Death of a Salesman. Ben, Taylor & Tim. The Author: Arthur Miller. Arthur Miller was born on October 17, 1915 in New York City He attended Abraham Lincoln High School He attended a city college for two weeks in 1932 Miller wrote Death of a Salesman in 1948
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Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman was written by Arthur Miller in 1948.
The play opened on Broadway in February 1949
That year, Death of a Salesman received many prestigious awards:
The Theme of the American Dream
Willy is a strong believer in the American Dream: the philosophy that hard work and determination can bring anyone affluence and happiness no matter what his or her background is. However, Willy believes that charisma and regard is all one needs to attain this. Willy’s life is directed towards the American Dream; unfortunately, his baffling lack of success leads to his psychological ebb.
The Symbolism of Willy’s Garden
Willy tries to grow a garden despite his living in a Brooklyn yard which lacks sunlight and arable. He attempts this in an effort to demonstrate his labor and worth. Willy uses the garden to try to correct his mistakes as a father and provider, but his failure to grow anything represents his failures in life.
Willy has several flashbacks throughout the play. One of them is the memory of his affair with a woman in a Boston hotel. While there, Biff discovers his father’s secret and loses faith in him. Willy realizes that he, in many aspects, failed as a father. He flashbacks to his past frequently and examines where he went wrong in life.
The play’s focal character. He is an unsuccessful traveling salesman who seeks out, and believes in, the American Dream. Unfortunately, he never achieves it.
His life seems to be falling apart for him from the inside out as his mind wanders and society betrays him. He looks to his two sons to lead a better life than he, yet they do not.
Biff is 34 years old and Willy’s oldest son. He was a football star in high school. However, he failed math and is unable to attend college. Biff is unable to hold jobs for very long and is compelled to move out West and do manual labor. He does not live the life his father wanted him to have.
Happy is 32 years old and Willy’s youngest son. Throughout his life, he has been considered second-rate when compared to Biff. Happy is arrogant and lecherous.
Linda is Willy’s loving wife. She provides strength and support for her family, especially Willy. She is sometimes captivated by Willy’s delusions of success, but she is far more realistic than he.
Act I begins by Willy Loman returning to his home in Brooklyn after a sales trip. It is a Monday night in the late 1940’s. Willy reveals that he repeatedly fell into a trance while driving. Willy reminisces about the past, and it is learned that Willy’s salary is barely enough to support his family. Willy must borrow money from a friend each week and pass it off as his own pay.
Willy is shown to have mental instability. He speaks to his dead brother Ben as if he were alive. Linda explains to her sons that Willy’s multiple car accidents were actually failed suicide attempts. Linda insists that Willy ask his boss for a non-traveling job.
Act II begins the next morning with Willy in an unusually good mood. Willy goes to Howard, his employer, and requests a non-traveling job. Howard, however, is uninterested and ignores Willy’s pleas and explanations. Howard ends up firing Willy.
Willy later goes to dinner with his sons. Willy reveals to them that he was fired and asks for good news. The boys have none. The dinner turns into a maelstrom. Willy, talking to himself, retires to the restroom and leave Biff and Happy fighting. Biff leaves the restaurant, and Happy follows him, leaving their father reminiscing in the restroom about the past.
Later on, at the house, Linda scalds her sons for deserting their father. Eventually, the truth emerges about all their lives: Willy’s suicidal tendencies, Biff’s imprisonment, Happy’s real occupation, and other suppressed woe. As everyone is going to bed, Linda and Willy express their love and acceptance of their sons. Willy, in an effort to provide for his family, leaves and crashes the car, killing himself for the insurance money.
Willy’s funeral is attended by very few. The family talks over how Willy had the “wrong dreams” and didn’t seem happy as a salesman. Linda addresses Willy and says that she had made the last payment on the house and that it feels as though Willy is just “on another trip.” She then goes on to repeat “we’re free…” several times.
"1949 Tony Awards — Infoplease.com." Infoplease: Encyclopedia, Almanac, Atlas, Biographies, Dictionary, Thesaurus. Free Online Reference, Research & Homework Help. — Infoplease.com. Information Please Database, Pearson Education, Inc., 2007. Web. 30 Dec. 2010. <http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0153402.html>.
"1999 Tony (Antoinette Perry) Awards — Infoplease.com." Infoplease: Encyclopedia, Almanac, Atlas, Biographies, Dictionary, Thesaurus. Free Online Reference, Research & Homework Help. — Infoplease.com. Information Please Database, Pearson Education, Inc., 2007. Web. 30 Dec. 2010. <http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0777348.html>.
“Death of a Salesman.” Encyclopedia of American History. Answers Corporation, 2006. Answers.com 30 Dec. 2010. <http://www.answers.com/topic/death-of-a-salesman>.
“Death of a Salesman.” Literature and its Times. Gale Group., 1997. Answers.com 30 Dec. 2010. <http://www.answers.com/topic/death-of-a-salesman>.
Hart, James D., and Phillip W. Leininger. "Death of a Salesman." The Oxford Companion to American Literature. Encyclopedia.com, 1995. Web. 30 Dec. 2010. <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem.
Harmondsworth, Eng.: Penguin, 1976. Print.