Death of a Salesman Concepts

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“The work by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman, conveys a concept of conflict between father and son that shapes the primary meaning and describes different events occurring throughout the author’s work. Miller’s action comes as a tragic tale about Willy Loman, who desperately seeks success in America, a country known for limitless opportunities (Miller, 1949). A few individuals manage to achieve the American dream, but unfortunately for Willy, he fails to attain the lofty goals. In his journey blinded by the desire to reach riches, Willy loses sight of the most important in life.

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Willy’s wishes and dreams negatively interfere with his relationship with his family. Death of a Salesman comes as a modern-day tale that reveals the American dream tragic side.

The American dream counts as the freedom of any citizen in the United States to pursue their life desires, no matter the loftiness of their dreams, through free choice and hard-work. In reality, few individuals attain great success, and the majority find that the American dream is merely a dream (Heyen, 1988). Either individual fail to put enough effort or make bad choices in the process. In the work of Miller, Willy Loman counts as one of the majority Americans who has failed to achieve the American dream due to modernistic behaviors; low self-esteem, self-absorption, love for money and blind hero-worshipping.

Money over Love

The thought of the American dream brings hope among citizens of the US or those seeking citizenship there. However, many individuals become extremely clouded by the end product of their efforts and in the process lose focus of the vital things in their lives such as family (Heyen, 1988). Miller denotes how individuals clash with the materialistic American dream. The misguided notion of success which results in disillusionment causes the downfall of Willy Loman (Miller, 1949). The love of money strongly motivates Willy’s goals and causes him to neglect his family (Miller, 1949; Heyen, 1988). The desire for money keeps Willy away from realizing the value of human experience through comfort brought about by love and relationship with family and friends. Willy actions show that he believes that money provides life satisfaction; thus, focuses on financial success and ignores his family, who should have come first.

Willy loves his family because all the efforts focus on making life better for them but unfortunately he is misguided. Willy desperately desires for riches and ends up making sacrifices for the sake of his wife and children (Miller, 1949). For instance, Willy chooses to stay with his family rather than going to a financial opportunity adventure with Ben. However, thoughts of money preoccupy him despite being aware of the importance of his family. The love for money over-shadows him and feels a sense of shame because of his lack of attaining same riches as his father and brother (Witalec, 2004). Eventually, the financial preoccupation defeats Willy because of his wrong decision of placing high significance on money than family. Willy misinterprets what to put first when he realizes that real value lies in becoming a good father and instead sacrifices his time to give his son material wealth that he desired rather than spending more of it with him.

In one aspect, Willy realizes the need to have a better relationship with his son, but the love of money still blinds him and believes the better way is giving him blessing through riches. Willy Loman believes that he was taking the right step by committing suicide to ultimately give his children his life insurance money (Witalec, 2004). As a result, Willy makes a huge mistake by taking away the most valuable thing to his family, himself.

Modern Fractured Mind

In Willy’s mind existed fragments of truths whereby he realizes the need to have his family closer rather than focusing on money. For instance, when Willy’ wife notifies him that they have almost paid off the house and he states that “…work a lifetime to pay off…finally, own it, and there’s nobody to live in it” (Miller, 1949, p2330). At this point, Willy realizes the work he has done to get material wealth he desired over his life, and now he has no children around to enjoy and play around with him because they are now adults. When Willy makes the statement, he speaks with bitterness over the time he missed out on his family due to his work. Willy’s wife, Lynda, reiterates the sentiments later with sadness because, in spite of owning the house, she is alone. Observably, Lynda remains a victim since she would rather have Willy than holding the home.

Unfortunately, insecurities and self-absorption blinded Willy from seeing and understanding his value to his family and instead only sees Lynda as support and foundation towards his financial endeavors (Miller, 1949, p2331). Willy looks at the benefits he gets from Lynda and fails to recognize his value towards his family and what he means to them. As a result, Willy Loman fails to fulfill the symbiotic relationship that people experience in marriages. Rather than noticing his worth within his family’s lives, Willy continuous with his journey of seeking importance in the world. Willy seeks approval of his appearance and personality such as physical characteristics and how he appeals to the world, for example, his statement “I am fat. I am very foolish to look at…” (Miller, 1949, p2341) The characteristics described by Willy are the same the world judges one with; whereas individuals need to realize that their true treasure lies within unobservable things such as love (Witalec, 2004). Because of self-absorption, Willy desires to be “well-liked” and often over-looks his wife’s love even though she continuously reminds him.


The primary reason for Willy’s inability to observe his life from a different point of view comes from self-absorption. Willy makes decisions and takes actions and fails to reflect first on repercussions they may have on others and consequently his (Witalec, 2004). One of the greatest selfish decisions is when Willy cheats on his wife and bases the argument on loneliness for his wife. According to work presented by Miller, the woman makes Willy feel like an essential and powerful salesman. Willy looks at his benefits and seeks affirmation and carnal pleasure, which seems as the modernism experiences aimed by individuals seeking the American dream (Heyen, 1988). Willy’s children, Biff and Happy, had idolized him but his betrayal makes them more emotional since Biff is an adolescent. The trust given to Willy by Biff becomes misplaced. Whatever Willy thought made him feel successful now makes him feel insecure regarding aspects of fatherhood and as a husband.

Willy’s greatest insecurity comes as he feels less successful than what he had thought. He is disabled with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority which drives him to destruction (Witalec, 2004). Willy’s view of success based on his father, Ben his older brother, and Dave Singleman. The three men represent what Willy idolizes in life. Willy’s father comes to picture when Ben describes him as a “great inventor” whereby Ben seems to insult Willy that he could never be as successful as their father (Miller, 1949). Since Willy idolizes the two and he tends to think it is true. Idolization of Ben hinders Willy’s quest for the American dream. Ben symbolizes what Willy desires, and he wishes Ben’s strong qualities, such as, unscrupulousness and toughness. Willy fails to realize his strength of honesty by trying to emulate his brother but fails since he makes terrible choices such as cheating on his wife (Witalec, 2004). Also, Willy fails to recognize his strength, Lynda, who is his cheerleader and fails to understand that Ben has nobody in his life to encourage or love him.

Eventuality of Modernism

Eventually, Willy chooses to operate honestly and support his family even though he fails to achieve the same level of success as Ben. On the other hand, the successful reality of Dave Singleman inspires Willy as he boasted that he is well-liked and that “he died, hundreds of salesmen and buyers were at his funeral” (Miller, 1949, p2363). At this point, Willy is a bit open and seeing he is aging he knows his chances to reach Singleman’s level of affluence continue to slim. He lacks the courage of Ben and Singleman’s personality but continues to dream of his death. In Willy’s eye, he goes to the afterlife honorably having fulfilled his dreams of providing his children financial capability for a chance to realize their American dreams.


Death of a Salesman counts as one of the tragic tales involving a character, Willy Loman, who represents the modernism perspective from the 20th Century social outlook in America. The work by Miller remains fundamental in assisting in understanding the modernist text. Willy dreams of a life that he never attains yet he witnesses people around him becoming successful and realizing their American dreams. Because of a narrowed vision, Willy fails to look at things in his life that bring joy in his life, such as gardening, and most important spending time with his family. Willy Loman fails to attain his American dream goals through idolization of other men. However, he becomes self-absorbed and disgraced to provide for others. Though Willy feels he ends his life with a desirable purpose, he fails to fully understand the real creation of a seductive American dream enjoyed with family and friends. The American dream is supposed to bring hope and unification rather than despair and death. Therefore, the work of Miller remains fundamental in helping study modernist text.”

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Death of a Salesman Concepts. (2021, Apr 10). Retrieved from