Analysis of Death of a Salesman by A.Miller

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The American dream is based around the idea that America should be an open country where everyone can prosper by hard work. All are equal in the American dream, and what distinguishes people is the amount of hard work and effort they bring into their work (Schnell, 2010). Willy, on the other hand, appears to survive in his dreams and even invites his whole family on a trip. Willy children seemed disillusioned and aimless. Willy, as a father, struggles to instill in his children the importance of hard work and ingenuity, instead of telling them that they only need to be likable to be good. Miller, however, has contradictory opinions from Willy’s point of view.

Miller tends to illustrate that the American dream may, however, have to be founded on strong values and the conviction to be a better person. Willy tends to be in denial and also lives a lie to appear successful. The same attribute is also reflected in his son, happy when he lies to people that he is the assistant buyer while in the real sense he is the assistant to the assistant buyer. Even when confronted by his son Biff about his cheating affair, Willy chooses to “forget” and even fails to understand why his son is suddenly cold towards him (Miller,1975). It is evident that Willy never takes responsibility for his actions or corrects his mistakes.

“See, Biff, everybody around me is so false that I'm constantly lowering my ideals...”

Miller illustrates the failure of the main protagonist in the book to instill strong values in his children. For instance, Willy does not seem to encourage hard pork among his children. Instead, he tells them that to be successful; one must simply have charisma hence be likable by other people (Miller,1975). Willy evidently exists in a dream land, as he expects success to come overnight without working for it. Linda tends to sway in the same boat, while she indeed knows that Willy is dreaming she must pretend to believe him while at the same time shield her children from his lies. Instead of Willy reprimanding his son for laughing at the teacher’s script, he enquires about the classmate’s reaction, portraying total disregard for the children’s character.

“BIFF: I Crossed my eyes and talked with a lithp.

WILLY: (Laughing.) You did? The kids like it?

BIFF: They nearly died laughing!”

Miller also wants to illustrate that character does indeed affect the American dream. From the story, it is evident that success is for people that have strong character and are willing to go the extra mile to achieve what they want. Miller brings out this idea by illustrating how Willy’s relationship with Linda seemed to be flawed. To begin with, Willy fails to respect his wife, always putting her down and failing to consider her opinion (Miller,1975). In the ideal society, however, couples ought to work together for a common goal. Linda evidently backs Willy up, even though it is evident that she does not believe in his fantasies. Linda supports Willy even when he continually attempts to commit suicide when the script begins. Will do not seem to work on his dream and seems rather happy focusing on things that he had achieved in the past and not what he could achieve by working hard.

Miller tends to criticize the American dream seeing that Willy has failed to live up to the societal expectations of being a model parent. All Willy’s children seem to be disillusioned, and he appears to have brainwashed them into believing that success can come overnight (Miller, 1975). Willy also fails to accept the fact that he had been sacked as a salesman. Miller, however, uses this concept to illustrate that hard work may not always be the driver for success. Although in the beginning, Willy was a competent and a successful salesman, he was still unceremoniously sacked from his job when he tried to use his charm to ask for a pay rise.

Miller, however, uses strong characters to indicate that success can come to those who work hard and have positive values. Miller, therefore, aims at educating the public on the importance of accepting one’s mistake and striving to be a better person. The parents should also model good character and behavior in their children. Indeed, people should focus on the future instead of past success and lost glory.


Miller, A. (1975). Death of a salesman. New York: Viking.

Schnell, H. (2010). The American Dream. München: GRIN Verlag.

October 20, 2022



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