The Death of a Salesman vividly portrays a life of a middle-class salesman who tries to achieve the American dream and realize his life hopes. Miller writes that, in Loman, he has attempted to personify certain values which civilized men, in the twentieth century, share. In Death of a Salesman, on the other hand, the work is not played as a thematic episode; the present and its action constantly overflow into the play. A conflict is created by the different between Willy’s expectations towards business and work and his treatment by the company he works for.
specifically for you
for only $16.05 $11/page
The brief basic plot of story
Willy is treated by the company and Howard Wagner as a common old-aged employee who lost his chance to reach career growth and opportunities. In the first place, Willy’s employer, Howard, is not presented as a negative character but as a man very like Willy himself, with the same narrow love for his family, the same love of gadgetry, the same empty friendliness. Thus, Miller underlines his negative attitude towards Willy and his achievements. Miller gives a special attention to the scene when Willy is fired. This is a critical moment in Willy’s life, as he goes in to plead for a New York job after spending thirty-four years on the road. It is the play’s most blatantly anti-business scene: “it’s a business, kid,” young Howard explains to old Willy just before he sacks him, “and everybody’s gotta pull his own weight.” (Miller 1544). This scene shows that treatment of Willy by his boss doffers greatly from his dreams and expectations.
Willy perceives himself as a successful businessman who has reached social recognition and achieves his dream. Willy’s dream is the American dream of success. The American dream means the perfect world out there somewhere. Willy’s expectations are based on ideals of prosperity and wealth, money and high social position. “Willy’s plea for loyalty and humane treatment–“you can’t eat the orange and throw the peel away–a man is not a piece of fruit!” (Miller 1545). Willy, however, chooses to remember that it was Linda who persuaded him to remain a salesman, but we have only his rationalizing memories of the event. His quick acquiescence to Linda’s position reveals that Linda functions primarily as an echo of Willy’s own position; she embodies his need for security even at the price of mediocrity. Ironically, Willy assures Linda that she is his “foundation and support,” and to a large extent she is, for her existence testifies to Willy’s domestic success. The house, appliances, cars and insurance prove that Willy has achieved the necessary social status in a society which confuses a facade for substance. Ben, on the other hand, represents Willy’s dreams of financial success through ruthless strength: “The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it.” (Miller 1540). Willy was not willing or able to take the risks that great success demanded; therefore, he magnifies the cunning required and dangers faced—from the darkest jungles of Africa to the arctic terrors of Alaska—in order to justify his own hesitations and failures.
In sum, Miller vividly portrays that life troubles and grievances faced by Willy is a result of his false perception of social status and his life success. He shows that Willy is rejected by Howard Wagner who sees him as the unpromising old-aged salesman who lost his chance to achieve career growth and personal success.
Miller, A. “Death of a Salesman”. in Literature, An Introduction to Reading and Writing, 7th edition. Edgar V Roberts and Henry E Jacobs. Prentice Hall; 3 edition, 2005. pp. 1505-1569