Death of a salesman is an award-winning piece by Arthur Miller. It reflects a sarcastic attack upon the American dream that mainly focuses on extreme materialism. This play consists of three acts centering on the original character Willy Loman
At 63 years old, Willy has constantly been traveling as a salesman. In spite of the grueling schedule and industriousness, his family has always lived just above the poverty line, and willy has always been the underdog in his company. However, he constantly assures himself as well as his family that his so-called “big break” is around the corner. He has also raised his two sons Happy and biff with the mentality that life has been unfair on them and is adamant that there shall come a time when they will receive their dues. His hard-working wife is also constantly in denial that willy has tried for too long to keep them afloat.
Willy discovers that due to the shifting economic conditions the company does not need him anymore. He becomes devastated and unable to comprehend how his boss could just lay him off after all those years of loyal service. In act 1, willy compliments himself on his work ethic when he claims that a man who makes an appearance in the business world is the one that gets ahead. His old boss is deceased, and the son has become the heir to the company. In the eyes of the new owner, Willy is seen to have outlived his utility within the company. Willy will soon get retrenched and discovers that there are no other employment opportunities available for him.
Despite his resistance, Willy knows deep down that he is a failure in life. He begins a slow process of self-destruction through the inhalation of gas fumes emanating from a hose within the garage. This action relieves him of his mental torture and offers him a momentary high. Similarly, the gas also muddles his mind and conflates the past present and the future. This transversal through time and space assists the audience in realizing the amount of pressure this simple man has been put through in making himself to be viewed in the manner he wishes; that is to make money. He desperately yearns to be “likable” and devoid of the position of manager who earns a lot; this dream seems an impossibility. Eventually, he dies in the same manner in which he lived, a failure within the eyes of society.
What is Death of a Salesman About? Here Is an Analysis of the Main Theme
Arthur Miller’s death of a salesman tries to address the loss of identity, and the inability to accept change within self and society’s this piece is a juxtaposition of dreams, memories, arguments as well as confrontations. All of these make up the final moments of Lofman’s life. Death of a salesman ends with Willy’s death through suicide and his subsequent funeral.
The author uses Loman’s family as an anecdote to a self-perpetuating cycle of contradiction, denial and order vis a vis disorder. Willy was once involved in an affair about 15 years before the period depicted in the piece. Miller focuses on this incident and its effects to show how people can be defin3ed through a single event and their attempts at eradicating or disguising the event. For instance, before discovering the affair, His son Biff has great adoration for him. He beli3eved in all his stories and even adopted his father’s philosophy that all that a person desires is possible as long as he/she is in good terms with people. The realization of his father’s unfaithfulness causes Bliff to rethink about Loman and his perspective of the world. Eventually, he realizes that his father created a false self-image as well as a family image.
Willy is not the indomitable father or the loyal husband or even the brilliant salesman like he wants people to believe. It is all a facade for his failures. He is a self-serving individual who fails even to appreciate his wife and fails to come to terms with the reality that he is just a mediocre person. Most of his fantasies are the lost opportunities of fame, notoriety and wealth. However, the author does not solely place the blame on Loman. On the contrary, he demonstrates how a single person can create a self-sustaining cycle that extends to encompass other individuals.
Happy and Linda also get drawn into a similar cycle of denial. Linda is in the know of his father’s habit of recreating reality but also recognizes his father’s inability to accept reality. This is revealed through his numerous suicide attempts. As a consequence, Linda opts to protect Willy’s fictitious fantasies by treating them as truth. Happy also manipulate the truth to create a more acceptable image for himself.
Loman’s despondency comes from his failure to attain his American dream of success. At one time, he was a somewhat successful salesman expanding into new English territory and his children saw him as a role model. Upon the discovery of his affair by Biff, he loses respect for his father as well as his drive to succeed. As Willy gets older, he becomes less efficient in making sales. Therefore, he tries to dwell on past victories through reliving old memories. He finally integrates his reality with fantasy leading to a behavior that alienates him from others. This further diminishes his vitality to survive in the present.
