Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Death of a Salesman is that rare thing: a modern play that is both a classic, and a tragedy. Many of the great plays of the twentieth century are comedies, social problem plays, or a combination of the two. Few are tragedies centred on one character who, in a sense, recalls the theatrical tradition that gave us Oedipus, King Lear, and Hamlet.

But how did Miller come to write a modern tragedy? What is Death of a Salesman about, and how should we analyse it? Before we come to these questions, it might be worth briefly recapping the plot of what is, in fact, a fairly simple story.

Death of a Salesman : summary

The salesman of the title is Willy Loman, a travelling salesman who is in his early sixties. He works on commission, so if he doesn’t make a sale, he doesn’t get paid. His job involves driving thousands of miles around the United States every year, trying to sell enough to put food on his family’s table. He wants to get a desk job so he doesn’t have to travel around any more: at 62 years of age, he is tired and worn out.

He is married to Linda. Their son, Biff, is in his thirties and usually unemployed, drifting from one temporary job to another, much to Willy’s displeasure. Willy’s younger son, Happy, has a steady job along and his own home, and is therefore a success by Willy’s standards.

However, Happy, despite his name, isn’t happy with the life he has, and would quite like to give up his job and go and work on a ranch out West. Willy, meanwhile, is similarly dreaming, but in his case of the past, rather than the future: he thinks back to when Biff and Happy were small children and Willy was a success as a salesman.

The Lomans’ neighbour, Charley, offers Willy a job to help make ends meet, but Willy starts to reminisce about his recently deceased brother, Uncle Ben, who was an adventurer (and young Willy’s hero). Linda tells her sons to pay their father some respect, even though he isn’t himself a ‘great man’.

It emerges that Willy has been claiming to work as a salesman but has lately been borrowing money as he can’t actually find work. His plan is to take his own life so his family will receive life insurance money and he will be able, with his death, to do what he cannot do for them while alive: provide for them. Biff agrees reluctantly to go back to his former boss and ask for a job so he can contribute to the family housekeeping.

Meanwhile, Willy asks his boss, Howard, for his desk job and an advance on his next pay packet, but Howard sacks Willy. Willy then goes to Charley and asks for a loan. That night, at dinner, Willy and Biff argue (Biff failed to get his own former job back when his old boss didn’t even recognise him), and it turns out that Biff once walked in on his father with another woman.

Willy goes home, plants some seeds, and then – hearing his brother Ben calling for him to join him – he drives off and kills himself. At his funeral, only the family are present, despite Willy’s prediction that his funeral would be a big affair.

Death of a Salesman : analysis

Miller’s family had been relatively prosperous during the playwright’s childhood, but during the Great Depression of the 1930s, as with many other families, their economic situation became very precarious. This experience had a profound impact on Miller’s political standpoint, and this can be seen in much of his work for the theatre.

Death of a Salesman represented a decisive change of direction for the young playwright. His previous success as a playwright, All My Sons , was a social drama heavily influenced by Henrik Ibsen, but with his next play, Miller wished to attempt something new. The mixture of hard-hitting social realism and dreamlike sequences make Death of a Salesman an innovative and bold break with previous theatre, both by Miller and more widely.

In his essay ‘ Tragedy and the Common Man ’ (1949), which Miller wrote to justify his artistic decision to make an ordinary American man the subject of a theatrical tragedy, Miller argued that the modern world has grown increasingly sceptical, and is less inclined to believe in the idea of heroes.

As a result, they don’t see how tragedy, with its tragic hero, can be relevant to the modern world. Miller argues, on the contrary, that the world is full of heroes. A hero is anybody who is willing to lay down his life in order to secure his ‘sense of personal dignity’. It doesn’t matter what your social status or background is.

Death of a Salesman is an example of this ethos: Loman, who cheated on his wife and lied to his family about his lack of work and his reliance on friends who lent him money, makes his last gesture a tragic but selfless act, which will ensure his family have money to survive when he is gone.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Miller is somehow endorsing the hero’s final and decisive act. The emphasis should always be on the word ‘tragedy’: Loman’s death is a tragedy brought about partly by his own actions, but also by the desperate straits that he is plunged into through the harsh and unforgiving world of sales, where once he is unable to earn money, he needs some other means of acquiring it so he can put food on the table for his family.

But contrary to what we might expect, there is something positive and even affirmative about tragedy, as Arthur Miller views the art form.

For Miller, in ‘Tragedy and the Common Man’, theatrical tragedy is driven by ‘Man’s total compunction to evaluate himself justly’. In the process of doing this, and attaining his dignity, the tragic hero often loses his life, but there is something affirmative about the events leading up to this final act, because the audience will be driven to evaluate what is wrong with society that it could destroy a man – a man willing to take a moral stand and evaluate himself justly – in the way that it has.

Does Willy Loman deserve to be pushed to take his own life just so his family can pay the bills? No, so there must be something within society that is at fault. Capitalism’s dog-eat-dog attitude is at least partly responsible, since it leads weary and worn-out men like Willy to dream of paying off their mortgage and having enough money, while simultaneously making the achievement of that task as difficult as possible. When a younger and better salesman comes along, men like Willy are almost always doomed.

But by placing this in front of the audience and dramatising it for them, Miller invites his audience to question the wrongs within modern American society. Thus people will gain a greater understanding of what is wrong with society, and will be able to improve it. The hero’s death is individually tragic but collectively offers society hope.

So it may be counter-intuitive to describe a tragedy like Death of a Salesman as ‘optimistic’, but in a sense, this is exactly what it is. Miller takes the classical idea of the tragic flaw, what Aristotle had called the hamartia , and updates this for a modern audience, too: the hero’s tragic flaw is redefined as the hero’s inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity and rightful status in society.

There is something noble in his flaw, even though it will lead to his own destruction. So really, the flaw is not within the individual or hero as much as in society itself.

A key context for Death of a Salesman , like many great works of American literature from the early to mid-twentieth century, is the American Dream: that notion that the United States is a land of opportunity where anyone can make a success of their life and wind up stinking rich. Miller’s weaving of dream sequences in amongst the sordid and unsatisfactory reality of the Lomans’ lives deftly contrasts the American dream with the American reality.

1 thought on “A Summary and Analysis of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman”

This is a very insightful and convincing appreciation. What it misses is any idea that Miller’s being Jewish may have had a hand in helping him to see why the American dream and its popularity-cult needed to be criticized. The word “cult” in “populairty-cult” says it all, because “The Death of a Saleman” is at its core a play about idolatry, the Ol,d Testament theme against which its prophets railed the most.

Willy is portrayed as an idol-worshipper, whereas his friend, Charely, and Charley’s son, Bernard, are both seen as devotees of the “true” God, in whose religion the human being is always endowed with dignity and always seen as an end in himself, never as a means to some other end. The play, in fact, asks a very Jewish question. If the true God and the false god both require sacrifice, how can you ever know which is which? And its tragedy supplies us with Miller’s answer: those who worship idols discover in the end that THEY are the sacrifice!

