Death of a Salesman . Revision notes: key themes and characterisation. note. These notes will give you an overview of the key moments in the play.
Revision notes: key themes and characterisation
A salesman is the epitome of American capitalism: a system based on creating desires and needs through advertising. It is never entirely clear what Willy sells.
This experience does not serve to teach Willy anything, and only drives him into another reverie, where he tells Ben his dreams of being the successful salesman and his hopes for Biff.
Despite Linda’s protestations, Biff insists on speaking to Willy. We see him, utterly broken and tortured, resolving to commit suicide in a tragic effort to save the only remnant of his dream: a well attended funeral, to prove that he was popular.
Biff tells his father that he will leave and live his own life, on his own terms. Willy refuses to accept that Biff cannot live on his, Willy’s terms, and thinks that Biff is just trying to punish him.
Biff tells his father that neither of them are anything special, and that it is a failure to accept this that creates Willy’s unhappiness. This enrages Willy, as he is unable to let go of his false view of happiness and success.