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Literary Analysis Essay of Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman'

0 August 11 2014, 14:45 in Literary Essay

Literary Analysis Essay of Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’

Arthur Miller’s 1949 play entitled ‘Death of a Salesman’ is considered one of his most famous works garnering recognition from critics, including achieving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama on the same year as well as a Tony Award for Best Play. The story focuses on the life of the Loman family and how they sought to pursue the American dream. Using a dramatic tone, viewers are able to see the inner struggles of characters as they respond to the situation and find significance and meaning to what is happening. Situated in a bustling New York, the setting of the story puts forward important ways to depict Willy’s blind faith to pursue the dream he always thought would bring him the good life.

Upon close examination of the play, Miller enables viewers to recognize abandonment as one of the underlying themes presented in the story. In particular, it seeks to show the protagonists experiences in the past and present that have influenced his continued insistence to follow the American dream (Oates 1). For example, the loss of his father at an early age and Ben made Willy feel terrified about being abandoned further (Miller 1). That is why he brought Biff and Happy up with the ambition to fulfill and succeed in business. However, these again changes when Biff decided not to follow his father’s dream and finally tells him that his ambition for them is not possible. Arguably, this situation made Willy feel abandoned and prompted his psychological decline.

Another important theme presented in the play is betrayal. Specifically, the central conflict that Miller advances comes from the fallout that is happening between Willy and Biff. In particular, Willy felt betrayed because Biff did not fulfill his promise to pursue the American dream (Miller 1). That is why he takes the current situation of Biff negatively and with spite because his son promised Willy that he would seek to follow his ambition. Similarly, the issue of betrayal also goes back to Willy because of Biff’s discovery of his infidelity. This affair with another woman shattered Biff’s perception of his father and ultimately recognized the multitude of lies fed to him and his family (Cardullo 1). Arguably, these situations also prompt characters such as Happy and Linda Loman to demonstrate differing viewpoints in response to Willy’s delusion of materialistic success.

Based on these themes, the play itself demonstrates that of a tragedy for Willy. His inclination to material gains and blind faith towards the American dream placed him farther away from his family. Equally, it is through his delusions that he commits suicide in order to give his insurance to Biff so he can pursue his ambition. Though Biff does not oblige to his father’s allusion, readers are also able to see Happy willing to embrace the path of his father, despite the reality that it would only bring him struggle and demise (Oates 1). Arguably, this is Miller’s attempt to showcase the blind realities and illusions of the American dream that people continue to embrace.

Overall, Miller’s play remains to be a powerful piece that demonstrates the potential pitfalls of individuals who worship the American dream. It seeks to show that people who continue to advance materialistic gains would only live a life of loneliness. Like Willy, his blind faith towards this dream hampered his ability to recognize what really matters. His inability to understand reality further estranged the relationship he had with his children Biff and Happy. He still remained hopeful that his dream would be continued by his sons. Though Biff decided not to, Happy demonstrated the inclination to pursue the direction of his father and thus creating another cycle of illusion.

Works Cited

Cardullo, Bert. ‘Death of a Salesman and Death of a Salesman: The Swollen Legacy of Arthur Miller’ Columbia.edu. n.d. Web. Accessed 4 August 2014.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman, 1949. Web. Accessed 4 August 2014.

Oates, Joyce Carol. ‘Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman: A Celebration’ USF.edu. 1998. Web. Accessed 4 August 2014.


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