This piece has a great effect on audiences since it allows them to look at themselves in the mirror. The self-deprecation of Loman, overwhelming regret and a sense of failure are emotions that are relatable to most audiences almost everyone has experienced such a situation at one point in their life. Even though most do not commit suicide in such difficult times, people can connect with Loman since he eventually gets driven to extreme action. Part of the audience might react with sympathy since he is left with no choice but to take his own life, while others might be disgusted with him, believing that he betrayed his family and took the easy option.
The varied reactions people have to this drama is not unique. It is evident that he erred- one that irreversibly altered the course of his relationship with his closest companions. After that, when all his attempts to repair the situation fail, he tries once more to the right the wrong. He denies Biffs view that they are all ordinary people and Biff’s words, “I’m a dime a dozen, and so are you” is the hallmark of all this and stands true after all.
Death of A Salesman Synopsis: A Detailed Overview
The following is a detailed summary of Death of a salesman that gives the major highlights of great significance within the piece:
This drama occurs in the two cities of New York and Boston. All action begins within the house of Willy Loman. This is an elderly salesman who has just come back from a journey. He is experiencing difficulties in recalling incidents, as well as making a distinction between the present, past and future. Linda, his wife, suggests that he seeks a job within New York instead of having to travel each week
Happy and his brother, biff happen to overhear Loman talking to himself. Biff soon discovers that Loman is usually conversing with him(Biff) during these secret reveries. Happy and biff discuss the future as well as women. Both of them are unhappy with their current occupations. Biff is not happy working under someone, and Happy cannot seem to get a promotion until the store manager dies. They strongly consider purchasing a ranch & working in it together.
During this time, willy relives through several instances from his past including Biff’s times as a high school student. One significant memory is one about a conversation held with Linda. In it, he exaggerates his earnings but is later compelled to admit that he inflated the figures when Linda finally calculates his commission. Willy remembers complaining about his looks and recalls Linda assuring him that he is handsome.
It is here that Loman’s memories start to merge. While still reminiscing the conversation with Linda, he starts to remember a conversation with “the woman.” this is the woman with whom he had an affair. He is now unable to decipher memories of Linda from those of the woman.
Once again, this piece returns to the present whereby Happy, and Biff has a talk with their mother, Linda about their father. Happy and Biff realize that Loman is on a constant commission and has all along been borrowing money from Charley to offset bills. However, Linda criticizes them for abandoning willy to pursue their selfish interests. She then offers Biff an option, i.e., to either respect his father or to go away from their home. Biff resolves to remain in New York but reminds Linda that willy kicked him from their home. He also tries to enlighten his mother that their father is living a double life.
Willy overhears the conversation and tries to tell biff on how to undertake the upcoming interview by Bill Oliver. Later on, Linda questions Loman on his aggression towards Biff, but he remains apprehensive. The next day, willy visits his former boss only to find that the was deceased, and it is now his son, Howard that has taken over the business. Howard instead turns his down from employment.
After this incident, willy falls deeper into his past life. He again recalls ben’s visit whereby he asks for advice since his life is not going as planned. After this, he recalls a football game where he tried to cheat, but Billy was aware of his actions.
Willy then meets Bernard at his office. There, they discuss possible reasons for his low self-five. Bernard then acknowledges that biff’s character changed after high school and asks for an explanation. However, Loman becomes defensive and declines to tell him. When Bernard presents a case before the supreme court and wins, the incident both exits and infuriates Loman. Charley then offers willy insurance money as well as a job, but the refuses.
Biff, willy and happy later on meet at a restaurant whereby Happy then flirts with a prostitute. Bliff gets upset since Oliver did not remember him. It is then that Biff realizes that he was not Oliver’s salesman but a shipping clerk.
Willy is then mentally transported to the period when Biff found out about his father’s affair with the woman. Bliff confronts him at his hotel room in Boston threatening not to graduate. The woman appears, and the final memory he has of Biff is being called a “fake.”
The drama comes into the present upon the appearance of Stanley. Upon returning home, he meets with Ben. While at the garden, they, later on, discuss the possibility of not getting insurance in future and ben vows never to forgive him in case this happens.
Biff then finds willy at the garden and informs him that his leaving home for good. They argue, and Bliff finally tells his father that they are just ordinary people. Soon after they reconcile and Loman drives away and later commits suicide. The story ends with Willy’s funeral.
Death of A Salesman Summaries: