Death of A Salesman By Arthur Miller

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1 Death of A Salesman By Arthur Miller

2 1) Setting Year: 1941 Place: New York City Today is the present, Daydreams from the past, and the requiem that takes place at Willy s funeral

3 2) Plot Summary The story takes place in New York City in Willy Lowman is a salesman who is dissatisfied with both his own life and his son Biff. Willy has been lying about himself and his work for so long that he has started to believe all of it. He has flashbacks throughout the play of specific events that could have turned out different and would have made himself and Biff more successful. All the members of the Loman Family decide it is time to make changes. Willy will get a New York job rather than his current traveling salesman job, Biff will get the loan from Bill Oliver, his former boss, and Happy and Biff will go into business together, selling sports goods. But when none of their plans materialize, Willy concludes that the best way for him to become more than a common working man is to commit suicide and that the insurance money given to Biff, he realizes that through all the bad he has done and how badly he hurt Biff that Biff does really love him more than anyone else in the world. Biff is a success, Willy would be considered successful. The play ends at Willy s funeral, where Linda expresses her grief over the loss of her husband. They all decide that he never got to live his dream. He would have been better off as a carpenter or working outside, what he really loved to do.

4 3) Character Description Willy Loman - An insecure, self-deluded traveling salesman. Willy believes wholeheartedly in the American Dream Biff Loman - Football star. He failed math. Biff represents Willy s vulnerable, poetic, tragic side. Linda Loman - Willy s loyal, loving wife. seems to be taken in by Willy s self-deluded hopes for future glory and success. She is realistic and fagile. Happy Loman - Happy has lived in Biff s shadow all of his life. He compensates by nurturing his relentless sex drive and professional ambition. Charley - Charley owns a successful business and his son, Bernard, is a wealthy, important lawyer. Willy is jealous of Charley and his success.

5 5.) Major Conflict #1 Major Conflict #1 between Willy and himself: His life centers around success in the business world and the American Dream. Willy believes that the business world would lead to success, but it did not work out for him Willy did not climb the ladder of success because he was pushed to the bottom (blames Howard Wagner and the new business ) Protagonist: Willy. The reader listens to his story and they want him to be successful because everyone understands why he wants that dream. Many other people have had this dream too. Antagonist: Willy. Willy is his own worst enemy because he expects so much out of himself.

6 5.) Major Conflict #2 Major Conflict #2 between Biff and Willy: Conflicted between what Biff wants (be a Ranch-hand) and what Willy wants him to be (a business man). Willy s conception of being successful and the American dream cause Biff to be insecure and unsure about his job choice in his life. Biff wants to be a ranch-hand because he likes it, but he also wishes he could make his father happy. Protagonist: Biff. He is upset. Biff just wants to live his own dream and do what he wants (be a ranchhand), but Willy continues to make him feel bad/low for wanting to be a ranch-hand. Antagonist: Willy. He uses his perception of his American dream to try and picture Biff in the business world, although he does not want to be in it. Willy makes Biff feel low/unworthy because of the fact he wants to be a ranch-hand.

7 6.) Resolution of the Conflict Willy believes that his problem with his job and lack of money will be solved by committing suicide. He realizes he has not achieved his American dream and he believes this is the only way. Outcome: Linda gets no money in the end. Will s master plan fails because he believed he would be able to fix his problem by committing suicide, when in reality, it left his wife alone with no income. Biff realizes he cannot try to be somebody he is not. He recognizes that he needs to stop acting like he wants to be in the business world just to please his father. Biff says he is going to be a ranch-hand for good. Willy sees that Biff truly loves him. They come full circle through this act. Outcome: Willy and Biff s relationship is patched up. Biff no longer resents his father for his wishes, and he realizes he needs to do what makes him happy.

8 Theme 1: American Dream The American dream is the one goal that Willy believes whole-heartedly in and lives his life to achieve throughout the novel, Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller. His view of the American dream is to be a well-liked attractive salesman. The most common interpretation of this American dream for most people is to work hard, be successful, and have true happiness in life. This is different in many ways to the view Willy took on it. His view was filled with superficial ideas rather than reality, like working hard to achieve success. The story shows how he struggles to face that his American dream is not the same as his own life and that he has failed. Examples: Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people? This example shows Willy s dream well. In this line from Act II towards Howard Wagner, Willy talks about Dave Singleman. Dave was a business man who died the death of a salesman. According to Willy, Singleman was well liked and successful. That s how Willy wanted to live his life. He s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine A salesman is got to dream, boy. This line is from Charley s speech in the requiem at the end of the book. He explains that Willy had big dreams that he could never fill. This is what lead to his death. I m gonna knock Howard for a loop, kid. I ll get an advance, and I ll come home with a New York job. Goddammit, now I m gonna do it. This example from act 2 shows how Willy convinced others that he would succeed even though he knew and they knew that he wouldn t.