Miller, like Philip Roth later on, was a Jewish-American inheritor of the Old Testament’s prophetic tradition, a tradition in which Amos, Isaiah, Jeremia en Ezekiel continually used their verbal art to expose Israel’s stinking moral corruption, foreseeing nothing but doom if it continued in irs idolatrous ways. Change ancient Israel to America, change the average Israelite of that time to Willy Loman now: both wind up destroying themsevles for the very same reason: with all the good will in they world, they have no self-knowledge and spend their whole lives worshipping a false god, deluded in the belief that they are worshipping the true one.

Their mistake in both cases only becomes apparent when it is time to offer the sacrifice, but by then, of course, it is always too late!

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Discover more from interesting literature.

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Type your email…

Continue reading

Death of a Salesman

Introduction to death of a salesman.

Death of a Salesman a play having “two acts and a requiem” is the masterpiece of Arthur Miller written in 1948 and produced in 1949. The popularity and success of the play demonstrate the strength of its story . The play was adapted for various tableaus, films, and course books across the globe, securing a Pulitzer Prize for Miller. The story of the play revolves around an unfortunate middle-class man who ruins his life, chasing the idea of the American Dream. This unattainable hunt costs him dearly; he seems stuck between fantasy and reality with a resultant loss of his own life. In one of his interviews, Miller mentions that the inspiration for the play is seeing his father struggle during the Depression.

Summary of Death of a Salesman

The play features Willy Lowman, living in New York City with his wife, Linda. Although Willy has worked as a salesman for almost thirty years, yet he has not achieved the real level of success that would allow him to stop tiring himself and afford the household expenditures that swallow his diminishing wages. He constantly compares himself to another salesman, Dave Singleton, who led a successful career and when he died, many people came to bid him farewell.

The play begins when Willy comes home exhausted from a failed trip with his mind full of tensions and worries. He seems sick of daily travels, while Linda, consoles him and suggests that he should ask his boss, Howard Wagner, to get a placement that demands less travel. Willy consents to request his boss the next day. Then, Linda and Willy start talking about their sons Biff and Happy, who are out for a date and are expected to be home soon. Also, she reminds him not to be critical or judgmental toward Biff, but Willy expresses his resentment over Biff’s lazy approach toward life.

Alone in the kitchen, Willy plunges back in time and remembers old times when his sons were young and idealized their father as an upright man. His flashbacks make the readers familiar with his philosophy of success that has derived him to his current unsuccessful state. Compared with his successful neighbor, Charley and his son, Bernard, Willy’s family is more determined and full of the natural charisma required for success. Willy always thought that his son’s rising high school football achievements would offer him university scholarships and make him a successful man. Yet the same neighbor once offered him a job but he refused despite the fact that he used to borrow money from him to cover household expenses and his son Bernard who was kind of a nerd in school, is now a successful lawyer.

Once again Willy drives back in time when he thinks about his brother Ben, who left home at seventeen and made quite a fortune in Alaska and Africa . Willy and Ben’s father abandoned them and Willy compares himself with his successful brother and regrets it. This comparison adds more to his miserable state, making him think that he is not capable of achieving success in life. Disturbed by Willy’s present state, Linda discusses his deteriorating mental state with his sons. She tells them about his failed suicide attempts as well. The boys get chagrined at themselves that they could not bring comfort to their father; Biff immediately decides to join his brother’s sports goods business and he’d go and talk to his old acquaintance for business funding. This idea pleases Willy, who, in turn, gives some incoherent and conflicting advice to his sons.

The next day, Willy goes to his boss, Howard Wagner, to request him for placement close to home. Howard not only refuses his plea but also suspends him from the job. Humiliated and disheartened, Willy turns toward Charley to borrow some money, and this time he encounters Charley’s son, Bernard. Like his father, Bernard has also achieved a respectful status in society, while his own sons are still striving to get settled in life. Stumbling between reality and illusions about success, he heads toward Frank’s Chop House where his sons are waiting for him for dinner.

Soon, Willy arrives and confesses that has been fired but hopes to have some good news from Biff. Biff tells Willy that the meeting with Bill Oliver was a failed attempt. Biff and Willy lock their horn in a disturbing argument that throws Willy backs into the past when young Bernard informs Linda that Biff has failed in a Math test and sets his trip to Boston to meet Willy to resolve this issue since it would be affecting his career. Biff discovers his illegitimate affair, which became Biff’s disillusionment with his father and the values that he taught all his life. After the argument, Biff and Happy leave with two call girls abandoning their father in the restaurant. Once, Willy comes back to his senses asks the waitress the way to a seed shop. Once home, Willy’s disconnection from reality continues as he plants seeds in the middle of the night , hoping to grow a garden. In his distress, he has an imaginary dialogue with his deceased brother who reminds him about a life insurance policy worth $20,000. Willy plans on getting in a car crash so he could at least leave them that money and show how much he cared for his children and wife. Also, how ‘well-liked’ by his friends at the grand funeral.

Back in reality, Willy has a final confrontation with Biff who announces leaving his family for good. After the announcement, Biff goes to his room and cries. Aggrieved by his son’s miserable state, Willy finally decides to commit suicide; he leaves the house and intentionally kills himself in a car accident. Only his family and Charley attend his funeral, sharing their thoughts about his struggling life and tragic end. The play ends with the contrasting opinions of Biff and Happy about their father’s unsuccessful life. Happy decides to stay back and fulfill his father’s ‘American dream’ of becoming successful while Biff plans to leave Brooklyn forever. Linda was confused with the irony of how the house mortgage was finally paid off with no one to live in it.

Characters in Death of a Salesman

  • Willy Loman : Willy Loman, the main protagonist of the play, is a simple family man and Linda’s husband. He also has a brother, Ben, and two young sons, Happy and Biff. As an aging salesman working in various parts of Europe, he seems to be an ambitious man, full of sales philosophy and hopes for a bright future for his son. In fact, he chases the American dream and aspires to enjoy the bliss of life with his family. Unfortunately, his hard work and lowly income not only weakens his determination but also leads him to suffer from anxiety and stress. His mediocre career, estranged relationship with his son Biff and some past mistakes steal the remaining joy of his life. His constant failures and suffering make him stand at the place where he begins to hallucinate. Unfortunately, his sons never understand the intensity of this pain despite Linda’s efforts to make them understand the traumatic state of their father. These worries force the old man to commit suicide.
  • Linda Lowman: Willy’s wife and mother of Happy and Biff, Linda is a loving lady as she always shares the worries of her husband, making him believe that one day he will taste the fruits of his untiring efforts. Although she supports him in his dreams of prosperity and success, she knows that it is impossible for him to live a life full of wonders. Despite Willy’s disturbed mental state, she stands by him and even rebukes his son for not living up to his father’s expectations.
  • Biff Loman: The older son of Linda and Willy Loman, Biff is a good and promising athlete and bright student but he never graduates from school. His life is moving at a smooth pace until he discovers his father’s extramarital relationship and becomes mentally upset. Willy wishes him to become a successful businessman, but he flees to the west, following his instinct to become a business tycoon. Despite trying his luck several times, Biff fails to win the admiration of his father. In the end, he admits that he has been chasing the shadow and wishes to lead a normal life.
  • Happy Loman: The younger son of the Loman family, Happy works as a manager in a store and seems to be a contented person. However, his father thinks that he has not made the right choice in life. He is shown as a really happy person in life with a single flaw that he is a womanizer. Despite his claim that he does not want girls, he fails to avoid them.
  • Charley : As a successful businessman living in Willy’s neighborhood, Charley helps Willy often with money for paying bills. Once he offers him a job that Willy refuses, claiming he shares distant views about success in life. Although Willy considers his children more practical and successful, he seems jealous of his social status.
  • Bernard: The intelligent and successful son of Charley, Bernard is a sober young man with a lot of potentials. Unlike his father, he has achieved success and status in society by becoming a successful lawyer. However, Willy’s jealousy toward their success never lets him praise his success.
  • Ben Loman: Willy’s late brother, Ben proves a constant reminder to the family due to his role of leaving his family years ago to try his fortune elsewhere. His travels to Africa and Alaska and his story of becoming a millionaire reverberates throughout the play. Although he is talked about like a dead person in the play, his success and prosperous life become a model for Willy to follow. He gets obsessed with his brother’s success that he forgets to accept the bitter reality of his own life.
  • Howard Wagner: Willy’s boss, Howard is shown as a stout and stern kind of person. As a pragmatic manager, he knows how to apply his principles, and caring only for his own interests, and not the problems of his employees. In fact, he is the epitome of a capitalistic owner, who refuses to understand Willy’s plight and when Willy tries to argue, he instantly sacks him.
  • The Woman: The Anonymous woman appears less in the play, yet plays a significant role in the storyline. She lives in Boston and works in a company. Unfortunately, the lady becomes the reason for contention between Biff and his father.

