Death of a Salesman

Report
Death of a salesman
by: Arthur Miller
Chelsea Balaz, Maria Barton,
Crystal Sparrow, Rachel Walters,
Paige Bouley, and Katie Grasso
Setting
Present: 1941, New York City
Times are hard. Willy has many
regrets.
Flashbacks: 1928, New York City
Times were simpler, the boys were
young and Willy was on his way to the
top. Its where Willy believes he went
wrong.
Main Characters
 Willy
Loman: a 63 year old traveling
salesman working on commission. He
believes that if one is well liked, they will
succeed. Its more about personality then
intelligence. Willy has many flashbacks,
back to 1928, when he believed if he
would have made different choices, he
would be living the American dream. His
goal in life is to find diamonds, live the
American dream like his older brother Ben.
Main Characters
Loman: Willy’s oldest son that works
as a ranch hand in the west. As a
teenager, he was very popular and on the
football team. According to Willy, he
should have succeeded but he did not live
up to their expectations. He fights
constantly with his father when he
returned home.
 Biff
Main Characters
Loman: Willy’s youngest son of 32.
He lives in New York City with his parents.
He’s a womanizer and greatly influenced
by his father. He wants the American
dream.
 Linda Loman: Willy’s wife. She truly loves
Willy and her boys and just wants
everyone to get along. She sees the
situations most clearly.
 Happy
2 major characters in the Novel

Willy Loman can be looked at as a tragic hero.
He searches through his past and even tries to
gain success through his son’s, but in the end,
he fails. Willy makes himself and tries to get
others believe that he is more successful than
he truly is. Even though he has failed, in the end,
Willy takes an extreme sacrifice to give his
family the money they need. Three ways Arthur
Miller gets Willy’s character across to the reader
is through his flashbacks, his suicide and the
attempts, and lastly by questioning his past.

The flashbacks allow the reader to understand
who Willy was and still is. It shows how he
raised his children and all the mistakes he
made. He raised his sons to think that being
“well liked” was the most important thing. Also,
he had an affair, which Biff came to realize and it
caused him to not go to summer school, which
one could argue, ultimately led to Biff’s “failure”.
Also, while the kids were growing up, Happy
didn’t receive as much praise and such by Willy,
which continued on into his older age.

Happy now compensates that feeling by getting
attention from women. Willy also tried to kill
himself by crashing the car, hooking a tube up to
the gas tank or other ways. He eventually did kill
himself just to get money from the insurance for
his family. Lastly, Willy questions a lot of his
past. An example is why he didn’t choose to go
with Ben to Alaska. All of these examples show
who Willy is as a character.
Biff Loman is the opposite of his father. He is able to accept
the failure in his life and has come to realize that he would
rather be out west on a ranch. While he was growing up,
his father always praised him and told him to be well liked.
In the end, it all fell apart for him. Ever since Biff found out
about Willy’s affair, it had changed how he looked at his
father. It even affected his future because he ended up not
going to summer school and never going to college.
Biff’s character is created through finding out
about his father’s affair, his being able to accept the truth and
truly know what he wants and actually caring about his parents.
Biff knows that he doesn’t want to be part of the business world
like Happy and Willy. He wants to be out west, where he can be
free and be outside. Though he wants this, his father wants to
gain success through Biff, which doesn’t really fit in Biff’s plans.
Also, even though Biff leads a different life than his family’s, he
still cares about his parents.

Willy Loman returns home in Brooklyn one night,
after a bad sales trip. His wife, Linda, tries to get
him to ask his boss, Howard Wagner, if he can
work in New York. Willy then complains that Biff,
has yet to make something of himself. Linda tells
Willy to not be so critical. As Willy talks to
himself in the kitchen, Biff and his brother Happy
talk about their childhoods and think about
buying a ranch out west. Now Willy goes into a
flashback. He is talking to his sons and tells
them he is going to open a business.