9 Theme 2: Abandonment Abandonment Beginning with Willy s father leaving him and abandoning him and his brother, Ben, early in their lives, Willy is neglected many more times throughout his life. This could be one reason why Willy is not as successful as his older brother, Ben, because he did not have that father figure to show him the tricks or to teach him as he grew up like a normal boy would. Also, his brother leaves him for Alaska and becomes wealthy. As Willy gets older he becomes more and more afraid of being abandoned. Because of this fear he makes his family follow the American dream. Examples: Even your grandfather was better than a carpenter. You never grew up. Bernard does not whistle in the elevator, I assure you. This line of Willy s in Act I was directed towards Biff, telling him that being a carpenter is not a way to a successful life. He also goes on to say that he, himself, never whistled in an elevator. Also, he refers to his father in this quote, a man that he did not know very well because he had abandoned him. 2. Oh, yeah, my father lived many years in Alaska. He was an adventurous man. This line in Act II shows how successful Willy s father was. Although his father was successful, Willy was not. This could be because Willy was abandoned by his father early in his childhood so he did not grow up, learning how to be successful as an adult. You were doing a crossword and accidentally used his pen! This example shows how Willy s son is also a failure because Willy was not a good example for his sons because he himself was abandoned by his father and did not succeed in what he wanted to achieve.

10 9.) Characterization of Major Character #1 Characterization of Willy Loman He s stubborn Values being well liked Lives in his own illusions of how his life should be Willy has/holds onto his version of the American dream. His tragic flaw is his overwhelming desire to achieve his American dream even when, realistically, it is not possible. Willy tries to live through Biff because he failed to be well liked in his own life.

11 9.) Characterization of Major Character #2 Characterization of Biff Loman Truly loves his father Does not live by his father s version of the American dream Would rather be on a farm than in the business world Biff is the only Loman to realize his family is a fake, because of how his dad and brother created illusions to make themselves look good. In his father s mind, he was supposed to be the leader of men, but he failed to achieve this dream.

12 10.) Direct Quote #1 I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman! - Willy Act Two pg. 132 This quote is talking about how Willy and Biff are not just normal people, but that they are better than a dime a dozen. This quote shows just how high of a pedestal Willy put himself and Biff. Willy created an illusion that he was a well liked, successful business man, when in reality, he was not well liked and very unsuccessful. This quote shows just how much Willy was unwilling to accept the fact that he was nothing special, and neither was Biff.

13 10.) Direct Quote #2 He s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling backthat s an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory. - Charley, Requiem pg. 138 This quote is at Willy s funeral where nobody shows up. Charley is explaining why Willy never gave up on his dream, and how his profession affected his life in so many ways. This quotation shows just how much Willy wanted to make his American dream come true. He never gave up because he held his vision of the American Dream so tight. Willy used his vision of the American dream to the extreme and it eventually leads to him being burnt out, and dying.

14 11.) Literary Element : Flashback Example 1: During one major flashback in Death of a Salesman Biff catches his dad Willy in the middle of an affair with another woman. This example helps the readers understand why Willy always thinks that Biff is Spiting Him without his necessary flashback, this would be unclear to the reader. We also learn that Biff made decisions such as not attending summer school or college to play football in order to Spite his father. Biff s feelings changed completely after this. We learn about Willy s past and why Biff made the choices he did.

15 11.) Literary Element: Flashback Example 2: During another Flashback such as when Willy thinks back to when he turned down his brother Ben s offer to go to Alaska and find gold and become rich. The flashback gives the reader an insight on Willy, we see that he regrets turning down Ben s invitation and that he thinks he is someone he is not. Willy could have used Ben s Job. He wasn t making A LOT of money and thought he was better than that. This leads to the conclusion that Willy is living a lie and that he won t accept himself or his boys as a failure and never has.

16 11.) Literary Element: Flashback Conclusion: As a whole, flashback s show other demonstrations or characters and help the readers understand the characters on a new level. This shows why Willy and Biff s relationship has come to a point as well as why they are the way they are now.

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