Themes in Death of a Salesman

  • American Dream; American dream stands as the most significant theme of the play as every member of the Loman family yearns for a better life. Willy and his sons try to chase this dream but get nothing except failure and dissatisfaction. However, some of the characters have shown it as an achievable model, as Howard Wagner, who has inherited this alluring dream from his father, while Loman’s neighbors have achieved this dream, showing how to lead a prosperous life. Willy is the only person who longs to have this bliss. Despite working hard, he fails to bring any improvement in the standard of his life. Biff, his son also faces continuous failures, while Happy is also not living up to his father’s expectations. Disheartened by the failures of his sons and his own tiring life, Will tries to see his dream through his brother’s success but gets nothing.
  • Modernity: During the 1950s, modernism started to alter the structure of society, making noteworthy changes in various professions. People started depending on modern gadgets, spending a fortune, and still vying to have another gadget just hitting the market. Creating a false idea of the American dream, modernity eventually creeps in the Loman’s life as they see their sons succeeding in the world like their neighbor but faces only mental torture when they see them failing. Howard keeps on working on his radio, making it clear that technological development has replaced manpower.
  • Opportunity: Although everyone strives to succeed, yet material luck finds those who seek better opportunities. Howard has been tolerating Willy because his father appointed him. Otherwise, he knows Willy does not deserve the job anymore. So, when Willy asks for some changes in his job, he fires him without having any compassion. Willy does not understand the reason for this sudden decision; instead of equipping himself with a better professional attitude , Willy gets more frustrated. Howard, on the other hand, gets an opportunity to find a new potential salesman. In the same way, Willy’s son, Happy, finds an opportunity to have a good job, while Biff wanders to seek one.
  • Family: The theme of family emerges through the Lomans, who never accept the changing shift of time, an attitude that costs them dearly. Willy constantly tries to materialize his dreams yet ends up with a failure. After his failed attempts, he fixes his attention to his sons, thinking they may fulfill his dreams of the ideal life through their careers. Unfortunately, both of them fail him; Biff is directionless, while Happy does not run after dreams. In contrast to Willy’s failed family, Charley and his son have resounding success with money and career, making their family achieve the American dream.
  • Ideal Personality: The concept of ideal or well-liked personality is another major theme Miller discusses in the play. Willy constantly advises his sons that they must be well-liked. To him, well-liked persons are the demands of industry and market as he has seen it during his career as a salesman. It also transpires to them that an ideal personality wins success as they see it in Charley’s son as well as in Howard, the boss of Willy.
  • Hallucination: Hallucination also stands as another important theme of the play. Willy Loman’s series of failures and constant sufferings drag him to a place where he cuts himself from the biting reality and begins to hallucinate. His hallucination features his successful brother, Ben, who has used his talents to make a fortune. Although Ben is dead, he appears in the form of hallucinations, a state that drags Willy toward disappointment and further mental torture.
  • Pride: The play projects this theme through the character of Willy Loman. He is an extremely proud man even though he does not have any reason to be proud as his sons have failed him and he is fired from the job. Despite struggling financially, he constantly praises his ideas of success in business and the little accomplishments of his sons. His pride never lets him consider the real success and efforts of his neighbor, Charley, his neighbor, who helps him overcome his financial difficulties.
  • Betrayal: Although betrayal is a minor theme of the play, it casts a gloomy shadow on various characters as Willy betrays his wife Linda by having an extramarital affair. Similarly, Biff constantly dodges his father’s dreams and tries to figure out his own ways of living. Linda thinks that Biff is betraying his father by not fulfilling Willy’s desires.
  • Reality versus Illusion : Reality against illusion is another major theme as Willy constantly dreams to be a successful businessman, and in case, if he fails to win glory, his sons will carry the flag to win success for him. Unfortunately, his desires for amassing wealth are only illusions that do not turn into reality despite his struggle. To his surprise, his sons also go against his dreams.

Writing Style of Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman shows Miller’s style of writing simple and direct dialogues and presenting down-to-earth real characters. He has used sharp irony and satire to show the poisonous impacts of the American dream upon the middle class. The writer has juxtaposed realism with fantasy at various points in the text to comment on the hollow and unrealistic approach of the people toward the false standards of society. The success of this writing lies in the skillful use of other literary elements, complex characterization , and simple sentence structure though diction at times becomes highly complex, showing the mental state of the Loman family.

