Play Analysis: “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller
Willy Loman, a sixty-year-old traveling salesman, is having trouble lately because he can't seem to keep his mind on the
present. He keeps drifting back and forth between the past and present, looking for exactly where his life went askew. He
ends up being demoted to a commission-only position with his company.
Willy begins to wonder what opportunity he may
have missed or which wrong turn led his life to this downward spiral.
Willy always believed that being
liked was the
key to success, but now he realizes that the only things he can count on are the things he can touch. This was something that
his brother, Ben, a man independently wealthy by the age of twenty-one, tried to tell him years ago. However, Willy insisted
that his success would come from being well liked.
Throughout his life, Willy attempted to show his sons the keys to success and to prepare them for success in the business
world. Willy pretended to be an important, respected, and successful salesman in order to acquire the love and respect of his
family. He even started believing that he was as important as he had pretended.
Whenever he couldn't live up to that
expectation, and reality contradicted the image he tried to put forth, his whole life began to crumble. He realizes that he is a
failure and he had wasted his life. Not only that, but he has taught his sons the wrong things.
Nowadays, Biff is a bum who can't hold a job outside of being a farmhand, and Hap is an assistant's assistant who is just
as deluded about his importance as Willy. He taught his sons the wrong things, and now their lives are average as well. Willy
and Biff are always at odds because Biff hasn't lived up to Willy's great expectations for him. Biff was never given the proper
direction to fulfill these expectations. Willy encouraged him only to be well liked and popular; Biff learned he never had to
work for anything or take orders from anyone, and as a result, he couldn't keep a job in the business world. Integrity was
never an emphasized characteristic in the Loman household.
At this time Biff has come home and he realizes that he's just an
This clutch of new knowledge prompts an entire overhaul of the values taught to him by his father, and Biff wants to
expose the lies Willy had been telling for years. Willy won't have it. After a series of long arguments, Biff decides it would
be best if he leaves for good; he will never fulfill his father's dreams. Willy, now an unemployed wreck, decides that he must
do something brilliant to prove to Biff that his (Willy’s) life wasn't a farce. He kills himself so that Biff can use the insurance
money to start his own business. Willy believes that Biff will deem his father a hero, and appreciate the sacrifice that he made
for his son, unfortunately, he didn’t. The insurance doesn't cover suicide and only Willy's family and their two neighbors
attend the funeral. In the end, Willy's legacy is one of a broken man, whose life had become a sad failure.