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NOVEL GUIDE

Biography: Arthur Miller


Arthur Miller was born October 17, 1915 in New York City. He began writing at a very early age,
and by the time he graduated from the University of Michigan he had begun to receive recognition
as a playwright. In 1949, after returning to New York, he published his most famous work, Death
of A Salesman, a critique of the industry-driven society of the city. This play received numerous
awards for its literary merit, including the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Many critics regard Death of A
Salesman as the perfect embodiment of the modern American drama. Though some criticize
Miller for his colloquial tone and mundane images, Miller's distinctly modern plays continue to
find applause among students, teachers, and dramatists. He would go on to publish The Crucible,
an account of the Salem Witch Trials, which in popularity is probably a close second to Death of A
Salesman. Though Miller has more recently tried his hand at novel writing, he is still best known
for his thematic plays, which usually comment on the dark nature of contemporary American
society.

Summary: Act 1, Scene 1


Miller begins his play with a bedtime dialogue between Willy and his wife, Linda. Willy, an aging salesman, has
just returned late from a business trip. Linda is very concerned, asking her husband if he had a car accident.
Willy tiredly explains that indeed he did have a close call with his car, veering off the road on two occasions while
enjoying the scenery. Though at first Linda thinks that it's a problem with the vehicle, eventually she attributes
Willy's driving problems to his exhausted mind. When Willy explains that he's just been on vacation, she asserts,
"But you didn't rest your mind. Your mind is overactive, and the mind is what counts, dear."
Miller uses this scene to show Willy's confusion. The aging salesman is unable to assess his situation or come to
any rational conclusion as to what to do to remedy his failures. He blames his financial problems in part on
Howard, the new owner of Willy's company and son of the former owner. According to Willy, Howard doesn't
appreciate his ability the way his father did. Despite these setbacks, however, he still believes in his ability and
value as a salesman. When explaining why they can't leave the crowded city to live in New York, Willy tells his
wife, "I'm the New England man. I'm vital in New England."
Willy's second major problem addressed in this scene is his troubled relationship with his son, Biff. It seems
Biff, who is grown up but now at home again for an extended visit after spending several years out west, hasn't
found financial success or even a decent paying job. Willy (who wishes for the success of his sons in part because
he hasn't found success himself) blames Biff's laziness for these problems. Yet only a few lines later, Willy
contradicts himself, maintaining that Biff is a very hard worker. "There's one thing about Biff-he's not lazy," the
old man says.
Throughout the scene, Linda appears very apologetic for Biff, hoping to smooth things over with Willy and get
him to sleep. Linda is seen as a very conciliatory person, not wanting to upset anyone. Later, this attitude will
enable Willy to continue his downward spiral.

Summary: Act 1, Scene 2


While Willy and Linda are talking downstairs, Biff and his brother Happy listen from the loft where they sleep.
The two grown men discuss their past failures. Biff says that he can't find a job that both pays well and is
satisfying, while Happy similarly admits that he doesn't like his job as a business clerk. Both brothers day-dream
for a time about going out west and making a living together on a cattle ranch. "Men built like we are should be
working out in the open," Biff asserts.
Happy too, but Biff especially, feels guilty that he's not lived up to his father's expectations. "I'm thirty-four years
old, I oughta be makin' my future. That's when I come running home. And now, I get here, and I don't know
what to do with myself. I've always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know
that all I've done is to waste my life," the older brother admits.
Though Happy initially seems to agree with Biff's sentiments that money-grubbing isn't what life is all about, the
younger brother later contradicts himself when he reveals his desire to emulate his rich boss. He asserts, "when
he walks into the store the waves part in front of him." Happy goes on to brag about his sexual encounters with
various women, including his bosses' fiances. Yet even this doesn't satisfy him. Later, the reader will learn that
Happy takes after his father in this regard. The conversation ends with a reference to Bill Oliver, an employer of
Biff in the past. Biff hopes that this businessman will lend him a few thousand dollars to buy his ranch out west.
Soon they hear Willy from downstairs, talking to himself as usual. He's actually speaking to Biff-the Biff of ten or
more years ago. This is one of the first signs that Willy is living in the past.