Literary Devices in Death of a Salesman

  • Action: The main action of the play comprises the struggle of Willy Lowman, a salesman by profession. The rising action occurs when Willy is fired from the job, while the falling action occurs when Willy blames himself for the troubles his family is going through.
  • Allegory : Death of a Salesman shows the use of allegory by presenting the main idea of how the person’s nonadoptive nature creates trouble for himself and the people who belong to him.
  • Anaphora : The play shows the use of anaphora at different places as give in the below examples, i. Maybe I oughta get stuck into something. Maybe that’s my trouble. I’m like a boy. I’m not married, I’m not in business, I just—I’m like a boy. Are you content, Hap? You’re a success, aren’t you? Are you content? (Act-I) ii. Willy: Where is he? I’ll whip him, I’ll whip him! Linda: And he’d better give back that football, Willy, it’s not nice. Willy: Biff! Where is he? Why is he taking everything? (Act-I) iii. Willy: No, you’re no good, you’re no good for anything. Biff: I am , Dad, I’ll find something else, you understand? (Act-II) These examples show the repetitious use of the phrases “you’re no good”, “only think”, “I’ll whip him”, and “I’m like a boy.”
  • Allusion : The play shows the use of various allusions as given in the examples below, i. Biff: But you look at your friend….Happy: Yeah, but when he walks into the store the waves part in front of him… I want to walk into the store the way he walks in. (Act-I) ii. Willi: Like a young god, Hercules- something like that. And the sun, the sun all around him. Remember how he waved to me? Right up from the field, with the representatives of three colleges stand by? And the buyers I brought and the cheers when he came out, Loman, Loman, Loman. God Almighty, he’ll be great yet. (Act-I) iii. Willy: That’s why I thank Almighty God you are built like Adonises.” (Act-I) The first example alludes to Moses and the remaining two to Greek gods.
  • Conflict : There are two types of conflicts in the play, Death of a Salesman. The first one is the external conflict that is going on between Willy Loman and the competitive world around him as well as his own family. Another is the internal conflict of Willy, his fight with the heavy odds of life, and about the troubles of his life how they are going to be resolved.
  • Climax : The climax of the play, Death of a Salesman, occurs when Willy confronts his distressed son, Biff, for the last time.
  • Characters: Death of a Salesman presents both static as well as dynamic characters . Willy’s sons Biff, and Happy are dynamic characters as they change their attitude toward life as well as their father. However, the rest of the characters do not see any change in their behavior as they are static characters like Willy Loman, Linda, Charlie, and Bernard.
  • Irony : The play shows situational irony in the following examples, i. That’s just what I mean. Bernard can get the best marks in school, y’understand, but when he gets out in the business world, y’understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him. That’s why I thank Almighty God you’re both built like Adonises. Because the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want. (Act-I) ii. CHARLEY (an arm on Bernard’s shoulder) : How do you like this kid? Gonna argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. The irony is clear in the first example through the mention of Adonises and in the second through the mention of the Supreme Court.
  • Metaphor : Death of a Salesman shows good use of various metaphors besides the extended metaphors of good versus evil such as, i. I am a dime a dozen, and so are you. (Act-II) ii. The world is an oyster, but you don’t crack it open on a mattress. (Act-I) These examples show that characters and the world have been compared to different things to make them feel prominent.
  • Mood : The Play, Death of a Salesman, shows a melancholic, though it becomes tragic, ironic, and highly satiric at times. Sometimes, it also becomes gloomy when Willy is trapped in the troubles of life
  • Motif : Most essential motifs of Death of a Salesman are mythic figures, the American West, and the African jungle.
  • Protagonist : Willy Loman is the protagonist of the play. The text starts with his discontent with his life and ends with his tragic death.
  • Rhetorical Questions : The play shows the use of rhetorical questions at various places such as, i. CHARLEY: Without pay? What kind of a job is a job without pay? (Act-II) ii. WILLY: What’s the matter with you? I’ve got a job. (Act-II) iii. CHARLEY: Why must everybody like you? Who liked J. P. Morgan? Was he impressive? These examples show the use of rhetorical questions asked by Charley and Willy but they do not need answers. They are self-explanatory.
  • Theme : A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The play, Death of a Salesman, shows the clash between dream and reality, the idea of the American dream and betrayal.
  • Setting : The setting of the play is Willy Loman’s house, his yard, and other places he visits in Boston and New York.
  • Tone : The tone of the text is somber, serious, melancholic, and tragic.
  • Simile : The play shows the use of similes at various places such as, WILLY: Sure. Certain men just don’t get started till later in life. Like Thomas Edison; I think. Or B. F. Goodrich. (Act-I) ii. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. (Act-I) iii. Like a young god. Hercules — something like that. (Act-I) These use of “like” in these examples show as things have been compared such as men with Thomas Edison, then Willy with an old dog, and then a person with Hercules.
  • Symbols : Death of a Salesman presents various symbols such as seeds and diamond symbolize Willy’s hope and the American dream and the rubber horse symbolizes false hopes.

Related posts:

  • Death of a Salesman Quotes
  • Death of a Salesman Themes
  • Death of a Salesman Characters
  • After Death
  • Death, Be Not Proud
  • Badger To Death
  • The Death of the Hired Man
  • Death And Taxes
  • Let Me Die a Youngman’s Death
  • Death The Leveller
  • 10 Best Poems About Death
  • The Crucible Quotes
  • The Crucible Themes
  • The Crucible Characters

Post navigation

(92) 336 3216666

[email protected]

  • Death of a Salesman

Read our detailed notes on the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Our notes cover Death of a Salesman summary and analysis.

Introduction

Death of a Salesman  by Arthur Miller, is written in 1949, is a modern tragedy and is considered both the masterpiece of the playwright and foundation of modern American drama. The play is awarded various honors and awards that also includes the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

Initially the play was titled as  The inside of His Head,  however, later he appears dissatisfied with the title and conferred the second title of the play i.e.,  Death of a Salesman.  We, from the 1 st  title, get a deep intuition into the psychosomatic temperament of the central character who is a salesman.

In  Death of a Salesman,  Arthur Miller reconnoiters subjects of money, death and the loss of individuality. Other than the American Dream, Willy Loman desires nothing. He craves his brother’s prosperity and endeavors for a flawless life, nonetheless, he frequently is unsuccessful to accomplish his dreams.

He, as a salesman, is subject to the impulses of the flea market and thinks that it is this job that can only rise him in the world of business. But, due to a miserable financial status, he couldn’t secure a loan for his son to start his own business. And in the end, Willy commits suicide, realizing his so little accomplishments in his life.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Summary

Willy Loman, after having set out on a sales trip to Portland, Maine that morning, returns to his Brooklyn home very late at night since he continually drove his car off the side of the road. Willy, who is now sixty-three years old, has been working as a traveling salesman for more than thirty years. Recently, his sales rate has declined as his old costumes are either dying or retiring.

Moreover, the company has taken away his salary so that he works on a straight commission. On his return to home, Linda, Willy wife, ease him and motivates him to ask the master of the company, Howard Wagner, for a place in in the New York office where he his salary will be guaranteed without traveling.

Biff and Happy, Willy’s two sons, upstairs in their bedroom recalls their past happier times of their adolescents and compares it with their disappointing lives of today. Biff, now thirty-four years of age, has held four different jobs since graduating from his high school. He senses that he’s not moving ahead toward anything at all.

At a high school, he was among the best football player but couldn’t get a college scholarship since he failed the mathematics test and declined to earn money for his summer school to graduate. After working on a farm in Texas, Biff has just returned home and Willy, that morning, begins criticizing for his failures to earn money and to find a prestigious profession.

Happy, the younger son of Willy, works as a low-level sales position in New York City, employing most of his time seducing women. Biff and Happy, as they talk, resolve that they can be effective, successful, and happier if they initiate a business of their own, together.

Meanwhile, Willy sits downstairs in the kitchen and talks to himself loudly, recalling happy moments from past: their family car cleaned by Biff and Happy, Biff’s preparation for his important football game, willy’s joyfully working on projects around his own home, his afternoon with a woman in a hotel room on trips to Boston.

Ultimately, Charley, Willy’s neighbor, enters from the next door. While playing play cards and talking to Charley, Willy imagines himself talking to his elder brother, Ben. Ben once invited Willy to Alaska and ask him to join him in order to make his fortune. Willy moves outside the kitchen, after Charley leaves home, and is still caught up in his imagined conversation with his elder brother.