Charley’s son Bernard (the neighbors), then
enters looking for Biff to tell him to study for
math so he doesn’t fail. Willy tells the boys that
Bernard is smart but not “well liked”. Now Linda
enters. Willy tells her about his successful sales
trip, but Linda finds out that is wasn’t that
successful. As Linda tries to make him feel
better, Willy hears a woman laughing. Willy then
has a flashback within the flashback he is
already in, of when he flirted with a woman and
gave her stockings.
That flashback ends and Willy sees Linda mending stockings and
makes her get rid of them. Linda reminds Willy that Biff has to return
a ball that he stole. The flashback ends but Willy continues to talk to
himself. Then Happy comes downstairs to calm Willy. Willy then
goes off on how he should have gone to Alaska with his brother
Ben. Charley then enters the scene because he hears all the noise
and it leads to Willy and Charley playing cards. Charley then offers
Willy a job, but Willy won’t except and gets insulted. The two
continue to argue as Willy sees Ben.
Willy tries to continue a conversation
with Ben and Charley. Charley gets
confused and questions him but Willy yells
at Charley and then he leaves. It is now
another flashback. The Linda meets Ben for
the first time. While they all talk, Ben is
impatient to leave. Charley and Bernard also
enter the flashback and tell Willy that his
sons are stealing lumber.

Back in the present, Linda enters to find Willy outside.
Biff and Happy then join Linda and talk about Willy’s
problems. Linda scolds Biff for judging Willy harshly.
Linda then brings up that Willy has tried to kill himself.
Happy comes up with the idea that Biff and him work
together and start a sporting goods business. They tell
Willy and this makes him happy. Biff also plans to get
money from his old boss Bill Oliver. In the morning, Willy
thinks of the future that seems to be bright, but then gets
mad about how expensive his appliances are. Linda tells
Willy that Biff and Happy are taking him out to dinner that
night. Willy is now excited again and decides he will talk
to his boss about working in NYC.
The scene then shifts to Willy’s boss, Howard playing
with a recorder. When Willy finally gets to ask about his
job in between Howard showing off his recorder, Howard
rejects the idea. Willy then tells Howard about a
salesman named Dave Singleman who inspired him to
go into sales. Howard decides to tell Willy to take some
time off. When Howard leaves, Ben enters, asking Willy
to go with him to Alaska. This is another flashback. Then
Biff enters, and Willy praises Biff’s on the fact that he is
well liked. Ben then leaves and Bernard enters, waiting
for Biff’s football game.
Charley enters and teases Willy about the game. The flashback
ends but as Willy continues yelling from offstage, Jenny, Charley’s
secretary, asks Bernard to make him quiet. Willy enters and talks
about a “very big deal” that Biff is going to get. Willy ends up talking
to Bernard who became a successful lawyer and Willy asks Bernard
why Biff turned out to be a failure. Bernard in return asks Willy what
happened to Biff in Boston that made him decide to not go to
summer school for math. Willy defensively tells Bernard not to blame
him. Charley then enters and when Willy asks for more money than
is usually loaned to him, Charley offers Willy a job again. Willy again
refuses and tells Charley that he was fired. Charley gives him some
money and Willy calls him his only friend. When the scene shifts to
them out at dinner, Happy helps Stanley, a waiter, prepare a table.
The two talk with a girl named Miss Forsythe.

