The play by Arthur Miller Death of a Salesman demonstrates the struggle of a man in an attempt to reach success in life. It describes the life and surroundings of Willy Loman who searches for the alleged American Dream. He sees no other way for his satisfaction in life, unless he finds material amenities and wealth. This point is especially emphasized in the play. Furthermore, in the chase for luck and prosperity Willy forgets about his family and its highest values. His intentions are straightforwardly related to selfish ideals. The play is very symbolic and provides a specter of symbols. They are helpful in characterization of things and heroes. Symbols used by Arthur Miller in his play provide a possibility to look at it from a philosophical point of view. Hence, the symbols of Willy, Linda and Happy describe the symbolic features of the American Dream, betrayal of higher ideals, and the continuation of American Dream.
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Willy Loman is an ordinary man who has an obsession to achieve the success by means of diamonds about which his brother told him. The main problem of him is that he does not feel the reality. His approach to life is that it is short enough to wait for something. He is aware of the time prospects of life and passing of the material amenities to heirs: “Work a lifetime to pay of a house. You finally own it and there’s nobody to live in it” (Miller 4). He is an example of an American everyman seeking a better destiny. Examples of outstanding persons in the sphere of business inspire him. This is why he inevitably follows the way of his obsession. In this respect, the character of Willy represents a person of narrow-minded scope of realities of life.
Linda is the wife of Willy. She does not directly symbolize the betrayal of ideals. The thing is that her constant mending of stockings represents the infidelity of Willy admitted by Biff, the older son of them. Linda tries to please Willy, but fails in every attempt. She represents an alternative to see on life from the other side. But her stockings every time remind Willy of his betrayal of higher ideals of life. The family is placed for Linda higher than material amenities. However, her opinion represents the reason for conflict with Willy. It is due to his mere understanding that at some points he could be wrong. Notwithstanding, Linda is a symbol of another opportunity which Willy denies. She represents it by saying: You are too accommodating, dear (Miller 4). Thus, denying Linda’s remark and her opinion, Willy goes by the way of self-betrayal and takes it for granted for the sake of his dream.
Happy symbolizes the continuation of the father’s dream. He also received such obsession from Willy in searching for the better place and better destiny under the sun. Happy represents the hope of his father to still follow the way of the American Dream. It is something like “Per Aspera ad Astra”. Happy is naïve and behaves just like Willy, i.e. without shaping the reality.
To conclude, the play by Arthur Miller is the representation of the American Dream and its false ideals. It is a caution for those who pretend to play with destiny and to ignore the significance of such high values, as family. Moreover, the significance of the play is also in its approach toward all generations of Americans.
Miller, Arthur. Death of a salesman: certain private conversations in two acts and a requiem. New York: Penguin Classics, 1998.