Death of a Salesman is a popular play that grapples with the idea of the American Dream by the famous author, Arthur Miller. The play is about Willy Loman and the events that lead to him killing himself. It has received many awards and is still very popular to this day. He was born on October 17, 1915 in New York during the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a worldwide economic depression that effected millions of people. His father struggled to earn money during the Great Depression, which he believes shaped him as a person. It showed him the insecurity of modern existence, (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica) at a young age which affected his entire life. He was married to the also famous, Marilyn Monroe, for five years and even wrote a play titled, The Misfits, in her name. Death of a Salesman was his second play written, after his Tony Award winning film titled Focus. He had been coming up with ideas for Death of a Salesman since he was a teenager, initially being about a Jewish Salesman. Other popular works of his includes The Crucible, After the Fall, and The Price. He sadly passed away on February 10, 2005, but his legacy lives on as a beloved playwriter.
The play takes place in New York in a small home surrounded by apartments in every direction. It takes place in the 1900s, and money is hard to find with the population growing in their town. I believe the overshadowing of their home by the apartments surrounding them symbolized and foreshadowed major facts in the story. Willyr’s yearnings to live the American dream overshadowed the importance of his family like apartments overshadowing his home. When Willyr’s home slowly breaks from the weight of the apartments, it resembles his slow death leading to his death. The apartments are crowding his home or safe place, like how his dreams consume or crowd his thoughts and prevents him from working to accept things as they are. His home represents many aspects of Death of a Salesman and is great foreshadowing by the author. The set of the play is a small quaint home with a very minimal amount of furniture. On the first floor is the kitchen with the necessities, and behind there is a small living room accompanied with a bedroom to the right. The boyr’s bedroom is on the second floor and is not well lit. A portion of the stage represents their backyard next to the home and many scenes take place here. The storyr’s setting plays a big role in the development of the story.
The plays exposition starts with a traveling salesman named Willy Loman returning home from a business trip to his loving wife, Linda. He comes home to his two sons, Biff and Happy, visiting the family and their arrival becomes the initial incident of the story. The rising action begins when Willy is not happy and frustrated with Biff for not having a job at his age, although Linda tells him not to be too critical. Biff never graduated college which is one of the additional reasons his father is so frustrated. After Willy eats a snack, he starts to hallucinate about past experiences with his two sons. In his daydream, he reminisces about spending time with his sons while they were in high school and chatting with his wife. His daydream ends and soon after Willy is offered a job by his rich brother, Ben. Willy refuses the offer and begins to hallucinate about how his sons stole lumber a while back. His hallucination is over quickly, but his family begins to worry, and they discuss his condition.
Willy becomes joyous to hear that his sons wish to go into business together, and Biff decides to go ask Bill Oliver whom is an old employer of Biffs for a loan to achieve their ambitions. Linda tells her sons about how she has found a pipe that showed Willy has tried to commit suicide, so she tells them to be nice to him at dinner. The next day, Willy goes to talk to his employer about staying local for business and no longer travelling, but his wish is declined, and he is fired. Willy has another hallucination, this time about Biffr’s football game and he wishes his team to win. As Biff arrives to meet Bill, he realizes the man has no recognition of him, so he steals his fountain pen out of spite. All the boys meet up for dinner that night and ends up in a huge fight which ends up being the climax of the story. Willy reminisces his time with a woman that he was cheating on his wife with, and the stunned expressions on Biffr’s face as he walked in on them together. After returning home, the boys apologize and Willy becomes once again angry with Biff, which causes him to sob in distress. Once the entire fight is over, everyone goes to bed, but Willy decides to go and commit suicide by driving off a cliff. The resolution of the story includes his funeral in which no one attended, and Linda repeating Were free, to her husbandr’s grave.
Willy Loman is the husband to Linda Loman and is the main character in this play. He is described to be stubborn, suicidal, short tempered, and in his opinion; well-liked by his peers. His character is completely infatuated with the idea of the American Dream for his family, this idea tends to stand in they way of his true happiness. This standard was a huge obstacle in his life that made it hard for him to accept his family for who they are. Willy tried to be more accepting of his sons, but sadly these tactics did not work. He ended up reverting to his old judgmental ways of life, instead of being accepting. His life ended by committing suicide and left many loose ends in the story. Even until his death, everything he did was for the American Dream in his life. This includes sacrificing himself to pass his inheritance on to his family, so they can be free. Willy was a static character because he cannot let go of the American Dream that his hindered him for so long. He was able to resist change by sticking to his stubborn ways and not letting go of what he wants. Willy ended up going off the deep end, and it was his anger that led him to suicide.
