meant achieving what is deemed as success.
“You don’t understand. Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life….” A benefit that Willy had in his arsenal was that he was afforded the opportunity to have a friend like Charley. We all at one point or another have or had a friend who was similar to Charley, someone who we viewed as successful. The real question is whether we are appreciative of these friends with pure intentions who come into our life? In many society’s it is rare that the people who are successful are the most giving and the most generous. I believe Arthur Miller was able to symbolize this sort of connection by highlighting the generosity of Charley while revealing Willy’s insecurities.
Willy was blessed to have a friend in Charley who was willing help him in every conceivable way he could, from offering Willy money as a way of offsetting the pay he was not receiving from his sales job, to directly offering him a job. However as with most individuals, they tend to shy away from help in efforts to not appear weak or unworthy by their peers.
“Now listen, Willy, I know you don’t like me, and nobody can say I’m in love with you, but I’ll give you a job because — just for the hell of it, put it that way. Now what do you say?” Additionally, jealously began to overtake Willy as he begins to despise Charley and his family for the blessing that they have earned. Bitter about his own shortcoming in life, Willy feels as though Charley was not sincere.
In conclusion, Arthur Miller uses symbolism in the play to echo the trials and tribulations of the Loman’s. I believe Miller used this tool as a way to add levity to the circumstances that many of us face to this very day; highlighting how more often than not we are the ones who sabotage our own dreams by allowing our minds to cast doubt and angst. The concept of the obtain the “I believe that if the reader pays close attention to the symbolism used, then one can avoid the self pitfalls and be able to live a fulfilled and worthy life.
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