Biff then enters, and Happy introduces him to Miss Forsythe. Biff
then says that he waited many hours for Bill Oliver and he didn’t
even recognize him. Biff was so upset that he stole a pen. He also
found out he wasn’t a sales clerk. Willy now enters, and Biff tries to
tell him what happened at Oliver’s office but Happy doesn’t want him
to. Willy then says that he was fired. Still Biff tries to tell his father of
the bad news but Happy still tries to make Willy believe good news
is coming. Biff finally yells at Willy for not being able to listen. Willy
then drifts into a flashback. Bernard enters looking for Linda.
Bernard tells Linda that Biff failed math. The flashback starts to go
away and Willy criticizes Biff for failing math. Willy then hears the
voice of the hotel operator in Boston and yells. Biff tries to calm Willy
and claims that Oliver is talking to his partner about giving Biff the
money. Willy’s renewed interest and questions upset Biff more, and
he screams at Willy. Willy then hears the woman laugh and he yells
at Biff. Miss Forsythe re enters with another girl names Letta. Biff
helps Willy to the bathroom.
 When
Biff leaves the bathroom he finds
Happy flirting with the girls and argues
with him about Willy. Biff leaves the
restaurant angered and Happy follows with
the girls. Willy goes into another flashback.
The woman enters, dressing themselves
and flirting. When the door knocks, Willy
hurries her into the bathroom. When Willy
answers the door he sees Biff who tells
him he failed math.
 Willy
tries to get him to leave, the woman
comes out and Willy tries to cover up the
situation, but Biff refuses to believe his
stories and leaves very upset. The
flashback ends and Willy is still in the
restaurant. Stanley helps Willy up. Willy
then finds out his sons left and Willy asks
him where he can find a seed store.
Stanley gives him directions to one and
Willy leaves.
 In
the next scene, the boys try to find
Linda. In the living room they find her. At
this point, Linda is furious and yells at the
boys and slaps away the flowers in
Happy’s hand. She is very upset about
them leaving Willy. They try to calm her
and look for Willy. They find him planting in
the garden.
 Willy
is talking to Ben. Linda then tells the
boys they need to leave and can’t come
back. When Biff goes to say goodbye to
Willy, Willy thinks Biff wants to tell Linda
about the affair. Happy tries to calm Biff,
but Biff and Willy yell at each other.
 Biff
starts to cry, which touches Willy.
Everyone goes to bed except Willy, who
continues to talk to Ben. When Linda calls
out for Willy but gets no response, they
hear Willy’s car speed away. In the
requiem, Linda and Happy stand in shock
after Willy’s poorly attended funeral.
 Biff
says that Willy had the wrong dreams.
Charley defends Willy. Biff decides to go
back west and invites Happy to go with
him. Happy says that he will stay in NYC
to validate Willy’s death. Linda asks Willy
for forgiveness for being unable to cry.
She begins to sob over his grave tell him
that they are free.
Major Conflicts
Willy Within Himself
After reading the play Death of a Salesman by
Arthur Miller, one of the major conflicts that is
developed throughout the play is the conflict
within the main character Willy. Willy ‘s major
conflict is that he is unsuccessful in fulfilling his
depiction of the “American Dream”. He believed
that if he was a hard worker who was well liked
he would climb the ladder of success, just like his
older brother Ben, who had easily reached the
“American Dream”. When Willy was
unsuccessful in achieving his goal, he turned to
his two sons, Biff and Happy Loman. Willy
thought that if he raised successful children he
would then be seen as a successful father ,
ultimately fulfilling the “American Dream”. As
the play continues we see that Willy is not
successful when raising his children. He
teaches them the wrong morals, unlike his
neighbor Charley, who raises a very successful
son Bernard. Willy ‘s flashbacks incorporate
many of the unsuccessful morals and ethics that
he taught to his sons.
Willy versus Biff
In the play Death of a Salesman,
Biff and Willy both develop
different opinions pertaining to
their future. Biff as an adult
became a farm hand and is not
very successful, but he enjoys
being outside and working with his
hands. This affects Willy because
he looks at Biff as a popular high
school student who has the
potential of becoming something
better than a farm hand. This is
where the conflict develops from.
Biff is happy with what he has
become and is very content to be
free.
Major Conflicts Continued
Willy tries to find a way to redeem himself and
make the “American Dream” come true for his
sons, but is not successful. His flashbacks also
incorporate other choices that he had made in
the past that he now regrets. He believed that
many of these decisions had caused him to
become unsuccessful. These flashbacks show
Willy’s constant battle within himself to become
the ideal “American Dream”. Willy can be seen
as both the protagonist and the antagonist .
He can be seen as the positive heroic
character because he is not willing to except
defeat and he continues to push towards his
goal, despite his multiple failed attempts and
poor decisions. Willy can also be seen as the
antagonist because of his self doubt that
causes him not achieve the “American Dream”.
His flashbacks of his poor decision show that
these are his own downfalls.
On the other side, Willy had high
hope for Biff to be a success in the
business world. Willy is very
insistent on Biff’s success because he
believes if Biff become a successful
salesman, then Willy will achieve his
goal of the “American Dream”. Biff
can be seen as the protagonist who
is striving to have his father except
him for who he has become, even if it
might not be the perfect “American
Dream”. Willy can be seen as the
antagonist because creates
obstacles that Biff has to overcome.
Willy does not want Biff to fall short of
his expectations that fulfill the
“American Dream”
Resolution of the Conflict
Willy within Himself
The conflict within Willy ultimately ends
when he commits suicide by crashing his
car. The outcome of his death is the
hope that his family will get money from
the life insures that will help them live
better. Willy ends the conflict within
himself also because he no longer is
battling to achieve the “American
Dream”. He has finally ended the conflict
by taking the easy way out and
committing suicide.
Willy versus Biff
The conflict between Willy and Biff
ultimately ends when Willy commits
suicide. At Willy’s funeral, Biff
states how Willy was so much
happier when he was working with
his hands, than as a salesman. He
also states that Willy had all the
wrong dreams during his life
because he was unsure of who he
was.
Resolutions Continued
As a result of his death, Biff has
realized that he is going to go back
to the country and become a farm
hand once again. He realizes that
this is what makes him happy, even
thought it did not fill his fathers
expectations. Happy, on the other
hand, wants to make his father
proud by living up to his dream of
becoming a successful salesman.
Charley’s response to his death, is
to highlight Willy’s constant struggle
and optimism as a salesman.
Linda’s reaction is that Willy is on
another trip and that he is free.
Instead of following his heart, he
concentrated to strongly on
fulfilling the “American Dream”.
Biff learned a lesson from his
father, which was that he should
follow his heart and dreams. Biff
now realized who is really is, which
is something that Willy was never
successful in achieving. This
supports Biffs decision to go back
to the country and be a farm hand.
2 Quotes in the work
1st quote: “I’m- I’m ashamed to. how can I
mention it to him? every day I take away
that little rubber pipe. But, when he comes
home, I put it back where it was. How can
I insult him that way? I don’t know what to
do. I live from day to day, boys.
1st quote continued
I
tell you, I know every thought in his mind.
It sounds so old-fashioned and silly, but I
tell you he put his whole life into you and
you’ve turned your backs on him. Biff, I
swear to god! Biff his life is in your hands!”
(Miller- 59-60)
1st quote explained
 This
quote is stated by linda to her two
sons, Biff and Happy. I would consider this
quote to be significant because it shows
how willy, the man of the house, is
suicidal. Willy being suicidal has a large
impact on this book. Willy’s whole life he
has been kidding himself on his
achievements and made his family think
that he was better than he was.
Willy knows this, however he will never
admit this to his family nor himself. He has
literally convinced himself that he was
successful in business, when the reality is
the contrary. Willy feels he is worth more dead than
alive, so he tries to commit suicide and get
the insurance money for his family. He also feels
that if he gets the insurance money, it will somehow
get biff into the business world and make up for the
mistakes he has made in life.