Meanwhile, Linda comes downstairs and speaks to Biff and Happy that she dreads that Willy is planning to kill himself as she had found a piece of rubber hose that was connected to a gas pipe in the basement. The conversation turns to dreams when Willy returns home: of Biff becoming a successful entrepreneur and a salesman that Willy has of him. Willy advises Biff, upon which the whole family agrees, to see Bill Oliver, one of his former bosses, and request for a mortgage so that he can start his own sporting goods business.

The very next morning, Willy visits his boss, Wagner, to requests for a place in the New York office. However, despite getting a new place, Wagner fires him from the job. Leaving Wagner’s office, Willy directs his way to Charley’s office to request for a mortgage to pay off his bills where he meets Bernard, Charley’s son. Bernard was a boyhood friend or Biff and Happy, now a successful lawyer dealing with cases before Supreme Court. Willy, being amazed, inquiries that how he was able to succeed since Biff and Happy failed, however, Bernard asks Willy why Biff never went to school to graduate, after doing badly in a mathematics course for a scholarship.

Happy arranges a dinner in a local restaurant so as to celebrate the successful meeting of biff with Mr. Oliver, however, when Biff reaches he informs that his owner didn’t recognize him, and Biff, as a reaction, angrily stole Mr. Oliver’s fountain pen.

Biff lies to his parents about his meeting (that it was a successful one) when hears about his father’s news that he is fired so as to console them. At the restaurant, happy arranges two women to join them. When Willy excuses for the washroom, Biff and Happy abandon their father and leave the restaurant with their father. While in the washroom, Willy recalls the time when Biff failed his Mathematics test and comes to Boston on a surprise visit and discover him with another woman in a hotel room. It was because of this incident that Biff refused to join summer school and to graduate from high school.

Willy, after leaving the restaurant, resolves on the way to the home that the only way to provide the best livings is that he commits suicide. By doing so, the twenty thousand dollars for his life insurance settlement would come to his family.

When Biff and Happy return from their date with the women, they encounter Linda’s scolding for abandoning their father at the restaurant. In return, Biff angrily accused his father and brother of not taking life seriously and claims that he, now finally, knows himself and will work at the farm with his own hands, that gives him more satisfaction than any other job could. Biff confronts everything and cries at his father’s shoulders.

Willy, moved by Biff’s affectations, leaves home and drives the car to commit suicide and ultimately died. Linda, in the last scene, in the graveyard, talks ironically to Willy that he killed himself in the same way when they ended disbursing for their house.

Death of a Salesman Characters Analysis

Willy loman.

He is a sixty-three-year-old traveling salesman. Willy has started dwelling on past unknown of the present condition. His past life frequently flashes back before his eyes in the last two days of his life. He has two sons, Biff and happy, who he wants to have a cherished lifestyle and worldly success, though he is unable to help to achieve it. At last, he commits suicide, the last gesture for his family, so that they can have a lavish lifestyle by the insurance money.

He is the elder son of Willy Loman. Biff, thirty-three-year-old, is still in search of himself. The best football player at school, couldn’t get anywhere for further studies. When his owner refused to give a loan, frustrated, he steals his owner’s cheap fountain pen. Though he loves his father, however, because of his defeated state curses him as a fool and a dreamer.

Happy Loman

He is Willy Loman’s younger son, who is somehow successful in his life, he works as a clerk in a store. He is a womanizer, who chases a woman to seek pleasure.

He is a friend and a neighbor of Willy Loman. He provides money to Willy and also suggests him a job.

He, son of Charley, is a successful lawyer who argues cases before the Supreme Court. His success is an indictment for Biff and Happy.

Linda Loman

She is Willy’s wife. She is fearful, however, patient woman. Despite Willy’s failures, she loves him very much and consoles him in his hard times.

Howard Wagner

He is the son of Willy’s boss at the company. He fired him from the company and let him know that he is no more able to work as a salesman

He is a brother of Willy. He is a rich man whose success is an accusation to Willy. He once goes into the jungle and comes out, after a few years, from the diamond mines, a rich man.

The unnamed character in the play with whom Biff caught his father in a hotel room and due to this discovery he refuses to join the summer school for further studies.

Themes in Death of a Salesman

Failure of the american dream.

One of the most important themes of the play  Death of a Salesman  is the failure of the American dream. The American dream symbolizes a promise and commitment of opportunity and freedom for all. Those who follow the American dream believed that the only way to accomplish a dream is hard work and those who work hard are only qualified to be the follower of the American dream.

The followers of American dream believe in a happy and prosperous life; moreover, they also believe that those who are born Americans naturally acquires a happy and prosperous life. Moloch, money, and materialism have become the famous song of the followers of American dreams. They believed that, in a material world, one is always destined to have a prosperous and successful life. Failure is no option for the one born in America and if a failure occurs, suicide is much better than that failure.

Willy Loman is also facing this kind of creed behind the American dream in his life. Willy had a natural capability in the field of carpentry, but the craze of earning more money and a bright future made him choose the field of business with an occupation of a salesman. He spent the mature and productive period of his life doing hard work in hopes of having a comfortable and settled life in a later part of life.

Opposing this expectancy, he was downgraded and terminated. He, financially ruined, had to lend money from his friend to pay off his bills.

Furthermore, his son Biff, from whom Willy had great expectations, has ruined his life by not joining the school. Biff, another follower of American dreams, didn’t know how to start his career from the bottom and also wants to start from the top. Biff was not settled in his life, even in the age of Thirty-four, he was moving from one job to another. It was wearisome for Willy to see the unsettled life of both of his son. Failure of his son was equally burdened for him as his own failure.

Crumpled by absolute defeat and great desperateness Willy planned suicide. When his miserable itch overwhelmed him, he committed suicide.

Fake existence

Willy Loman turned out to be an obsessive believer of the deity of success. Success, to him, was life, and life is all about success. He was ambitious to make his dream for successive life a reality. He not only became ambitious is striving towards success but also made his son ambitious, too. There was no limit in his struggle to achieve his dreams as they were natural, however, the consequences of all the struggle that he made turned out to be humiliating.

Willy, throughout his life, encourages his son to realize the principles of the American dreams, but Biff turned out to be immature and reckless boy who couldn’t proper in getting a settled life and a salaried job and turned out to be a briber; Happy carried dishonor by seducing the women in his store whom he had no concern at all. Willy was penniless when fired from the job, and borrowed from his friend Charley, in order to give an impression to his wife, Linda, that he is earning money.

Willy was living a fanciful, fake life that was filled with illusions. He was full of arrogance, egocentric and unreasonably over-assertive. It was because of these flaws that he was unable to accept and face the reality. Sightless to his genuine dilemma he instigated to hide in the sanctuary of illusion. Despite his total failure, he wasn’t accepting his failure. It was more insulting and painful for him to accept his failure.

It was due to this reason, he stopped talking to his friends and avoided people around. He would use to lie to others and was just making himself a fool by a false vision of his popularity.

Nature versus City

The comparison between nature and city is shown through Willy’s love for music. He is a great admirer of natures. When Willy’s self goes close to his nature, the music plays in a loud tune. This melody is a representation of Willy’s sentimental yearning for instinctive rusticity that has exemplified in the affiliation between music and Willy.

