PowerPoint Presentation - Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
PowerPoint Presentation - Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
What is symbolism…?
“I don’t have a thing in the ground!”
Willy laments after both his sons abandon him in Act 2 The sons he
has cultivated with his own values have grown to disappoint him, none
of his financial hopes have borne fruit, and he is desperate to have
some tangible result of a lifetime of work.
By planting vegetable seeds, he is attempting to begin anew. But as
Linda gently reminds him, the surrounding buildings don’t provide
enough light for a garden.
Willy’s attempt to plant the vegetable seeds at night further reinforces
the futility of his efforts.
The rubber hose is a symbol of Willy’s impending suicide.
Linda finds it hidden behind the fuse box in the cellar, and the “new
little nipple” she finds on the gas pipe of the water heater leads her to
the conclusion that Willy had planned to inhale gas.
Like Willy’s other attempted method of suicide—driving off the road in
the car he uses to travel to work—the rubber hose points how the
conveniences such as the car and water heater that Willy works so
hard to buy to afford might, under their surface, be killing him.
During his affair with The Woman, Willy gives her the intimate gift of
Biff’s outburst at discovering Willy with The Woman—“You gave her
Mama’s stockings!”—fixes the stockings in Willy’s mind as a symbol of
He has let his wife down emotionally, and he is siphoning the family’s
already strained financial resources toward his ego-stroking affair.
The flute music that drifts through the play represents the single faint
link Willy has with his father and with the natural world.
The elder Loman made flutes, and was apparently able to make a good
living by simply traveling around the country and selling them.
This anticipates Willy’s career as a salesman, but also his underused
talent for building things with his hands, which might have been a
more fulfilling job.
The flute music is the sound of the road Willy didn’t take.
Driving himself to death.
We learn from Linda that Willy has staged several previous car
accidents. These "accidents" were perhaps early attempts to commit
suicide, but they were definitely attempts to draw attention to his
The car represents power, movement forward, acceleration and
mobility - all of which are symbols in Willy's life of hopelessness, decay,
It should therefore come as no surprise that Willy considers this
vehicle as an instrument with which to kill himself.
Symbolic of Biff's inadequacies.
Absurdity of theft, the demeaning quality of taking from someone
something which you do not need.
Biff has lived a life based on Willy's values, but when he discovers that
these values are not good for him, he abandons them in search of his
The pen can therefore also be seen as the symbol of someone else's
values, of someone else's possessions. Biff discards it in favor of
integrity and belief in himself.
He wishes to get rid of his life-long habit of taking from others (such as
the football back in high school). He has spent time in prison, and this
symbolically represents how he has spent much of his life imprisoned
by his father's mentality.
TITLE of the PLAY
Willy uses the phrase “death of a salesman” when he
refers to Dave Singleman, the superior salesman who
achieves the kind of respect that has always eluded
Dave died on a business trip, and his funeral was
attended by hundreds of buyers and fellow salesmen
from several states. Willy hoped for a similar fate.
When we contrast Willy’s death and funeral with
Dave’s, we realize how completely Willy failed at
achieving his dreams. Willy’s funeral is attended
only by his immediate family, Charley, and Bernard.
What genre of play is this…?
- Downfall of a noble hero or heroine, through fate,
and the will of the gods.
- The tragic hero's powerful wish to achieve some goal
encounters limits, usually human frailty (flaws in reason,
society), the gods (through oracles, prophets, fate), or
- Aristotle says that the tragic hero should have a flaw
and/or make some mistake.
- The hero need not die at the end, but he / she must
undergo a change in fortune.
- - The tragic hero may achieve some revelation or
recognition about human fate, destiny, and the will of
Characteristics of the Tragic Hero
"A man doesn't become a hero until he can see the root of
his own downfall."
Six Characteristics of the Tragic Hero:
Nobility or wisdom (by birth)
A flaw or error of judgment (Hamartia)
A reversal of fortune (perepetia)
The discovery or recognition that the reversal was
brought about by the hero's own actions (anagnorisis)
The audience must feel dramatic irony for the
The character's fate must be greater than deserved.
A few key traits of the T.H.
Usually evokes empathy…
Has a weakness, usually pride
Something has gone awry in his/her life
Usually faced with a very serious decision he
Noble in nature
Must understand his mistakes…
Likely doomed from the start…
Begins his “journey” as no better or worse
than the rest of us…
The Common Man as Hero
“Everyone knows Willy Loman.”
The common man is suitable for a
Willy is meant to be seen as greater
and better (at least in potential) than
Miller’s Modern Tragedy
hero is a common man.
hero struggles against society.
hero meets his downfall.
downfall is a result of an
incongruity between his own perception
of the world and reality.
The hero achieves a kind of redemption
in his downfall.
Miss Forsythe and
Father, traveling salesman
Believes in chasing the American
Dream although he never achieves
Pins his failed hopes on his sons,
Biff and Happy
Becomes mentally ill when pressure
of reality crushes his illusions
Elder son, 34 years old
High school standout-football star, many
male friends, and female admirers
Academic failures lead to a life of
Represents Willy’s vulnerable, tragic side
Fails to reconcile his father’s
Loving, devoted wife
Naïve and realistic of Willy’s hopes
Emotionally supportive of Willy
Willy’s strength until his tragic
Younger son, 32 years old
In Biff’s shadow all his life
Relentless sex and professional drive
Represents Willy’s sense of self
importance and ambition
Often engages in bad business ethics
The Lomans’ next door neighbor
Often gives Willy financial support
Described sadly as Willy’s only
friend although Willy is jealous of
Often mocked by Willy for being
Compared to Loman sons by Willy;
they do not measure up to his
Willy’s deceased older brother
Appears to Willy in daydreams
Willy’s symbol of success that he
desperately wants for his sons
Her admiration for Willy is an ego
Biff catches Willy with her in a hotel
Biff loses faith in his father due to