Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman Essay

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

I found Death of a Salesman to be a sad play, but I don’t feel that it sends quite the message that Arthur Miller wanted it to send.  Although Willy Loman is supposed to be a tragic hero, he strikes me as being simply “tragic.”  A hero is supposed to have some likeable characteristics, or at least characteristics that make the reader want to pull for him or her, but Willy, who emotionally abuses his children, cheats on his wife, and dreams his life away doesn’t seem particularly likeable.

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The sad thing for Willy is that while he’s been chasing his version of the American Dream and living in the world that he’s created for himself, his family is actually slipping away from him.  His boys are not the boys he expected to have when he was grooming Biff or Happy for success.  Biff is the antithesis of his father; not only does he speak out against his father at Frank’s Chop House in a direct way that his father would never imagine, but he also lacks ambition of any kind.  Yet Biff parrots his father’s thoughts about success, confusing material things with achievement - Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman Essay introduction. Even when Biff is happy and is making twenty-eight dollars a week he feels that he is living the wrong kind of life.  Despite his satisfaction, he wonders what he is doing with himself on a farm “playing with horses” and “come[s] running home” only to find himself at a loss at what to do once he gets there (Miller 24).  Happy also shows that he will perpetuate Willy’s chain of failure.  When he dreams of boxing with the merchandise manager, Happy shows that he repeats his father’s choice to live with a fantasy of what he “could” do, rather than taking action to make his life better in reality.

Death of a Salesman made me think about life on a number of levels.  It’s great to have money and material success, like Willy dreamed of, but sometimes it is better to put that aside for personal happiness.  Willy and his family are also a good example of how people can get trapped in the past and how children can get caught up in trying to live their parents’ dreams.  Death of a Salesman is not a comfortable play to read and the characters might not be particularly likable ones.  However, it is an excellent statement of how the American Dream often fails the average American, a statement with relevance even today.

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