Summary: Act 1, Scene 3


This scene begins with a flashback to when Biff and Happy are in high school. They are busy polishing the family
car as Willy rambles on as usual. Soon in becomes obvious that Happy is trying very hard to please his father,
though Biff seems to receive all of Willy's attention. "I'm losing weight, you notice, Pop?" he asks his father. Yet
Willy doesn't notice, choosing to talk to Biff instead.
When Willy learns that Biff has stolen a football from the high school, Willy shrugs it off, saying, "Coach'll
probably congratulate you on your initiative." It seems nothing can get in the way of Willy's belief in Biff's
success. This incident is just a further example of Willy's illusions about his sons. These illusions are continued
when Willy later tells his boys that he's a great, successful businessman who one day will be rich like Uncle
Charley. Yet unlike Charley, Willy intends to be "well liked." He brags about having friends all over the East
Coast. "I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own," he exaggerates. It
seems the idea of being liked is crucial to Willy's notion of success.
Yet these illusions begin to be disproved when Bernard, a neighbor and son of Charley, enters the scene, warning
Willy that Biff won't graduate from high school if he doesn't study math. It soon becomes apparent that Biff is
only a football hero, not a good student at all. Yet again, Willy shrugs off this shortcoming, telling his sons that
personality is more important than smarts. He explains, "the man who makes an appearance in the business
world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want."
Later, Miller flash-forwards to the present. The reader learns that the Loman family is deeply in debt and that
Willy is only getting paid by commission because he has lost most of his ability as a salesman.
Willy's mind also seems to be going. Though near the beginning of his conversation with Linda he says that his
Chevrolet is the best car ever built, moments later he contradicts himself, saying, "they ought to prohibit the
manufacture of that car!" These contradictions continue, as Willy laments over the fact that he is not well liked,
despite the fact that moments before he tells his sons that he is very well liked. Yet Linda tries to reassure her
failing husband, telling him that he is successful and handsome. This statement causes Willy's mind to drift
away to a time when he was with a prostitute on the road. This short scene ends with Willy giving "The Woman"
a pair of stockings as a present. Though Willy certainly can't afford to buy these gifts, he does so anyway. Here
again, Willy shows himself to be anyone but a strong role model for his sons. Later, when the scene returns to
the present and Willy finds Linda mending some stockings, he feels very guilty.
Finally, Willy returns to his illusions-this time, of his rich brother, Ben. Throughout the play, Miller uses Ben to
represent the pinnacle of capitalist potential and the benchmark for Willy's success as a businessman. According
to Willy, Ben has made a fortune mining diamonds in Africa. "The man knew what he wanted and went out and
got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he's rich!" Thus, Willy's illusions
continue. Many critics believe that Ben is simply a figment of Willy's imagination-not a real person at all.

Summary: Act 1, Scene 4


Amidst Willy's late-night yelling, Charley, a neighbor and friend of the family, enters from outside, wondering
what all the commotion is about. He starts a card game with Willy in order to settle him down. Out of
friendship, he offers Willy a job after hearing about his problems as a salesman. Willy is quick to take offense at
this offer, saying that he already has a good job.
Later, when Willy brings up the subject of Biff, Charley advises Willy to give up on his son. "When a deposit
bottle is broken you don't get your nickel back," Charley asserts. Yet Willy is not willing to let go of his illusions
about his sons' potential for success.
Soon, Willy begins to confuse Charley with his brother, Ben. This leads to a flashback of sorts to a scene with
Willy and Ben. It seems Ben and his father left to make their fortunes sometime in Willy's early childhood,
leaving Willy and his mother behind. It's obvious that Willy idealizes Ben because he has "made it" in the world.
Willy is remorseful that he didn't take his brother up on his offer to run his business in Alaska. That was an
opportunity of a lifetime, Willy admits.
Yet Ben has little time to spend with his little brother. Willy, excited that Ben is there to give advice to his sons,
forces Biff and Happy to listen to their Uncle Ben, hoping that they will learn his business techniques and strike
it rich themselves. In this way, Willy sees the potential success of his sons as the only remaining hope of being
successful himself. It all seems quite simple to Ben. He tells Biff and Happy, "Why, boys, when I was seventeen I
walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich." This ideal, however,
proves to be unattainable by Willy and his sons when Willy's desperate struggle for success and happiness is
never achieved. This realization is foreshadowed when Ben knocks Biff down with his umbrella, saying, "Never
fight fair with a stranger, boy. You'll never get out of the jungle that way."
But Willy is left with a glimmer of hope when Ben tells him that he's taught his boys well. Again, though, Ben
seems more a figment of Willy's imagination than anything else. His word goes a long way with Willy, but no one
else.

