The importance of family relationships in Arthur Miller’s play ‘Death of a salesman’

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In this essay I will be looking at the importance of family relationships in Arthur Miller’s play ‘Death of a salesman’ and in particular Willy’s relationships with his two sons Biff and Happy. I will also look at how the scene of the Chophouse is so significant in terms of relationships and to the play as a whole. Arthur Miller was born in New York in 1915.

His father was an Austrian who had moved to America prior to Miller’s birth in order to full fill the “Great American Dream”.The American dream is the chance to achieve great things with hard work and a belief in one self where by they can achieve their ambitions of wealth and personal status. His father had a prosperous lifestyle running a successful family business in manufacturing clothing. This allowed Miller to have everything he wanted at a young age.

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But before Miller was about to begin university his father, like many other successful people at that time, lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929. This meant that Miller had to pay his own way through university by taking a variety of jobs.At the age of 17 he started to write the book ‘Death of a salesman’ and even though he started to write the book at such an early age it wasn’t published until 1949. His background and experience influenced the themes of the play so if Miller had a different background the chances are he would of never wrote the book ‘Death of a salesman’.

Willy is the tragic hero but not in same way as Shakespeare’s tragic heroes. If there were a tragic hero in a Shakespeare play they would have to be of noble birth. They must have a flaw in their character; fall in love to easily quickly and deeply.They and people around them must learn from their mistakes and finally they must die as a result of the flaw in their character.

Willy doesn’t fit into all of these sections because he isn’t of noble birth. Miller said ‘It matter not at all if a modern play concerns itself with a grocer or a president, whether the hero falls from a great height or a small one’. Shakespeare’s heroes were also motivated by high passions such as greed and ambition but Miller thinks that none of those motivations are greater than Willy’s determination to be well liked.Willy does learn from some of his mistakes he learns at the end of the play that Biff does forgive him for his affair with the woman.

Linda doesn’t learn anything from all Willy’s mistakes and never understands why Willy killed himself. Happy vowed that he would continue to try and realise his father’s dream. Willy does die, as a tragic hero must. He commits suicide to claim his life insurance that he gives to his son Biff his money so he can start his on business.

Willy does have a flaw in his haracter his flaw is that he wants his two sons to be just like him and he won’t stop until they are successful salesmen.This has led to his downfall because he wanted to give them something. “I’ve got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing’s planted.

I don’t have a thing in the ground. ” All he wanted to do was leave something behind he wanted some money to give to his son and to get money he would have to die so he killed himself just to try and get his son to become a salesman.He didn’t care if his family would fall apart without him he cared more about leaving money for his sons so they could become well respected salesmen. Biff is Willy’s favourite son but he can’t live up to what Willy wants him to, also he cant share Willy’s ambitions for the future because all Biff wants to do is work outside and do what he loves.

Willy refuses to face the fact that Biff wont become a great man and wont be able to follow in his father’s footsteps.Willy’s hopes are so closely associated with Biff that he seems unable to remember for long that Biff is a mature man, able of making his own decisions. Biff felt like he let down his dad because he wasn’t a salesman like his father. He didn’t want to become a salesman even though this was his dad’s wish.

“Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am! Why can’t I say that, Willy? The Chop-House scene is the main scene in all of the play ‘Death of a salesman’.In this scene we find out why Biff hates Willy so much. We find this out because Biff walks in on Willy having an affair. Before this scene Miller uses a number of occasions to help build tension between Biff and Willy, for instance Biff walks in and sees Linda sowing up her stockings because she doesn’t have any new ones but Biff remembers that when Willy had the affair he gave a new pair of stockings to the woman he had the affair with.

They symbolize Willy’s unfaithfulness and lack of care for his own wife. Tension builds up through out the whole play. You can tell that something happened when Biff was younger but you can’t quite tell what it was. “We never told the truth in the house for ten minutes.

” After the Chop-House scene everything changes especially between Willy and Biff they become friendlier towards each other and start to realize how much they need each other. Willy learns that Biff loves him and forgives him for his earlier mistake in the affair with the Woman. Isn’t that — isn’t that remarkable? Biff — he likes me!” In conclusion Willy’s relationship with his son, especially Biff, has changed a lot throughout the play. Willy, a tragic hero, never stops wanting his sons to be like him and become successful salesmen and in the end he goes over the top and kills himself just to leave something behind for his son Biff.

The Chop-House scene is the key to the whole play, in this pivotal scene everyone’s feelings toward each other begin to change for the better.

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The importance of family relationships in Arthur Miller’s play ‘Death of a salesman’. (2017, Dec 23). Retrieved from

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