Biff Loman represented so many ideas in Death of a Salesman and stood out from the rest of his family. He is in his mid-thirties and still does not seem to have a stable job. He wanted to find himself and pursue a profession that he loves, unlike Willy and Happy who settled for money. His first job was working on a farm, but he was not content in that job position. Biff is constantly developing in this story because he always wanted to grow as a person and was open to new thoughts and ideas. An example of this, is he has a new goal to go into business with his younger brother. A huge obstacle in his life is his viewing of his fathers failures, specifically Willy cheating on his wife in front of his own eyes. He was the only character to know of his fatherr’s cheating, and he disapproved immediately. This causes Biff to seem trapped in a web of lies his father strung; and consequently, leaves him vulnerable in the story. His main tactic to overcome this problem was following his instincts, which told him to get away from his father and live his own life. Biff was a dynamic character in the story because he changes from an insecure boy living under his fatherr’s shadow to a man who realizes the importance of taking care of himself.
Happy Loman is also one of the main characters in the story and was important to the plays development. Happy is the youngest son of the Loman family and is in his mid-thirties. He is a successful young man and has many dreams, and who is similar to his father in many ways. His dreams tend to be unrealistic, like his fatherr’s unrealistic want to live the American dream. He also is in a career not for enjoyment but for the money itself. Another way he is like his father is because he also is a people pleaser, and this is shown at the restaurant with the female staff. Since he is similar to his father, I think it is very likely he is also lonely inside but has learned to hide it. He is always being looked down on and never praised for being who he is. An obstacle in Happyr’s life is like Biffs; trying to live up to his fathers standards. Happy tries to meet this standard by accepting his fathers wants and following them; without seeming to stand up for himself in the story. He does not overcome his obstacle out of fear of rejection from his father. Happy is a static character because he never developed into a new man. He was fixated on being who his family wanted him to be, and not being himself.
As discussed, many times in this paper, the American Dream is a major theme in this story. It is shown multiple times in the story in many ways. This is showed when Willy does anything to be liked, even if it means living a lie. Willy always paraded the idea of having so many friends, but no one cared to come to his funeral. Another way he portrayed the want for living the American Dream is how Willy wants an ideal family that is perfect. A quote that supports this is, In the greatest country in the world a young man with such”personal attractiveness, gets lost, (Miller 8) which shows his judgment of his kids based on our countryr’s success. Arthur Miller gives the basic question, Is striving for the American Dream worth it when you loose everything? I believe the author believed the author did not think it was worth it, and that is why he killed off the main character to portray his opinion. A very interesting part of the play is that Arthur never told the audience what Willy sold as a travelling salesman. He left this unsaid to leave readers in suspense, and to have us ask ourselves what we believed he sold. Personally, I think Willy sold his personality for popularity because he thought it led to success, when he was broken inside. A quote supporting this is, Her’s liked, but her’s not well liked, (Miller 21) which refers to Bernard when Willy asked if he was well liked. This basically is saying Bernard is not successful because the family relates popularity with other to success in life.
Overall, this was not my favorite play I have read for many reasons. The first reason is I initially found it very confusing and I had to review the story before I was able to write my paper. Another reason is that it is not a happy story, and it does not help when you know someone will die at the end of the story. I also did not like Willy because he could not get over the idea of the American Dream because it seemed to prolong the story without having many happy moments. Although I did not enjoy the story overall, I did enjoy certain parts of it. One part I enjoyed was Biffr’s character development even though he has had some troubles in life. My favorite part of the story was the foreshadowing with the setting of the play, including the house and apartments. The way that Arthur was able to foreshadow so many aspects of the play in a subtle way was very clever of him. I also enjoyed seeing Linda being so committed to her and Willyr’s relationship, even though he did not deserve it. Willy did everything wrong as a father and husband, and yet his wife stays with him through it all. The play had many interesting scenes and although I did not enjoy all of it, I am glad I got to read it.
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