Basic Study of Literature March 26, 2015
Drama Analysis Paper: The Death of a Salesman
The Death of a Salesman is a play of a typical American family and their desire to live the American dream. Father, Willy Loman reveals how the rigid expectations of society and striving for that dream can destroy a man's soul. Having an American Dream may not be a bad motivation for life, but Willy held on to this dream as if it was everything. Death of a Salesman has many literary devices that help to make it deep and riveting play that has become an American classic. The play develops into the dreams and aspirations of Willy Loman and follows his strive for the American Dream as they fail to come true. Arthur Miller uses the characterization of the Loman family, symbols and themes to add to the overall effect of the play.
Death of a Salesman focuses on four characters, the main character Willy Loman, his wife Linda, and their two sons Happy and Biff Loman. Throughout the play, Arthur Miller tells us of the hard life, emotions and triumphs of sixty year old Willy Loman who is a salesman that makes his income wholly based on commission. Working on straight commission, he cannot bring home enough money to pay his bills. Willy believes that he can become famous and wealthy just like his older brother Ben. The constant conflict between illusion and reality is a constant struggle for him throughout the play. Willy Loman is motivated by the need to be proud, well-known, and wealthy. According to Willy he will have a bigger business than their Uncle Charley because “he’s liked, but he’s not–-well liked” (Miller 1012). Willy strongly believes that in order to be successful and wealthy you have to be known and well-liked. His idea of what helps to make a person successful doesn’t match up with reality. In a conversation with his son Happy, Willy stresses the fact that Bernard, his cousin is smart and has good grades but won’t succeed in the business world. “That’s just what I mean, Bernard can get the best marks in school, you understand, but when he gets out in the business world, you understand, you are going to be five times ahead of him” (Miller 1014). Willy's assertion that popularity matters above all else is ironic. In the context of Bernard's business success and Biff's failure, Biff has nowhere near the reputation that Bernard does. Although it's easy to criticize him for this belief, Willy does have somewhat of a point. Those who are well liked seem to have certain advantages and doors tend to open a little bit more easily for them. Willy unfortunately, is not one of those people.
Willy Loman wants to be a great success like Dave Singleman, an eighty four year old salesman like himself. When Dave died, hundreds of salesman and buyers were at his funeral. Willy wishes to die the "Death of a Salesman" (Miller 1043) and have many buyers and salesmen mourned for him just like Dave did. He was the reason Willy entered the sales business. To Willy, Dave had the greatest career a man could want, “ because what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people” (Miller 1043)? Once again Willy stands by his belief of reputation being the key to success. However his goals in life have been useless as he hasn’t achieved anything. Willy soon gets fired from work, his marriage with his wife is hitting rock bottom, and his sons begin to lose faith in his beliefs. Willy felt that because he named his boss “Howard”, he would have a secure future with the company but as Charley said "those things don’t mean anything? You named him Howard, but you can’t sell that" (Miller 1053). Howard didn’t even want him to represent the company because he was afraid that Willy would "crack up" again which referred to him talking to himself all the time.
Throughout the play,