Expressionist Dramaturgy in Death of a Salesman

Expressionist Dramaturgy in Death of a Salesman
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Expressionism is one of the common techniques used in plays. Through expressionism, actors and actresses in a play are able to dramatist plots that need to be highlighted. This technique allows actors and actresses to be able to emotionally connect with the audiences.

Written by Arthur Miller, “Death of a Salesman” is one of the famous plays back in 1949. Upon reading “Death of a Salesman”, some ways in which the author was able to utilize expressionist dramaturgy throughout the play will be tackled in details.

Utilization of Expressionist Dramaturgy in “Death of a Salesman”

Miller was able to make use of expressionist dramaturgy in “Death of a Salesman” through the character of Willy Loman. Willy travelled and worked as a salesman. Married to Linda, Willy constantly had problems with keeping his mind back and forth between the past and the present. At the age of 63, Willy kept of tracing back the things that went wrong in his life (Act 1, Part 2, 11). Because of his personal belief that success in life comes from being well accepted by other people (Act 1, Part 8, 48), he could not stop thinking about the missed good business opportunities he had in life with his brother.

Throughout the play, Miller revolved the character of Willy in a cycle of dishonesty and failure. For instance: There was an incident whereby Willy told Linda that he would return home since he was too tired to drive. Eventually, Willy admitted to his wife that the real reason why he had to be home was because he almost hit a kid in Yonkers (Act 1, Part 1, 14).

Another sign of dishonestly is when Willy lied to his wife and family members about his success as a salesman in England (Act 1, Part 8, p. 40). With this, Willy stated that “they don’t need me in New York. I am the New England man. I am vital in New England” (Act 1, Part 1, 4). To protect himself from shame, Willy lied about making $1,200 sales and eventually admitted that he only sold $200 worth of goods (Act 1, Part 3, 23).

Throughout Willy’s life as a salesman, he was a failure as a father and as a salesman. Because of Willy’s disappointments in life, he decided to purchase insurance policy worth $20,000 in exchange of his own life. Even though Ben – Willy’s brother warned him that the insurance company will not honor the policy in case they find out that your death was a suicidal one, Willy still insisted that he was famous and that many people would attend his funeral (Act 2, Part 7, 100).


The character of Willy was based on what a typical American father had to deal with back in 1949 when the U.S. economy was greatly affected by two world wars and the Great Depression (Olyaie 3). To create expressionist dramaturgy throughout the play, Miller decided to base the character of Willy with an unsuccessful salesman.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. 1st Edition. Penguin, 1998.
Olyaie, Donesh. “Yale Repertory Theatre.” 2009. Death of a Salesman: An Introduction. In Charles S. Dutton (ed) “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller. 10 July 2010 .