 2nd
quote:
 Biff: “you fake! You phony little fake! You
fake!!
 Willy: “I gave you an order! Biff, come
back here or I’ll beat you! Come back
here! I’ll whip you!” (miller 121)

This quote shows a flashback when biff, wills
elder son, figures out that his own father had
been cheating on his mother every time that he
went on business trips. Willy feels that biff never
made it in business because he was spiting his
father for the cheating. Biff doesn’t feel that he
has done this.
 Willy
wants to kill himself so bad that so
he can fix the fact that he cheated on his
wife and fix other mistakes by making biff
use the insurance money to be
successful in business. Biff being
successful would make up for the fact
that he was supposedly spiting will for
cheating.
Major Themes
 American
Dream
 Illusion vs. Reality
The American Dream
Willy believes wholeheartedly in what he considers the promise of the
American Dream. Willy’s American Dream consists of a well liked and
personally attractive man in business, unquestionably and deservedly,
being able to acquire any and all of the material comforts offered in the
modern American life. However, his obsession with the superficial
qualities of attractiveness and likeability contradicts the persevering,
more rewarding idea of the American Dream. This American Dream
identifies hard work without complaint as the key to success. This
makes Willy’s interpretation of the Dream much more superficial. Willy’s
blind faith in his skewed version of the American Dream leads to his
psychological decline and suicide. He is unable to accept the gap
between the American Dream and the successes of his own life.