It appears that Willy is certainly prone to adore and appreciate nature. When we traced the family background of Willy Loman, we see that Willy father was a wanderer, a musician, a maker of flute and a pioneer. Similarly, his brother Ben was also an adventurer. Willy’s son has strong athletic skills. Thus all of them were wonderful in outdoor skills. However, Willy’s monetary anxieties locked in on him, overwhelming him with the need to produce money.

Morality versus Immortality

The dramatist Arthur Miller has said that besides hunger and thrust, to leave a thumbprint after death is also another strong need of humans. Every human, consciously or unconsciously, has a strong desire to be remembered after his death. Physically man is mortal, however, through his deed, he can make himself immortal. In the play, Willy is a symbol of failure. He is accused, mocked, and humiliated by many. He is considered petty and useless. It was because of this, he planned suicide and the insurance money of twenty thousand dollars will be given to the family which will settle their lives. Willy, by committing suicide made himself immortal.

Death of a Salesman Literary Analysis

The play  Death of a Salesman  is also subtitled as “Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem”. According to the subtitle, the play is divided into two acts and each act is further divided into conversations- the present conversation and the conversation from the past- that are intermingled. The play covers an evening and the day following, however, the action is intermittent with past memories and flashbacks, mostly 17 years back.

The play  The Death of a Salesman  is a modern tragedy that depicts the last days of the life of Willy Loman, a traveling salesman. The play is both emotionally and psychologically realistic when the action occurs in the present; however, when the action occurs in past, the drama appears more dreamlike. For instance, only Willy can see the scenes when his sons Biff and Happy are in high school. Moreover, to inculcate Willy’s elder brother Ben, a rich man whom Willy consulted for advice when things were not functioning well in his life, a flashback system is also used.

The plot of the play is complex not only because it chains past and present events but also as it propagates out of a period of deceits, lies, and reputation. The tragic hero, Willy, is unable to uphold his energetic life on the path as a traveling salesman and is looking for a stable job in New York City. On request for this job, he is fired by his boss, Howard Wagner, the son of the man who hired him in the first place. Furthermore, he is burdened by his Thirty-four-year-old son Biff, who has recently returned from the farms in Texas in hopes of finding a salaried job in New York.

Biff and Happy have moved back to their parent’s house lamenting of their failures and their loss of innocence. Their boyhood friend’s Bernard, success has become accusation for both of them. Only Bernard has realized his dreams. Both brothers, consequently, blame Willy for not directing them well, though their resentment is yet oppressed with respect and affection.

Linda, during the quarrel, discloses before her sons that their father has been attempting to suicide by different means that is he has attempted suicide in a car with series of accidents and also with a hose that is fastened to a gas pipe. Upon hearing this, Biff decides to modify his life for his father. Act 1 of the play closes with the acquainted renunciation of long-standing abrasions and Biff’s promise to create a professional deal in New York.

The act two opens with Biff, Happy and Willy’s meeting at a restaurant. Willy, after being fired from the job, hopes to listen to good news regarding his meeting with his former boss, however, Biff reveals him the scene of the stolen fountain pen.

Shocked, Willy departures to the restroom, where he recalls the crucial and critical moment of his and Biff’s life, i.e., the time when Biff discovers his father with another woman in a hotel room, after coming back from failing math course. Biff, crumpled by his dad’s unfaithfulness with his mother, snubbed to go to summer school and to graduate from high school. This incident was the beginning of the series of trivial tragedies and insignificant robberies that have tumble-down his life.

The family, after meeting in the restaurant, reunite at home. In this gathering, they have the final short-tempered confrontation. Both Willy and Biff accuses each other: Biff accuses his father of not taking his life seriously and calls him the cause of his failures while Willy accuses Biff of spoiling his life without any reason.

Linda, a patient lady, and a peacemaker try to calm them down, however, is shouted down. Biff throws a hose before Willy and asks him whether committing suicide will make a hero out of him or something else. Willy starts weeping and both of them reconciled crying on each other’s shoulders. When the rest of the family goes to sleep. Willy accelerates his car for suicide in hope that the insurance money will provide Biff to initiate his own business and a new life that he greatly needs.

More From Arthur Miller

  • Tragedy and the Common Man

death of salesman short essay

Death of a Salesman

Arthur miller, everything you need for every book you read..

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Death of a Salesman: Introduction

Death of a salesman: plot summary, death of a salesman: detailed summary & analysis, death of a salesman: themes, death of a salesman: quotes, death of a salesman: characters, death of a salesman: symbols, death of a salesman: theme wheel, brief biography of arthur miller.

Death of a Salesman PDF

Historical Context of Death of a Salesman

Other books related to death of a salesman.

  • Full Title: Death of a Salesman
  • When Written: 1948
  • Where Written: Roxbury, Connecticut
  • When Published: The Broadway premiere was February 10, 1949. The play was published in 1949 by Viking Press.
  • Literary Period: Social Realism
  • Genre: Dramatic stage play
  • Setting: New York and Boston in 1948.
  • Climax: Biff's speech to Willy at the end of Act Two.
  • Antagonist: Howard Wagner; the American Dream that allows Willy and his sons to delude themselves.

Extra Credit for Death of a Salesman

Death of a Simpson: Beleaguered, overweight family man Willy Loman has been the genesis not only of live-action domestic sitcoms like All in the Family and Married with Children , but animated satires like The Family Guy and The Simpsons , both of which have made knowing reference to Death of a Salesman in various episodes.

Salesman in Beijing: In 1983, the People's Art Theatre in Beijing wanted to put on a Chinese-language production of Death of a Salesman . Arthur Miller flew to Beijing and spent six weeks directing the cast, though he only spoke two words of Chinese. He documented his experiences in the book Salesman in Beijing , published in 1984 with photographs by his wife, Inge Morath.

The LitCharts.com logo.

Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

Death of a salesman essay questions.

Does Willy Loman die a martyr? How do Linda's and his sons' interpretations of his death differ?

A strong answer will note that Willy has a noble conception of his suicide - he kills himself because he truly believes that the insurance money will allow his sons to achieve their destined greatness. But Miller does not give the audience the easy satisfaction of seeing Willy's plan come to fruition. It is highly doubtful that the Lomans would actually receive any insurance money at all. He has a record of suicide attempts, and it would be near impossible to convince the insurance company that his death was an accident.

The crux of an essay should be that Willy thinks he is martyring himself, but his martyrdom is in vain.

Death of a Salesman is one of the foundational texts describing the American dream. How does Miller's play differ from the more traditional Horatio Alger model? Is Miller overwhelmingly cynical on the topic?

Strong answers will contrast Miller's pessimistic and cynical take on the concept of the American dream with its glorified Horatio Alger representations. Traditionally, the American dream means that any person can work his way up from the bottom of the ladder to the top. Miller's work isn't so much a direct subversion of that dream as it is an exploration of the way in which the existence of the American dream can ruin a person's expectations.

Discuss the motif of women's stockings in Death of a Salesman? What are Willy and Biff's attitudes toward them? How do Linda and the woman with whom Willy is having an affair regard them?

