Research Paper: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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¶ … Death of a Salesman" By Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman: Dynamics of Father Son Relationship.

The play, death of a salesman written by Arthur Miller follows, the exact literary structure of a Greek tragedy (Bender 5-6). A tragedy can best be described as a play/story where the main character, regresses from a position of power and affluence to that of poverty and misery or ultimately death of the character. Willy is the main character in the play, and he regresses both physically and financially to the point that he eventually dies through suicide; the most tragic ending to any man's life, which is death by their own hand. It is important to view this play from the geopolitical setting of the time it was conceived, and how that affects the imagery the playwright used, in telling the story of the weary salesman; Willy.

From the title of the play, the reader/audience gets the hint that someone will die. In literature, death can be in the form of actual physical death, or a symbolic death. In the sense that: an aspect of a character that defines him/her; ceases and so what is left is the individual, minus the specific distinguishing factor/a tribute he had. To illustrate this, we consider Willy, reading through the play. One will find out that he eventually commits suicide, but also one realizes that, Willy as a salesman, dies when he starts loosing his mind. He gets demoted and stagnated in his career, which drove him to a point where he did not receive a salary, but still persisted to work for the company. Relating to the title The Death of a Salesman can be interpreted to mean that Willy in his role as a salesman, was no longer effective nor was he relevant, and so he was technically dead in that capacity. Arthur Miller seamlessly linked these two meanings of death such that Willy's demise as a salesman played a major part in his own natural death.

An element of Arthur Milers writing that stands out is how Willy chooses to live vicariously through his son Biff and his narcissistic attributes. Willy also projects himself onto his son such that he does not distinguish the fact that Biff has his own life (Corrigan 98-107). In act one he and Linda is talking bout his drive back from work in the field and then Biff's return from Texas.Willy launches a verbal attack on his son, labeling him as being lazy and a wasteful bum, but then he changes that line and then states very emphatically that Biff is not lazy. He says that he had a knack for sales. It is obvious that Willy wants to associate himself with Biff and not Happy.

To prove this premise, the fact is Willy boasts to his wife on how Biff was popular with the female students, and that all he needed was just to show them a little attention, and they would be eating out of his hand (Miller 10-13). Instead of the father focusing on his son's educational achievements or milestones, he chooses the vain option, why is this so? The playwright gives an answer coded in the conversation, in act one, between Linda and Willy. Willy always steers the conversation towards himself; therefore he does not talk exclusively about Biff being the ladies man. He goes back in time and remembers his own high school experience; how he was popular while masking his own vanity. Willy is established at this point that he prefers going back in time and reliving the memories he cherished, as though they were unfolding in real life, and so it is easy to make an inference that indeed, Willy was handsome and that he cannot grasp how age has ravaged his looks. Also, a peculiar fact is that Willy was lost in what should have been Biff's memory to behold.

Another concrete fact to consider is that Biff hates being a salesman. Later on in act one, he opens up to Happy how he found did not hold much esteem for all the roles and responsibilities he had in his life. In one instance, he expressed how he would work hard for poor pay and little recreation time. In addition, Willy is absolutely convinced that Biff would make a great salesman (just like him), Without taking into account that his son may or may not like the job. He exudes confidence that his son would be the best in no time as himself. In that context, Willy is referring to how he had been popular just like Biff, and so it is reasonable that he would love sales (just like him) and achieve such incredible success in a short period (just like him) (Miller 10-13).

In one of Willy's mental breakdowns, the author takes the audience back in time when Biff and Happy are young, and from the description they were still in high school. Willy gives a sense of delusional self-importance; telling his sons where he was and how he gets a rousing welcome, whenever in town to the extent a police officer would guard his car as if it were his own. But, what is more, revealing is how he needs his sons to idealize him, in this period of time his relationship with Biff is very cordial and loving, because: Biff is young and handsome, the captain of the football team which meant that he could have his pick when it came to dates, when he confessed to stealing a ball, Willy excuses the act by saying the coach would have wanted his star player to have more practice. From this, we see Willy as an individual who always had a false sense of self importance. Biff was the avenue which he would show the world that Willy Lamon had it all. A great job charisma a star athlete for a son and soon a businessman.

These events have helped the reader to understand the premise that Biff was a surrogate for Willy's ambition, and zeal to be recognized and respected. He develops an obsession with Biff that is skewed towards anything that brings glory to the family and himself neglecting other aspects of Biff's life, which really matter (Zeineddine 93-100). He could hardly know that his son was on the verge of being flanked by his Math teacher were it, not for the intervention of Bernard. Another aspect to consider is condition that he does not seem to single out Happy in aspect, and have a meaningful conversation with him. Happy was relegated to being Biff's second and that anything he did was subject to be compared to how Biff did it. Irony presents itself because Happy is the one with the job and Biff is the bum who had potential, but did not utilize it.

Biff's success was to Willy's advantage even in the "present." This shows the urge for Willy to make his son see the light and reclaim his lost glory. When it comes to sales, he expects Biff not to do good, but to be ultimately the best. This is largely because of Willy's narcissism coupled with his mental regression, and so it is hell for a man like Willy to accept that he is growing old and senile. Willy must look for a younger version of himself to retain whom he was with the possibility of achieving the "great" things he did not accomplish. This is illustrated when he tells Linda that some men take longer to come of age, and for things to fall into place to the effect that they eventually attain prominence. He even cites examples of such men, Thomas Edison and BF Goodrich and then make a very deliberate rejoinder of finding him a job as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.  (2013, March 11).  Retrieved July 15, 2019, from

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"Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller."  11 March 2013.  Web.  15 July 2019. <>.

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"Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller."  March 11, 2013.  Accessed July 15, 2019.