Thesis Statement: Throughout the play Willy has tried
to live up to his version of the American Dream, a goodlooking, well-liked man, while at the same time trying to
push his sons into his interpretation.
Examples:
1.
Willy’s brother Ben represents the American
Dream. When Ben was only seventeen he
“walked into the jungle” and when he was only
twenty-one he walked back out, rich. This is
what Willy believes as achieving the American
Dream. Ben was a rich man, meaning he had
succeeded in the eyes of Willy. Throughout the
novel Willy continuously tells his sons,
especially Biff, of what his brother had done.
He also, has many flashbacks to Ben, asking
him for help. Willy looks at Ben as being the
symbol of his American Dream.
2.
Bernard is a character in the play who Willy looks
down upon. Bernard is more of a nerd, who doesn’t
have many friends and spends most of his time doing
school work. On the other hand he believes his son,
Biff, to be the epitome of his American Dream. Biff was
always well liked in school as the quarterback of the
football team, and was good-looking. However,
Bernard is the one who becomes extremely
successful, while Biff struggles in life. Biff begins to
work on a ranch out west, making Willy believe his son
is not at all successful. In his mind Biff did not succeed
in the American Dream. This is why Willy continues to
push Biff to talk to his former boss, Bill Oliver. Willy
believes that since Biff was once so liked Bill will open
his arms to Biff and do whatever he can for him. But,
Willy’s perception of the American Dream was wrong,
and Bill does not help Biff at all.
3. At the end of the play Willy commits
suicide. Willy does this for the American
Dream. Willy believes that once he dies
all his insurance money will be left to Biff.
This way Biff will be successful and in
turn Willy would have been successful in
raising his son. With the money left to
Biff he will be rich, and would have
achieved the American Dream.
Illusion Vs. Reality

A major theme in the play is illusion vs. reality. Though Linda, Biff and Happy are all unable
to separate reality from illusion to some degree, Willy is the main character who suffers
from this ailment. For years, Willy has believed that both he and his sons, especially Biff,
will one day be great successes. Though he's a disrespected salesman, he calls himself
the "New England man." Though Biff has done nothing with his life by the age of thirty-four,
Willy tells others and tries to make himself believe that his son is doing big things out
west. Willy's brother, Ben, continually appears in the troubled man's mind, offering hints
on how to make it in the world of business. Willy feels that he must live up to the standard
that Ben has set, but this is found to be impossible by the end of the play. Willy's frequent
flashbacks to past events, many of which are completely or partly fabricated, demonstrate
that he is having difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what he wishes were
real. Willy's imagined conversations with his dead brother, Ben, also demonstrate his
fragile grip on reality. Willy's mind is full of delusions about his own abilities and
accomplishments and the abilities and accomplishments of his sons. Biff and Happy share
their father's tendency to invent grand schemes for themselves and think of themselves as
superior to others without any real evidence that the schemes will work or that they are,
indeed, superior. Only Biff ever realizes who he is and what his potential really is. He is
the only member of the family who is able to finally escape the illusions.
Thesis Statement: Throughout the play the Loman family must come to
grips with the various illusions Willy has created for the family, hoping to
find the reality in life.
Examples:
1.
Willy’s job is a cause for a confusion between illusion
vs. reality. Willy says that he once was a big time
salesman, the person who opened all the doors the the
New England territory. Willy has made himself seem
like a huge success in the sales world, making Linda,
Biff, and Happy believe that he has achieved the
American Dream. He then uses this to try and force his
sons into his theory of the American Dream, especially
Biff. For years Willy has created a false image for
himself, making himself seem as a salesman in
demand, when in reality he was washed up. This is
shown when Willy goes to Howard about his job, but is
fired. This is the reality of what Willy is to the sales
world. All of his illusions of how great he was come to
heads, as he is faced with the reality that his career is
over.
1.
Willy’s sons cause for a difference between what
is real and not. Willy looks at his sons as great,
successful boys, when in reality they have not
achieved all that he had hoped. Biff has gone out
west to work on a ranch. However, Willy tells
others that Wily is doing big things out west, going
into business out there. Willy has also created an
illusion about Biff’s past job with Bill Oliver. Willy
had the illusion Biff was an extremely well liked,
influential man in the business world. However, all
Biff really was nothing to the company, so little that
Bill Oliver wouldn’t even see Biff when he came
back.
1.
At the end of the play Biff is the only family member
who is able to realize what is real and what is not. Biff
realizes who he is, and that’s not a successful
business man. Biff likes and wants to work out west,
and he has come to accept that. He doesn’t want to
live up to all the dreams of Willy anymore, he knows
who he is. He also realizes who Willy is. He says Willy
is “a dime a dozen,” showing the Biff realizes Willy
wasn’t all he made them believe. Biff understands that
Willy made the wrong choices in life, he followed the
illusions of the American Dream. And now that Biff
realized this, he knew that he wouldn’t be like Willy. He
would live his own live, however he wanted

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