To the women, stockings serve as a symbol of what Willy can provide and as a measure of his success. To Willy, they are a symbol of his guilt over the affair. To Biff, they are a symbol of Willy's fakeness and his betrayal of Linda. Each time the stockings appear, they serve each of these three purposes for every character present.

Describe the significance of names in this play. How do Happy and Biff's names contrast with or support their characters? Interpret the name "Loman."

Happy - a boy's name. As his name implies, Happy is someone who should be content - he has a job, an apartment, and a never-ending stream of women - but he remains deeply unhappy.

Ben - Willy's brother is named after the biblical figure Benjamin, which means "one who is blessed." The biblical Benjamin far outstripped his brothers in all areas, rousing their jealousy.

Loman - Willy is a low-man. No great hero, he is already so low on the ladder that he has hardly anywhere to fall.

What is the role of modernity in Death of a Salesman? Have cars and gas heaters fundamentally changed the American dream? How does Miller view these innovations?

The answer should note that Willy is a man left behind by progress. His is a profession that only functions in a small niche of time - he is reliant on the automobile and the highway system, but can't survive the advent of more sophisticated sales methods than the door-to-door. He is startled and confused by Howard's gadgets, and longs for an outdoors life that involves creating things with his hands.

Discuss the gender relationships in this play. Are there any positive models for a harmonious relationship? Does Miller find this concept plausible?

There are only two women of significance in the play, Linda and The Woman, who does not even merit a name. Happy nicely exposits the dichotomy between the two types of women in the world, as represented by his idealized mother and by The Woman and Miss Forsythe. The attitude towards women that Willy modeled for his sons was that women exist to be conquered - and once they've been had, they are no longer worthy of respect.

Analyze the role of seeds in Act II's final segment. What do they stand for?

Willy begins to obsess over seeds as he realizes that he has nothing to pass on to his sons. He hasn't created anything real, nothing physical that you can touch with your hand. But seeds are an investment in the future, something that is both tangible and grows with time, and that is what he wants to pass on to his sons.

Discuss examples of ways in which Willy Loman's suicide is foreshadowed in the first act of the play.

Be sure to note that the question isn't really whether Willy is going to die, but how. The discussion of Willy as suicidal is quite on the nose in the first act, but what is left ambiguous at that point is the how and the why. We are given both the rubber hose and the car as possible modes of suicide, and general despair and desperation as motivations, but the ultimate motivation of insurance money does not become an issue until the end of the play.

Compare Death of a Salesman to A Streetcar Named Desire. How do Willy Loman and Blanche Dubois each represent a fundamental element of the American drive towards progress and success?

Willy and Blanche are both victims of modernity. Willy cannot compete against the young men in the modern business world. And Blanche cannot adapt to the coarseness of life in the new South. Rather than adjusting, both characters descend deeper into their idea of the idealized past, until they lose hold on reality altogether.

Compare Death of a Salesman and The Great Gatsby. How do Willy Loman and Jay Gatsby suffer a similar fate?

Answer: Although they lived very different lives - Willy, objectively a failure, and Gatsby, objectively a success - Willy and Gatsby had similar downfalls. Both were caught up in the illusion of the American dream, fervently believing that they could and should reach for the stars. But after a lifetime of having relied on personality to get by, the men found themselves terribly alone, even in death.

GradeSaver will pay $15 for your literature essays

Death of a Salesman Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Death of a Salesman is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

death of a salesman

Charley visits because he is worried about Willy.He knows Willy is a proud man and he wants to help him, though Willy isn't really willing to take his help.

Please submit your questions one at a time.

How have biff and happy responded to their father’s condition

Biff denies responsibility for his father's condition, but he is forced to acknowledge that he is linked to his father's guilt and irrational actions. I think happy is just stressed about it.

Happy upsets Linda when he says that his father had no right to commit suicide.

Study Guide for Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman study guide contains a biography of Arthur Miller, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Death of a Salesman
  • Death of a Salesman Summary
  • Character List

Essays for Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.

  • Shattered Dream - The Delusion of Willy Loman
  • Perceptions of Self Worth and Prominence: Spaces and Settings in Death of a Salesman
  • Sales and Dreams
  • Musical Motifs
  • Death of A Salesman: Shifting of the American Dream

Lesson Plan for Death of a Salesman

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Introduction to Death of a Salesman
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Notes to the Teacher

Wikipedia Entries for Death of a Salesman

  • Introduction

death of salesman short essay

105 Death of a Salesman Essay Topics & Examples

Death of a Salesman is Arthur Miller’s multiple award-winning stage play that explores such ideas as American Dream and family. Our writers have prepared a list of topics and tips on writing the Death of a Salesman thesis statement, essay, or literary analysis.

A GUIDE TO WRITING A DEATH OF A SALESMAN ESSAY

Table of contents, short synopsis, death of a salesman themes, writing the death of a salesman essay.

This famous play, written by Arthur Miller, is set in the last 24 hours of salesman Willie Loman’s life before he commits suicide. 

The Loman family, Willie, wife Linda, and sons, Biff and Happy, are a wholly dysfunctional family that lives in denial and disorder much of the time. Much of this current state is the result of a single incident in Willy’s life – an affair he had 15 years earlier , which Biff discovered. Beyond that, Biff has come to realize that his father is presenting a false image of himself to everyone, just in order to “be liked. ” In fact, he is a failing salesman, husband, and father. 

Willy, in dealing with his failures, spends much of his time at home daydreaming about the past and “what might have been.” His forays into his daydreams make up much of the play – his jealousies of successful men he knows, lost chances for his own success, etc. Linda and Happy are also drawn into Willy’s denial and disorder , and Linda especially attempts to be supportive by “buying into” Willy’s distorted view of himself and the world. And Happy begins to copy his father’s exaggerations and denials about his own life and career.

As Will has grown older, he has become increasingly less successful but cannot accept the reality that he has not achieved The American Dream – therefore, the constant retreat into his world of daydreams. When he does face reality at times, he attempts suicide. This last reality check results in a successful suicide.

Sample Death of a Salesman Essay

Writer144311.

Writer144311 has a background in marketing, technology, and business intelligence. S/he enjoys writing about data science, BI, new marketing trends and branding strategies. On TrustMyPaper s/he shares her practical experience through academic writing.

There are a number of universal themes in this play, all of which are quite negative in scope.

  • Failure: How people cope with failure is a big factor in their personal and professional lives. 
  • Regret: Everyone has regrets. They either let them impact the rest of their lives or move forward. 
  • Self-Deprecation/Criticism: This activity can paralyze a person because he is unable to see positives about himself. It results in a pessimistic rather than optimistic outlook .

Best Death of a Salesman essay topics:

  • How have Willy Loman’s ideas of the American Dream been unfulfilled?
  • What is Arthur Miller’s idea of The American Dream as depicted in the play? Is this idea still relevant today?
  • Discuss the relationships among the major characters of the play?
  • How was Willy Loman’s death foreshadowed by the author?
  • What is meant by the statement, “Willy Loman died before he actually died.”
  • What is meant by Biff’s statement, “I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you.”

Any essay, including an essay on Death of a Salesman, must follow the standard scholastic essay format and structure – introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.

