Arthur. Death of a Salesman.
Is anyone really
happy? Does anyone really enjoy his or her job? Does a job make a person?
Does anyone really know what he or she wants from life? Arthur Miller’s play,
Death of a Salesman, portrays these questions through the family life of Willy
and Linda Loman and their two sons. The play clearly exposes the life of a
The play starts with Willy Loman, the father/
husband returning early from a sales trip. He stresses out while he is driving
and can’t continue the drive to his sales meeting. The problems he
encounters with driving foreshadow the ending of the play.
the play we learn of his problems with cars. He repeatedly has accidents with
them and has bad luck with them mechanically and blames these problems
on the manufacturer. It is only fitting the car plays a major role in the final
From the start, it is obvious that Willy is a failure. He returns
home less than a day after leaving for a sales trip. He can’t seem to focus. He
claims that he is tired. In reality, he has failed as a salesman. The failure of
his professional life as a salesman is a symbol of his failure in other
relationships. He uses financial achievements or the lack of them as a mark of
He also thinks his son; Biff is a failure because he doesn’t make
a lot of money. It angers him that his son is not doing well. Perhaps he sees it
as a reflection of himself. Biff seems to be naturally set up for failure. When
he is in high school, his future is based on his skills on the football field. His
father dreams that he will become a famous football player. Unfortunately Biff
fails math and is unable to graduate from high school. He had planned to go
to summer school to study math in order to earn his degree. Before he had a
chance to do that, he thought he would surprise Willy while Willy was on a
sales trip. When he shows up at Willy’s hotel room, he finds out that Willy is
cheating on his mother.
That secret remains with the two men
throughout the play. Not only his Biff upset with his father which results in
anger and his decision to not bother with the summer school, he also feels
that he must protect his mother.
Despite his anger with his father, Biff never
tells his mother about the affair.
His mother, Linda continues to
dedicate her life to Willy, even when he treats her less than respectfully. While
she recognizes his weaknesses, she chooses to ignore them. She tries to act
as moderator between Willy and Biff, despite Willy’s anger at her interference.
Quite often he simple tells her to be quiet. She gently acquiesces.
Meanwhile, Happy, the other son, flutters about trying to gain his
father’s attention. He never seems to succeed. Several times he asks his
father if he has noticed that he has lost weight or is working out. Willy
ignores him. Biff consumes most of the attention of both parents, so Happy
learns to turn his attention toward women. He continues to spend time with
women, even when he is engaged. This is ironic because it is
Biff that knows about his father’s infidelity, not Happy. Several times Happy
mentions that he is getting married; no one pays any attention.
Willy spends much of the play living backwards. It is through his eyes
that we learn about his hopes in Biff, ignorance of Happy, his assumption that
his wife will always be there and his affair. We also witness his instability and
lack of confidence in himself. Through each flashback, Willy regresses.
Throughout the play, he hangs onto his sense of pride. Despite Biff’s
wanderlust and lack of significant income, Willy still dreams that Biff will be
successful. In the end, he decides that the only way this can happen is if he
dies and leaves the life insurance policy for Biff to start a business.
Willy dies, dreaming of the success that Biff will becomewith his help.
Despite his unhappiness and damaged personality, Willy died dreaming. Is
there a tragedy in dreaming?