PowerPoint Presentation - Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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Transcript 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.
Rubber Pipe
Rubber Pipe
 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
his betrayal.
 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,
and despair.
 It should therefore come as no surprise that Willy considers this
vehicle as an instrument with which to kill himself.
Fountain Pen
Fountain Pen
 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.
 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.
Tragedy Continued…
- 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
the gods.
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
must make
 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
Miller’s thoughts:
 “Everyone knows Willy Loman.”
 The common man is suitable for a
tragic hero.
 Willy is meant to be seen as greater
and better (at least in potential) than
his society.
Miller’s Modern Tragedy
 The
 The
 The
 The
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.
Major Characters
 Willy Loman
 Biff Loman
 Linda Loman
 Happy Loman
 Charley
 Bernard
 Ben
 The Woman
 Howard Wagner
 Stanley
 Jenny
 Miss Forsythe and
Willy Loman
 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
Biff Loman
 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
Linda Loman
 Loving, devoted wife
 Naïve and realistic of Willy’s hopes
 Emotionally supportive of Willy
 Willy’s strength until his tragic
Happy Loman
 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
 Successful businessman
 Often gives Willy financial support
 Described sadly as Willy’s only
friend although Willy is jealous of
Charley’s success
 Charley’s son
 Successful lawyer
 Often mocked by Willy for being
 Compared to Loman sons by Willy;
they do not measure up to his
 Willy’s deceased older brother
 Independently wealthy
 Appears to Willy in daydreams
 Willy’s symbol of success that he
desperately wants for his sons
The Woman
 Willy’s mistress
 Her admiration for Willy is an ego
 Biff catches Willy with her in a hotel
 Biff loses faith in his father due to