Title: The Death of a Salesman Author: Arthur Miller Genre: Tragedy Historical Context: The Death of a Salesman was written in 1949 by Arthur Miller. This book is is a playwright and was premiered on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre on February 10, 1949. This play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. Summary: In the late 1940’s, a salesman named Willy Loman comes home tired after a cancelled business trip. His wife, Linda, is worried about his state of mind and a recent car accident and suggest that he ask his boss, Howard Wager, to allow him to work in the city and not travel. Willy then complains to Linda about their son, Biff, and him not not making good on his life. Biff showed promising athletic abilities in high school and flunked senior year math and never went to college. Biff and his younger brother, Happy, who is temporarily staying with their parents after Biff’s unexpected return from the West. The two brothers decide to remember their childhood together. They also discuss their father’s mental deterioration and how they witness it in the form of indecisiveness and daydreaming about their high school days. Willy walks in angry that they never amounted to anything and in an effort to quiet their father, the boys tell their father that Biff has plans to make business proposition the very next day. Protagonist: William “Willy” Loman: The main character and focus of the book. He is an insecure, self-deluded traveling salesman and beloved in the American Dream wholeheartedly but can never achieve it. His sons don’t fulfill the dreams he has made for them and these illusions break under the pressures of reality and he begins to decay mentally. Linda Loman: Willy’s wife. She lives through Willy’s grandiose dreams and delusions. Occasionally, she is seem to his delusions as hope for glory and success. In other times, she is far more realistic and less fragile than her husband. She has nurtured her family through all of Willy’s attempts at success and supports Willy through everything until he collapses. Biff Loman: The eldest son. He’s thirty four years old and used to be his star football player with scholarships, good male friends and female admirers. He failed at math so he did not heave enough credits to graduate. Since graduation, his kleptomania has gotten him fired from jobs. He also can’t but has been ignore his instincts to move West and work with his hands. By the end of the book, he does not reconcile his life Happy Loman: Willy’s youngest son. He is thirty two years old and has lived in his older brother’s shadow. He makes up for living in a shadow by nurturing his sexual impulses and ambition, professional wise. He works as an assistant to an assistant buyer but presents himself as supremely important and is known for practicing bad business and sleeping with the girlfriends of his superiors. Bernard: Charley’s son. Willy used to mock mock him for studying hard and his success is difficult for Willy to accept because his sons couldn’t live up to him. The Woman: Willy’s mistress when Biff and Happy were in high school. She was only there to boost Willy’s fragile ego and she is the reason Biff loses faith in his father after catching his father and the Woman in a hotel room. After this event, Biff loses his dreams of passing math and college. Charley: Willy’s next door neighbor. Willy owns a successful business and his son is a lawyer. Charley has given Willy money to pay bills when he couldn’t and Willy regards him as “his only friend”. Uncle Ben: Willy’s rich brother. He has recently died he only appears in the novel when Willy “daydreams”. Howard Wagner: Willy’s boss. His father regarded Willy as “a masterful man” and “a prince”. Howard is younger than Willy and fires Willy even after Willy’s wounded assertions that he named Howard. Jenny: Charley’s secretary. Stanley: A waiter at Frank’s Chop Shop. He and Happy has been seen to be friends or at the least amount acquaintances and seems to be Happy’s “wingman” and vise versa when they ogle Miss Forsythe before Biff and Willy arrive. Miss Forsythe: A prostitute that Happy and Biff meet at Frank’s Chop Shop. Letta: A prostitute that Happy and Biff meet at Frank’s Chop Shop. Key Themes: Some key themes are loss of identity, changes in society and how people accept them Symbolism: Bill Loman: Bill is the symbol for Willy’s poetic, vulnerable, and tragic side. Happy Loman: Happy is a symbol of Willy’s sense of self-importance, ambition and blind servitude of societal expectations. Ben: Uncle Ben is known as a symbol for the success Willy wants for his sons. Journals: 1: “A diamond is hard and rough to the touch” This quote turns Willy’s suicide into a moral struggle and a matter of commerce. As opposing to the fruitless, emotionally ruinous meetings that Willy has with Howards and Charley, his death will yield something concrete for Willy and his family. Willy latches to this idea that he will be successful at some point. He is also certain $20,000 from his life insurance will help his son Biff will fulfill his last wishes that he wants from his son. The diamond in this sense, is the material possession Willy wanted from his salesman job but couldn’t get at all. Him selling his life for the metaphorical diamonds of $20,000 is him selling one last thing to help his family. (120)2: “Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground” After the climactic point at the Chop Shop, Willy suddenly fixates on buying seeds to plant in his garden in his dark backyard because he does not have “a thing in the ground”. The garden is one last grasp on his job and Biff’s ambition. One last hold he has on a life in a dark cloud surrounding him. He, metaphorically, realized he has no proof for his life’s work. When he was conversing with Ben and planting the seeds is when he worries that “a man can’t go out the way he came in” and that he has to “add up to something”. With him already having a pre fixation on material value of being successful and having success in life, which brings the ability to sells one’s image. The seeds are Willy’s failures in all ways imaginable, such as adultery and the lack of success in his life. The metaphor of gardening used for success and failure is a sign shows that he acknowledges the poor choices he’s made and the chosen profession he has selected. Since he idolizes Dave Singleman, another salesman, and he knows he won’t blossom into the successful image he always wanted to be. (200)3: Mythical Figures Willy mentions mythical figures many times. He mythologized people for what he thinks or wants them to be in order save his delusion. Dave Singleman is spoken like he is a is a legend and that his death was a beautiful death and noble as well. He compares his sons to the Greek figures Adonis and Hercules. Adonis was the favorite of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, and was a remarkable young beauty. Hercules was the son of Zeus and known as the strongest amongst mortals. Willy compares these two know to be physically attractive Gods to his two sons because he thought they were pinnacles of “personal attractiveness” and power though “well liked”-ness. Willy saw his two sons are the exact incarnation of the American Dream he wishes to achieve. This mythologizing was very nearsighted. Dave Singleman traveling salesman job was seen as amazing in Willy’s eyes, but in reality, it was the opposite. Singleman’s job was lonely, on-the-job, on-the-road which is what he was left to when he died. Willy tried to live up to the heroic statue he portrayed Singleman to be but he doesn’t realize he brought himself into a pathetic death and meaningless legacy. After his death, and Willy’s life insurance pays off, Biff still doesn’t want to live up to his father’s expectations. Similarly neither of the son’s lives are God-like or ideal and Happy does believe in the American Dream, and leads a life the is most like his father’s. (250)4: Stockings Willy seems to have some kind of fetish for stockings, reminding him of his mistress. Stockings mentioned early in the play seem to be foreshadowing to Biff’s discovery of Willy’s affair. Biff accused Willy of stealing his mother’s stockings and giving them to the Woman. Stockings could be a hint to sexual identity and the betrayal Willy did. Also, new stockings seem to be important to both Willy’s pride and being a financial success. This also shows guilt for not being able to pay for such basic necessities his family needs for basic survival, but he pays them to keep his ego boosted. The new stockings also symbolize that he is suppressing the guilt and memory of what he did and how his life instantly changed after being discovered by his eldest son. (133)5: The Rubber Hose stage prop This is a reminder of Willy’s attempts of suicide towards the audience. Willy seems to be desperate to die and has tried it for financial reasons, his $200,000 life insurance. One attempt involved inhaling gas, which in all irony is the exact substance essential to one of the basic elements which he needs for his family to be comfortable-heat. This is a parallel to Willy’s need to be financially avaliable for his family’s comfort. Willy struggles to afford heat for his family and the irony that what he needs the most is what he wanted to die from. (99)Review: In “The Death of a Salesman”, the story is clearly set in place and shows how family can push through hard times and that success shouldn’t be plan out so far ahead and that success is how you resent yourself. The play is extremely well written with plays on heartstrings and shows how important family is and is there when you need it. A key main theme is the loss of an identity, which relates to people who feel like they lost a piece of themselves as they grew older and when they need that piece, they can’t find it and they feel a loss of personal placement. This book also explains the troubles changing in a society when things were so used to having set ways and trying to relearn society’s changing rules. The book expressed its characters in amazing ways and the way each character plays a part in Willy’s life and how each one relates to the other and Willy is phenomenal. His two children represent the two sides of Willy he has, one he shows and one he doesn’t know he has. Biff was the great child and is representing what Willy is and presents himself as while Happy was casted off and he represents the side that Willy doesn’t know he has. Bernard represents the success Willy had for his children while Charley is Bernard’s father and is the closest and only friend Willy has. His wife and his mistress can be compared as his wife is the rock that he needs and strives for everyday and was always there till his death while his mistress was a way he can have a boost in his ego and self confidence and feel prouder of himself.The book also showed that people can take small things for granted and not see the big picture. Willy took granted his eldest son’s success and when his son lost faith in him from cheating, his son gave up his father’s dreams as “payback”. Willy didn’t see it as that but rather that his son failed him for no reason. Willy’s mental health deterioration is also a major key of the book. His mental health shows the deterioration of the standard salesman at that time. At this time, this was when phones became more popular, as mentioned in the book, and this is why Willy can’t get as much more money and things always get canceled on him. As the book goes on and his mental health goes down to the point he commits suicide by the end of the play, his job prospect goes down along with him. In general, this book on a five star scale is given a 4.7, due to the type of book I got was very clustered together and hard to follow with the clustered words and character names.