Death of a Salesman is a 1949 play ed by an American dramatist and playwright, Mr. Arthur Miller. This play is an account of the main character’s life, Willy Loman, who has lived a depressing life for sixty years. Willy is a man struggling with insecurities because he is not able to meet his life’s targets. This makes him vent his anger of people close to him for instance, scolding his son, Biff, for not making any achievements in his life when the play starts. His wife, Linda, gives him strength, though he seemed to lose grip of the reality of life, showing signs of not distinguishing between the present and the past in his pursuit to find out where he went wrong, thus, the loss of direction and track for his life (Murphy, 2010). The play ends in a tragedy as Willy succumbs to injuries got from a self made accident as he wanted his son, Biff, to start his business using insurance claim obtained from the crash.
The play starts with Willy returning home in Brooklyn from an unsuccessful sales mission. He is dejected with the life he is living, and he goes straight to vent out his anger to Biff, who has not wronged him in any way. He is portrayed as a struggling man, yet obsessed with the promise of the American dream. He strictly focuses on business, not sampling other avenues of wealth creation. He lives a desperate life, always borrowing money from friends in an attempt to inject some capital to an ailing business (Murphy, 2010). This play shows that Willy had pursued the wrong goals, despite his preconceived idea that his son, Biff, is the one on the wrong track. Happy is portrayed as similar to his father in many ways, as they share common traits. He is a womanizer and with business ambitions like his father. After realizing that he is not making it, burdened by debts, Willy then decides to take his own life with the intention that Biff uses the insurance money claimed, to start a business.
Main characters’ analysis
Willy Loman: the salesman cannot get things done right despite his old age; he then blames other people for the problems he is in. He cannot live a real life, always hallucinating about his prospects for instance, when he daydreams about how he wants his past life to look like. He does not like other people’s achievements; this is seen when he notes that Bernard is not bright enough yet he is good at math. The biggest misfortune facing Loman was the failure to recognize the love and the support offered to him by his family. His frustrations led to his demise as he could not cope with the tough economic times (Murphy, 2010).
Linda: she has a strong and loving heart which binds the family together despite the differences that divided their home. She advises her husband on numerous occasions on the best way to handle his business, but he ignores them. Linda is very realistic, tough, and the emotional core of the play. She does this by supporting her husband’s ideas by telling her children to do more in ensuring their father, yet she knew where the problem lies.
Biff: he is happy working in the farm unlike Willy and Happy who are obsessed with business. He knows what he wants in life and his mother supports his life mantra. He tries to show his father his achievements despite the fact that nothing was coming forth. Biff is a real man, who loves working with his hands to achieve attainable benefits.
Happy: he is just another symbolism of his father’s obsession with business, though his approaches show immaturity. He dreams of big achievements yet he is not working on setting his paths right to ensure this success. Happy has multiple relationships with women just like his father, and he does not see this as a problem. He is an attention seeker who goes to extra lengths to show he is mature for instance, when he broke news to his parents on his intention of getting married.
Charley: this is a man who lives an average life with his family. Despite Willy’s critics about his little ambitions, Charley loans him money when he is stuck. He is a good man as he is determined to see his friend also prosper by offering Willy a job after he lost his job as a salesman due to incompetence.
Bernard: despite his childhood nerdish behaviour, he grows up a hardworking man who becomes a successful attorney. He helps his friend, Biff, by teaching him math when doing their homework.
Setting of the play
According to Murphy (2010), this play is set in the mid 20th Century when America was just recovering from World War 2. This is a time when everyone wanted to succeed as industrial sector growth raised Americans standards of living. The main story runs for 24 hours with additional days included when the family made funeral arrangements. The setting in place is in New York and the various regions Willy visits as he goes about his business. Despite this old setting, the play continues to be a mirror of our lives in the present time since the problems captured still ails average Americans. This is because of societal expectations on what constitutes success in this capitalist society.
Major themes in the play
American dream: This is the drive to better life that politicians told the American people. It promoted a working spirit among them as they moved towards realizing a better life for self and family. This is what Willy was chasing despite using the wrong approaches. Willy did not employ diligence and hard work as the pillars to success (Murphy, 2010). He instead felt that being liked is all that was necessary to succeed at business. He tried to drive this point to Biff, but he had other perspectives towards success.
Betrayal: This is seen in at the peak of the play when Biff betrays his father’s intentions by not going into business. This is despite numerous attempts by Willy to make his eldest son achieve the American dream. Biff also thought his father betrayed his mother’s trust for him by sleeping with another woman.
Analysis of stage production
According to Murphy (2010), the play incorporates many stylistic features to drive the point across. They use a present tense to give the play an element of continuity, and this makes it relevant even in the present time. Dialogue is also used to give it a family feel, and the tone used by women is tender compared to harsh voice used by men.
Murphy, Brenda. Death of a salesman, by Arthur Miller. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2010. Print.