Summary: Act 1, Scene 5

Now, Linda steps in to persuade Willy to go to bed. Unfortunately for her, Willy is still daydreaming about Ben,
sauntering into the yard and street in his slippers, continuing to talk to himself. Biff and Happy are surprised
and embarrassed by their father's behavior, reproaching their mother for not telling them about how Willy acts.
Biff even asserts that Willy has no character. But Linda defends her husband, telling Biff that he is partly to
blame for Willy's insanity. She gives Biff an ultimatum, saying, "Either he's your father and you pay him that
respect, or else you're not to come here." Here, Linda, always Willy's arch supporter, feels that her husband has
suffered unjustly. Not only has the sales company taken away his salary after years of hard work (he has to
borrow money from Charley every week), now even Biff has deserted him.
Yet Biff seems to know something that the reader doesn't. To explain why he and his father don't get along, he
calls his father a fake, saying that "he doesn't like anybody around who knows." This crushes Linda even more,
who divulges to the boys that Willy has been trying to commit suicide. Apparently his car "accidents" were not
accidents after all. Linda places the burden of Willy's future on Biff's shoulders, saying, "Biff, his life is in your
hands!"

Summary: Act 1, Scene 6


Biff begins this scene with a pledge to his mother that he will "apply himself" and make something of his life so
that Willy can rest easy. Willy enters, however, having overheard Biff saying that people laugh at him. The
failing salesman goes on the counteroffensive, telling Biff, "You never grew up." This is an ironic statement, since
Willy is often the one who lives in the past and idealizes his sons (Biff in particular) for their successes in high
school.
Soon, however, the tension is lifted when Happy comes up with the idea that he and Biff can go into business
together, selling sporting goods by playing sports themselves. Here, Happy connects Willy's devotion to business
success with Biff's love of the outdoors and physical activities. Willy immediately loves the idea, and his fantasy
world of illusions continues. Here, Willy's manic-depressive personality comes especially to light. He can feel as
though the world is falling in on him one moment, and then be instantly transformed when he hears something
that feeds his illusional belief in his boys' success.
Later, Biff and Happy say goodnight to Willy. As the three men speak about Biff's interview with Bill Oliver (a
businessman who can supposedly help their sporting goods business venture), Linda chimes in, only to have
Willy rudely tell her to shut up. This happens several times before Biff finally stands up for his mother. Willy
feels reproached by Biff when he defends her, and the good feelings of the moment are spoiled. Linda shrugs it
off, however, and soon Willy forgets that he's angry at Biff. As Biff leaves, he tells his son, "You got all kinds of
greatness.." Once again, Willy is back to his world of illusion, where personality triumphs over substance. He
advises Biff on how to make a good impression, saying, "personality always wins the day." He tells Biff to
demand fifteen thousand dollars from Oliver, saying, "start big and you'll end big." Obviously this notion
contradicts the traditional business belief that one has to work his way up the corporate ladder. Willy seems to
think that a Loman can start at the top (despite his lack of success, which proves the contrary)-just another
example of Willy's inability to see reality.

Summary: Act 2, Scene 1


This scene is one of the happiest in the entire play. Linda is serving Willy breakfast in the kitchen as they discuss
their plans for the day. Biff and Happy have already left to talk to Oliver about their business ventures and have
planned to meet Willy later that day for dinner in a fancy restaurant. Willy is very exited about his sons'
prospects as well as his own. Today he has finally resolved to ask his boss, Howard, for a job in New York,
instead of having to work on the road. This newfound hope likewise fills Linda with happiness, now that joy is
again abundant in the hearts of her family.
In this scene, the garden metaphor is once again referenced. To Willy, success requires fulfillment of the
traditional American Dream paradigm, or in Willy's case, illusion. Like his brother Ben who conquers the
wilderness, Willy feels that he must live on the frontier, building a house and planting a garden for his family, if
he wants to be successful. He tells Linda, "Before it's all over we're gonna get a little place out in the country, and
I'll raise some vegetables, a couple of chickens." Unfortunately, times have changed and his dream is no longer
possible in twentieth century New England. Willy is simply an old salesman who has lost his hold of reality,
having never lived up to his own expectations.

