Jan 9, 2019 in Analysis

Death of a Salesman Essay

The Death of a Salesman is a tragic play in which the hopeful dream of one man damned one whole family. The story emphasize on the American Dream which was first termed in 1931 and was an amended form the promises which Declaration of Independence put forward. In essence of various events that were happening around the protagonist, American Dream is literally the main inspiration that led him to hallucination and gets him away from the reality (Miller, 17). The tragic story of Willy Loman, Protagonist, is not quite different from that of Oedipus the King but certainly the impacts are very much contrasted as this story didn’t have any impact on the people outside his home. The story critically decribe the approach of the writer who has shown that the American Dream can inspire someone but at the same time can definitely defy others. The thematic approach of the play focused on two qualities which Willy wanted in his life which were the likeability and popularity after he saw the death of another salesman Dave Singleman whose funeral saw people from different backgrounds including rich and poor (Kazan, 90). However, what Willy didn’t see was the struggle and determination which Dave had all his life. By profession, Willy was a salesman but the American Dream led him to destruction rather to the duties he had towards his and his family’s life.

The writer of the play was understandably very impressed by William Shakespeare, as he also tried to implement a sense of tragedy in the play. In contrast to William, he focused more on the inner demons of the man which limit his progression. It is the ability of the person to determine what is good and what is bad, but when no decision is taken the result is damnation. Considering himself as great and employing American Dream in his every act of irresponsibly was certainly not helpful to him for Willy.

The plot of the play states how Willy was being irresponsible in his own actions, allowed his sons to become inactive. He believed that luck plays an important role, in fact, all the role in success and requires no work. He was greatly impressed by his brother Ben who was a successful diamond businessman and became like this with luck. Considering his brother and American Dream, he started to wait for the luck to turn around him. His sons were good in education but he didn’t want them to study rather he believed that they are great as well and will soon be very likeable and popular. However, he was mistaken as it turned out that the luck was not so kind on them as well where Biff, elder son, became rebellious of his father and left home to work on a petrol pump in Texas and younger son Happy was quite happy in acknowledging that what his father says is right in order to keep him pleased (Hurell, 46). The story turns on when Willy is 63 years and had been fired from the salesman job. With no way out, he didn’t bother to work for his neighbor just because of his arrogance that he is great and by no means has his neighbor deserved him. The story then portrayed the illusionism that was created in Willy’s mind. Willy was quite obviously, because of his age had become vulnerable to events and his mental health made his wife Linda to agree to whatever he said. The words of Willy, "In the greatest country in the world a young man with such - personal attractiveness, gets lost", states how he thought of himself as he regarded himself as the greatest but he also evaluated himself as lost (Kazan, 60). As the story moves forward, different events started to take place with Willy. It was observed that during conversations with others, he became lost in no time and started to talk to someone else who was not present. The mental situation of Willy seemed harmed but when asked he used to state that he was just talking to his brother on how he should finalize his future as his brother was very successful or sometimes he used to lost in the dreams of his secretary with whom he had an affair, before he was caught by his son Biff and he became rebellious against his father (Sandage, 76). Every member of the family knew that in the destruction of each of their lives, the day dreaming and expectation levels of Willy plays an important role. He never allowed anyone to settle into their lives by stabilizing their careers. His sons felt their father thought good of them but certainly the way of doing so was very illogical but they cannot complain this in front of him as they all thought it would definitely make him cry. The thought process of Willy was quite different from normal people. He used to believe in various useless gestures that finally make him likeable and popular but surely a person just cannot become likeable by sitting arrogantly at home. The story then takes a turn where Willy started to try suicides. The suicidal tries were also agreed by his wife Linda as she knew that Willy was just not in himself now. His both sons later in the play got together and started a business, and without any progress Willy again started to believe that his sons will become great in no time because it is in their fate but definitely this was not true. Soon, Willy tried his last suicide attempt by crashing his car and gave his family $20,000 from insurance. 