Be certain that you have a strong thesis statement for your essay topic. And then be certain that every paragraph is a single point that relates to that thesis.

Suppose, for example, that you chose a topic of the foreshadowing of Loman’s death throughout the play. Your thesis statement might read, “Miller gave the viewers plenty of hints that the final end would be Willy’s actual death.” You will then have to find evidence of this (at least three instances) for your body paragraphs.

External links

  • Death of a Salesman: Death of a Salesman Play Summary & Study Guide | CliffsNotes . (2015). Cliffsnotes.Com. https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/d/death-of-a-salesman/about-death-of-a-salesman
  • Interesting Research Paper Ideas For Death of a Salesman . (n.d.). Writejoy.Com. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from http://writejoy.com/interesting-research-paper-ideas-for-death-of-a-salesman.jsp
  • Death of a Salesman Critical Essays - eNotes.com . (n.d.). ENotes. Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.enotes.com/topics/death-of-a-salesman/critical-essays

How ready is your essay?

Don`t have an account?

Password recovery instructions have been sent to your email

Back to Log in

COMMENTS

  1. Death of a Salesman: Sample A+ Essay: Willy Loman's Constant

    Next To an unusual degree, The Death of a Salesman interweaves past and present action. Willy Loman, the play's protagonist, repeatedly revisits old memories, sometimes even conflating them with the present moment. But these memories are not the sentimental, slightly melancholy daydreams of a contented man.

  2. A Summary and Analysis of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

    Death of a Salesman is that rare thing: a modern play that is both a classic, and a tragedy. Many of the great plays of the twentieth century are comedies, social problem plays, or a combination of the two. Few are tragedies centred on one character who, in a sense, recalls the theatrical tradition that gave us Oedipus, King Lear, and Hamlet.

  3. Death of a Salesman

    Death of a Salesman a play having "two acts and a requiem" is the masterpiece of Arthur Miller written in 1948 and produced in 1949. The popularity and success of the play demonstrate the strength of its story. The play was adapted for various tableaus, films, and course books across the globe, securing a Pulitzer Prize for Miller.

  4. Death of a Salesman

    Category: Arts & Culture Awards And Honors: Pulitzer Prize On the Web: Literary Devices - Death of a Salesman (Jan. 25, 2024) See all related content → Death of a Salesman, a play in "two acts and a requiem" by Arthur Miller, written in 1948 and produced in 1949.

  5. Death of a Salesman: Study Guide

    Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller premiered in 1949 and remains a powerful exploration of the American Dream and its toll on individuals and families. The play revolves around Willy Loman, a traveling salesman whose aspirations for success and elevated social status lead to a tragic unraveling of his mental state.

  6. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Summary and Analysis

    Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, is written in 1949, is a modern tragedy and is considered both the masterpiece of the playwright and foundation of modern American drama. The play is awarded various honors and awards that also includes the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

  7. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller Plot Summary

    Intro Death of a Salesman Summary Next Act 1 Willy Loman, a traveling salesman, returns home to Brooklyn early from a sales trip. At the age of 63, he has lost his salary and is working only on commission, and on this trip has failed to sell anything.

  8. Death of a Salesman Study Guide

    Summary Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides. Death of a Salesman: Introduction A concise biography of Arthur Miller plus historical and literary context for Death of a Salesman. Death of a Salesman: Plot Summary

  9. Death of a Salesman Sample Essay Outlines

    Outline. I. Thesis Statement: Being a salesman not only constitutes Willy's occupation but shapes his entire personality and outlook on life. His identity as a salesman greatly influences his ...

  10. Death of a Salesman: Full Play Analysis

    Arthur Miller's 1949 play, Death of a Salesman, explores the promises and perils of the American Dream. As the Loman family struggles with what it means to be successful and happy in post-war America, its members serve as symbolic representations of the struggle to define that dream. The play ends with the death of one salesman's Sisyphean ...

  11. Death of a Salesman Critical Essays

    Death of a Salesman raises many issues, not only of artistic form but also of thematic content. Dramatically speaking, the play represents Arthur Miller's desire to modernize the tragedy of...

  12. Death of a Salesman Summary

    Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play written by Arthur Miller about a failing salesman named Willy Loman. Here are some key plot points: Willy expresses disappointment with his son Biff, who's...

  13. Death of a Salesman Summary

    Essays for Death of a Salesman. Death of a Salesman essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. Shattered Dream - The Delusion of Willy Loman; Perceptions of Self Worth and Prominence: Spaces and Settings in Death of a ...

  14. Death of a Salesman Essays

    Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller's 1949 play, Death of a Salesman, endures today because of its ability to effectively convey a complex family dynamic in the wake of its patriarch's failed American dream. Themes of disappointment and denial, embellishment and skewed... Death of a Salesman essays are academic essays for citation.

  15. Death of a Salesman Essay Questions

    Answer: A strong answer will note that Willy has a noble conception of his suicide - he kills himself because he truly believes that the insurance money will allow his sons to achieve their destined greatness. But Miller does not give the audience the easy satisfaction of seeing Willy's plan come to fruition.

  16. 105 Death of a Salesman Essay Topics & Samples

    Death of a Salesman is Arthur Miller's multiple award-winning stage play that explores such ideas as American Dream and family. Our writers have prepared a list of topics and tips on writing the Death of a Salesman thesis statement, essay, or literary analysis. We will write a custom essay specifically for you by our professional experts

  17. Death of a Salesman Essay

    You can also find more Essay Writing articles on events, persons, sports, technology and many more. Long and Short Essays on Death of a Salesman for Students and Kids in English. We are providing a long essay on Death of A Salesmanof 500 words and a short essay of 150 words on the same topic along with ten lines about the topic to help readers.

  18. Death of a Salesman Critical Overview

    In his introduction to Arthur Miller's Collected Plays, Miller commented on his character's inherent tragedy: "Willy Loman has broken a law without whose protection life is insupportable if not...

  19. Death of a Salesman: Advanced A Level Essay Writing Wizard

    Use this planning and writing tool to organise your key points effectively and build up evidence to support your views on Death of a Salesman: Advanced. Express your ideas and boost your vocabulary with the helpful hints provided. When you are ready, you can save your Death of a Salesman: Advanced essay to your desktop to edit it further or ...

  20. 10 Death of a Salesman Essay Topics for an Interesting Analysis

    Topic #10: The definition of self in Death of a Salesman. Throughout the play, Willy Loman defines himself as a failure as a salesman, as a father, and as a husband. It is this attitude and definition of self that shapes his character and his decisions. Explain how Willy Loman's definition of himself shapes his character and his fate.

  21. Death of a Salesman Themes

    Discussion of themes and motifs in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. eNotes critical analyses help you gain a deeper understanding of Death of a Salesman so you can excel on your essay or test.

  22. A GUIDE TO WRITING A DEATH OF A SALESMAN ESSAY

    Short Synopsis. This famous play, written by Arthur Miller, is set in the last 24 hours of salesman Willie Loman's life before he commits suicide. The Loman family, Willie, wife Linda, and sons, Biff and Happy, are a wholly dysfunctional family that lives in denial and disorder much of the time. Much of this current state is the result of a ...

  23. CliffsNotes

    We would like to show you a description here but the site won't allow us.