Death of a Salesman

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Death by a Salesman

Death by a salesman was written by one of the greatest playwrights in America, Arthur Miller. The play earned him a variety of prize-winnings. He was born in the year 1915 in New York. Death of a Salesman opened on Broadway in the year 1949 and won a Pulitzer prize. It was adored dearly and became an iconic stage play. He was in a rocky marriage with the famous Marilyn Monroe. He met his death at the age of 89 in 2005.

Summary

Death of a salesman sees Willy Loman get back to his home after a failed sales trip. Linda, his wife, urges him to request his boss to work from their hometown. Willy complains to his wife about their older son, Biff, not having done much with his life. His sons reminisce their younger lives when their father was proud of them unlike at their current age where they are viewed as a failure. Willy has a vision of opening a bigger business than his neighbour's. He is visionary on providing for his family regardless of how his misguided life feels. His son, Biff, realizes of his father's affair which causes various rifts in his home. Willy's desire to be well-liked in the society leads to his thwarted desires and inflated dreams which cause a distraction in his life.

Setting

A majority of the action is set in Willy Loman's apartment house in Brooklyn. It was set in the 1940s after World war 2. The nation is revving up its economy which sees an increase in population which leads to an increase in buildings which choke the once natural beauty in Brooklyn. Some scenes are done at Willy's office in Manhattan where he gets fired. There is also a scene in a Manhattan restaurant where he meets his son.

Characters

The main characters include Willy Loman, Biff Loman, Linda Loman, Happy Loman, Charley, Bernard, The woman, Howard Wagner, Stanley, Miss Forsythe and Letta, and Jenny. Willy Loman is a self- deluded, an insecure salesman who believes in the easy success which he never achieves. His failures contribute to developing mental health issues. His overwhelming tensions form the conflict of the entire play. Biff Loman and Happy Loman are his sons who do not also achieve the success expected by their father. Biff Loman grows up as a charming man and a football star. His father's high expectation to fulfill the dreams he has set for him set him to fail. He drifts with father which make him consider leaving home and work on his set dreams. Linda, Willy's wife, is a loving family who holds her family together through all the crisis.

Symbolism

There are various aspects of symbolism in the play. In the book Cliffsnotes, Death of a Salesman by Scheidt (2001), seeds are a symbol which represents Willy's chance to prove worthy of his labor. He is faced with shame by his inability to provide for his family. The seeds also symbolize his failure to nurture his son Biff to success. His efforts to cultivate and nurture him are unsuccessful. Diamonds are a symbol of wealth which validates one's success. They symbolize Ben's success and Willy's failure as a salesman. Stockings in the play symbolize sexual infidelity and betrayal of Willy and the woman to his wife. Biff accuses his father of giving his mother's stockings to his other woman. The rubber hose in the play symbolizes Willy's attempts of desperately desiring to commit suicide. He attempts to kill himself by inhaling gas which ironically is the same gas his family desperately needs to attain comfort and health-heat (Lerner, Alicia, and Adrienne 80).

Irony

The theme of irony is evident in the play, Death by a salesman. One of the ironies is the idea of the American dream. Willy desire to live the dream while he is living in an illusion unknowingly. His skills earned in the 1920s become obsolete following the growing economy which leaves him doomed to failure. The irony is Willy believes he can achieve the dream while the readers believe otherwise. Willy's son also brings out the aspect of irony. During their early years, their achievements rendered them to be successful in the future which is not the case. Biff fails to grab the opportunities laid out to him. He also lacks the necessary skills to fit in the job market. Happy seemed visionary and possessed more logical reason but at the end of the play, he also falls into the illusion of living the American dream. There is dramatic irony after Willy commits suicide due to his claimed failures, but we find out that he managed to fully pay for his mortgage which would be a sign of success (Karolides, Nicholas, Lee Burress and John 95).

Historical Context

The play's historical context occurs when America was regaining and growing its economy after World War 2 which ended in 1945. There was an increase in industrial markets which negatively affected the poor population when there was an increase in inflation. Willy's family reflects the segment of the American workforce who struggled to make it and retain their dignity. An increase in demand increased the cases of credit payments to purchase what one felt they needed and had no resources to acquire it. It contributed to Willy struggling to keep up with his payments with the dream of providing for his family.

Works Cited

Karolides, Nicholas J, Lee Burress, and John M. Kean. Censored Books: Critical Viewpoints. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2001. Print.

Lerner, Alicia C, and Adrienne W. Lerner. Suicide in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Farmington Hills, Mich: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Print.

Scheidt, Jennifer L. Cliffsnotes, Death of a Salesman. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2001. Print.

November 24, 2023
Category:

Literature

Subcategory:

Literary Genres

Subject area:

Literature Review

Number of pages

4

Number of words

946

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