The play showcases different aspects of the life in United States. It is believed that US is the best place to live in world where people have all the rights they need to progress. History has shown that person’s started from slumps and became billionaires and this was what Willy thought of America. He didn’t put any insight on how and why these people were successful in their lives but just illusions of his proposed actions, his deeds and his dreams to become fully fulfilled without doing any of his homework. Fate works for those who work for themselves, and Willy was unable to discriminate these facts all his life (Miller, 67). The reality and illusionism stayed similar to each other in his dictionary and it led to the destruction. The writer has admirably portrayed what American Dream can do to a person. The interpretations of this dream are different for different people. People believe in getting rich in one night by staying at the gambling centers and working out with lotteries. They emphasize more on the statement of this dream rather than truth and depth of this dream in real life. Willy was clearly one of those who believed in dreams but definitely didn’t act to make the dream true. The story also showcased two different persons and two different personalities. Charlie, who was the neighbor of Willy, always believed in reality. This was why he backed his son to become a successful lawyer and he did. Willy sometimes realized about his failures and used to propel that, “A man can be worth more dead than alive” but Charlie stated the truth, “A man isn't worth anything dead" (Miller, 35). This was all what he didn’t want anyone to tell him and it made Charlie one of the competitors of Willy. The story sheds light on the persons who have been isolated and sabotaged themselves from the outer world and keep themselves happy with illusions and hallucination, though, most of the times, these actions of someone are the cause of downfall for only that person, but what Willy did was that he enclosed all the people of his family in his isolation. Therefore when something went wrong, it went wrong with all the family but not only Willy and this is where his wife Linda is another culprit who always agreed to what Willy said regardless of the fact that whether it is true or not (Sandage, 110). 

The story put forwards many themes as discussed before. Another theme that can be observed is the inability of the protagonist to observe changing happening around him. Willy is quite satisfied with his way of living, nevertheless he wanted more, but he got all in his illusions and there was nothing else that could make him happy. The situation of time demands changing according to the social values. Being 63 years, he had seen different aspects of life and should have been more practical in his approach as the time passed but by no way he was interested in moving forward. Dreams can only become reality if someone is willing to take every action in this regards but not like what Willy was doing. This is the clear interpretation of the theme for those who just feel that entering America or being an American will guarantee their success. This fact can be clearly observed with people from different races and backgrounds including whites are living poverty here as well. Getting a home is what is considered to be a success in America, but there are still many people who don’t own their houses. Action is the key to success and this was lacked by Willy. 

Looking at another theme of the play, it is quite interesting to describe how author of the play has criticized the American Dream. He critiques that American Dream has been portrayed quite differently than it is in reality. The dream seems to be taking a big toll on the people, in fact in the play he states how the corporate American culture has led to the destruction of many people who are very poor and have all doors shut upon them (Hurell, 50). The supply and demand of money only runs in the hands of corporate and it is like giving the fate of the people into these people who just know how to fill up their bank accounts. Author also criticizes the American society that has considerably changed over time and it is not what it had to be. The role of Willy in the play states how an old person was left alone in the society where in the age he requires money, he had to depend on certain other things but something that government should have provided. The loss of job in the eyes of author was a turning point for a salesman who lived all his life by dreams and when he needed support in his later years, he was fired (Kazan, 88). 

Traditionally, the role of Willy is little bit different from the Oedipus as the later one had all the luxuries of life but soon devastated because of his wrong actions whereas Willy had nothing left to him and he was destroyed because he never took any action.  

The American Dream is considered as a dream of a common man. For the man who is lacking all the luxuries of life but has the commitment and urge to accomplish what he has been missing. This dream has allowed various progressions in American culture and society and it is why it is considered as the land of opportunity. No matter what happens, everyone is welcomed here and allowed to use all the resources to much extent possible, but arguably this trend has faded away. We, though have many examples like Bill Gates, who started his life from low level slums and then reached the height of fortune. Life is a struggle and if it is kept that way, the person gets what he requires, but definitely things can get late. However, this dream ruined the life of Willy, who had undertaken this dream in a wrong sense, where he thought that dream will become reality regardless of what he does. This is how author of the play has tried to critically describe the social and cultural aspects of America in that situation where people are negatively implementing their abilities in wrong issues rather than focusing of doing what they want to believe in. Everything in life needs planning. The planning can go wrong, but definitely it opens various new doors to endeavor, various new doors towards success, but it still depends upon the individuals not on the country’s mottos. 


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