Major Themes in “Death of a Salesman”
- Date:Jun 14, 2019
- Category:Death of a Salesman
One of the greatest plays in the history of America, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller was a huge success at its inception. This play reflects the experiences of the writer and illustrates some essential elements of a nuclear family. The major characters in this play are Willy (protagonist and the father), Linda (wife and Happy and Biff (sons). However, this paper will analyze three main themes which are the American dream, betrayal and lies and dream and hopes.
The first prominent theme in the play is the American dream. We are shown that Willy has a tight grip on what is supposed to be a vow of the American dream. He favorably thinks that people who are well liked and possess an intriguing personality in business or any other platform will indisputably be awarded the ease and specialty of modern American life. Howbeit, on the other hand Willy does realize that the American Dream does not only survive on being liked ‘globally’ and having engaging personality, but one does need to put effort into what they do. For instance, in Act 1(Miller, 1949) we see conversation between Wily and Linda, which will highlight the latter opinion of American dream by Willy:
WILLY: Biff Loman is lost. In the greatest country in the world a young man with such—personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff— he’s not lazy.
WILLY: [with pity and resolve]: I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him. I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time.” (Miller)
The second theme is about the betrayal and lies, which the story is fully stored with. We can see Willy betrayed Linda and Biff by having an affair and is now scared that he will be betrayed also. This computes to a kind of tragedy, as his affair and unsuccessful American dream has kept him on the edge for a long time (Miller, 1949). For instance in Act 1 Willy rant on his wife when she mend her stocking as it emerge the knowledge that he betrayed her:
“ WILLY: [noticing her mending] What’s that?
LINDA: Just mending my stockings. They’re so expensive!
WILLY: [angrily, taking them from her]: I won’t have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out!”(Miller)
In another scene in Act 2, it is shown that Willy also feels betrayed when his boss fired him from the job instead of promoting him, as he previously believed:
“WILLY: Charley, I’m strapped. I’m strapped. I don’t know what to do. I was just fired.
CHARLEY: Howard fired you?
WILLY: That snot nose. Imagine that? I named him. I named him Howard.” (Miller)
The third theme comprises of hopes and dream and as an article states that a good drama is the one which have hopes amidst and dignity amidst failures (Mamet, 2005). In this play we can see that Willy hopes that the financial crises the family is going through will be over soon. The buff between him and Biff will also come to an end and this was the sole reason why Linda and he never tried to see what was the reality. As we can see in Act 2 that Willy hopes for them to overcome the crisis:
“WILLY: You wait, kid, before it’s all over we’re gonna get a little place out in the country, and I’ll raise some vegetables, a couple of chickens…”(Miller)
All in all, the basic themes that every writer and author tries to reveal was also present in the play of Miller. Amidst many thing, the writer talks about American dream and hopes and dream during an emotional and financial crises and also depicts that these circumstances more than usual lead people to betray the ones who are closest to them.
Mamet, D. (2005, February 13). Attention Must Be Paid. Retrieved August 6, 2014, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/13/opinion/13Mamet.html?_r=0
Miller, A. (1949). Death of a Salesman.
Miller, A. (1949, February 27). Tragedy and the Common Man. Retrieved August 6, 2014, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/11/12/specials/miller-common.html