DEATH of a SALESMAN by Arthur Miller

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DEATH of a SALESMAN by Arthur Miller

A.      The Characters
1.      Main Characters
a.       Willy Loman - A 63 year old once popular salesman who’s lost his popularity and sales, not to mention his mind.
b.      Biff Loman - A 34 year old son of Willy who has been searching for himself while working on farms in the west to the dismay of his father.
c.       Happy Loman - The younger brother of Biff who tries in all he can to please his father and attempts to continue his father’s dream after he dies.
d.      Linda Loman - The wife of Willy who tries to protect Willy’s feelings and can’t make herself confront him if it means hurting his feelings.
2.      Minor Characters
a.       Bernard - A bookish friend of Biff and Happy who urges Biff to study in high school to no avail, however, he himself makes it as a prominent lawyer and goes to argue a case to the Supreme Court at the end of the play.
b.      Charley - Bernard’s father who is fairly successful and offers Willy a job which Willy refuses on the basis of pride.

B.       Plot
Willy Loman returns home after an unsuccessful business trip. Frustrated at his lack of success, his wife Linda suggests that he ask his boss Howard Wagner to allow him to work in his home city so he will not have to travel. Willy complains to Linda that their son, Biff, who comes home for the holidays, has yet to make good on his life. Despite Biff's promise as an athlete in high school, he flunked senior year math, made no effort in summer school, and never went to college.
Biff and his brother, happy, who is also visiting, reminisce about their childhood together. They discuss their father's mental degeneration, which they have witnessed by his constant vacillations and talking to him. When Willy walks in, angry that the two boys have never amounted to anything, biff and happy tell Willy that biff plans to make a business proposition the next day in an effort to pacify their father.
The next day Willy goes to ask his boss for a job in town while biff goes to make a business proposition. Both fail, as Willy gets angry and ends up getting fired when the boss tells him to continue being a traveling salesman, while biff makes a terrible impression during his business presentation and impulsively steals a fountain pen (an expensive symbol of status worth far more than a ball point pen). Willy then meets Bernard, who tells him that biff originally wanted to do well in summer school, but something happened in Boston when biff went to visit Willy there that changed his mind.
Happy, biff, and Willy meet for dinner at a restaurant, but Willy refuses to hear bad news from biff. The two sons decide to lie to their father, who then goes into a flashback of what happened in Boston the day biff stopped trying to succeed in life. Willy had been in a hotel on a sales trip with a young woman when biff showed up, causing him to want to flunk math and ruin his father's dreams of his success out of spite.
Biff and Happy leave their deranged father in the restaurant for a couple of young women, yet when they return home they find their mother knew they left Willy alone. She angrily shouts at them while Willy remains talking to himself outside. Eventually Willy joins the argument, at which point biff forcefully says that he is no longer being a failure out of spite: he simply knows he isn't cut out to be a successful business man. The feud culminates with Biff hugging Willy, telling his father he loves him.
Rather than listen to what biff actually says, Willy realizes his son has forgiven him and thinks biff will now pursue a career as a businessman. Willy decides to kill himself in an auto accident so that biff can get enough money to start his business, yet at the funeral biff retains his belief that he does not want to become a businessman. Happy, on the other hand, chooses to take the insurance money and follow in his father's footsteps.

C.       Setting
The action takes place at Willy Loman’s house in the New York City area, as well as other New York locales, and in a hotel room in Boston. Some of the action takes place in flashbacks while Willy hallucinates.

D.      Style
The style and devices miller uses enhances Willy’s mental state.  By using flashback and reveries, he allows the audience to get into the mind of Willy Loman and brings us into a sense of pity for him. Death of a salesman is a stage play in the form of a tragedy. There is much discussion of whether death of a salesman can be considered a tragedy. ‘Tragedy’ as a form was defined by the Greek playwright Aristotle in 330 BC. He defined a tragic character. Language, the use of language in death of a salesman is entirely realistic. Miller’s dialogue is carefully constructed to follow the exact speech patterns of ordinary New Yorkers. It is very dense and fast, with repetitions, hesitations, and contradictions. The characters often use slang and clichés.

E.       Theme
Willy is deteriorating and suicidal, biff is told to get serious. Here comes the conflict, right on schedule. Willy’s mental wanderings are getting worse; he is preoccupied with Biff’s aimlessness and inability to find success in business. Linda informs her sons that Willy has been trying to commit suicide and tells biff that his father’s life is in his hands. Biff needs to get a job and get serious or take the blame for his father’s actions.

F.        Conclusion
This story is classified as “man vs. Society”, because the conflict arises because of Willy cannot be proper father for his family and as a man in his society he is failed.

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