Summary: Act 2, Scene 2


This scene takes place in the office of Howard, Willy's boss. Willy has come to Howard's office, determined to
convince his boss to offer him a job in New York. Yet Howard is preoccupied with a new recording machine that
he has purchased and is slow to listen to Willy's plea. This is just one more indication that Willy has little respect
in the business community, despite his own often self-exalted opinion of his ability. Yet when Howard finally
does agree to talk to Willy, he is forced to give the old man bad news. Howard admits, "Willy. there just is no
spot here for you."
When Willy realizes that his request has been turned down, he begins to lose his bearings again and he soon
launches into his green slipper fantasy, which eventually forces Howard to kick him out of the office. Willy
explains his green slipper illusion by telling Howard the reason he became a salesman in the first place: he
thought that he would die the death of a salesman, namely that he would die after living a life of luxury, having
been a famous, loved and respected salesman who didn't even have to leave his hotel room to make his deals.
Willy elaborates on the business world he knew as an eager, young salesman, lamenting to Howard, "There was
respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it's all cut and dried, and there's no chance for bringing
friendship to bear-or personality." Here, it's obvious that Willy no longer has a place in the commercial
marketplace. In many ways, Miller indicts society for being too commercial and money-oriented. Willy soon
grows angry, telling Howard, "You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away-a man is not a piece of fruit."
Here, Willy feels that Howard (the son of the father who had formerly promised Willy that he would be rewarded
for his service to the company) has gone back on his father's word by forgetting the salesman in his golden years,
throwing away the peel after eating the orange, so to speak. Howard ends the meeting by firing Willy.

Summary: Act 2, Scene 3


This scene launches into another of Willy's flashbacks/dream sequences. As before, Ben, Willy's older and richer
brother, appears. Also like before, Ben is in a hurry to leave. It seems Ben is always rushing away for one reason
or another. Miller cleverly uses this motif to symbolize Willy's race against time. Willy feels that if he or his sons
don't soon find success soon, his whole life will be a failure.
When Ben offers Willy a job in Alaska, Willy is tempted, but maintains that he is "building something" with his
sales company in New England (keep in mind this occurs in the past, when Willy really did feel that he was
building something with the firm). He tries to show Ben that indeed he has been a success, bragging about Biff:
"Without a penny to his name, three great universities are begging for him, and from there the sky's the limit,
because it's not what you do, Ben, it's who you know and the smile on your face!" Unfortunately, this is the whole
fallacy behind Willy's flawed life. Life (as Willy has found out in the previous scene when he is fired) is about
substance, not smiles. Willy is unable to deliver the sales and so is unable to keep his job. As difficult as this may
seem to him, this is the reality of life in a free market economy.
Later, Charley enters the scene, and soon a confrontation between Willy and his neighbor ensues. Even at this
time Willy feels inferior to Charley, which causes the salesman to place the burden of the family's success on the
shoulders of Biff, his high school football star.

Summary: Act 2, Scene 4


This scene returns to the present. Here, Willy goes to Charley's office to pick up the money that he regularly
borrows from his neighbor. Getting off the elevator, he sees Charley's son, Bernard, who is now an adult and a
high-class lawyer (in fact he is currently arguing a case before the Supreme Court).
Bernard begins a conversation with Willy, asking the fired salesman about Biff. At first Willy pretends that "big
things" are happening to his son as well, seeing that Bernard is so successful. Later, though, Willy admits that
Biff has failed and asks Bernard where he went wrong in raising him. It seems that after the Ebbets Field game,
Biff's career as a football player was over (Miller only briefly alludes to this point). Bernard doesn't know why
Biff gave up, only saying that one day Biff went to Boston to visit Willy on the road. After this incident, Biff
apparently lost all desire to go to summer school and graduate. Bernard asks the salesman about Biff's trip: "I've
often thought of how strange it was that I knew he'd given up his life. What happened in Boston, Willy?" This
causes Willy to grow uncomfortable, for though the reader doesn't know it yet, Biff caught Willy with a prostitute
in Boston.
Finally, Charley enters the scene, telling his son that he's going to be late for his train. Bernard exits, leaving
Willy and Charley alone. Charley willingly agrees to lend Willy whatever cash he needs to pay his insurance, but
he also offers his neighbor a job with the firm. Willy is stubborn, however, and tells Charley that he won't work
for him. It seems Willy is too prideful to take a job from his neighbor. Though he is willing to "borrow" money
from Charley, accepting a job from his kind friend is going too far.
At the end of the scene, Willy alludes to suicide. He admits to Charley, "After all the highways, and the trains,
and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive." It seems Willy has a sizable
amount of life insurance.

Summary: Act 2, Scene 5


This scene starts in the restaurant where Biff and Happy have arranged to meet Willy for dinner. Happy is
waiting for the others when a beautiful woman enters and sits down nearby. Soon, Biff also enters the scene,
sitting next to his brother. Happy tries to set Biff up with the woman, telling her that Biff is the quarterback of
the New York Giants. Soon, however, Biff drops a bombshell on Happy, telling him that Oliver wouldn't even see
him. Yet to Biff, his experience at Oliver's office is much more than this. He sorrowfully concludes before his
brother, "I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been!" Biff realizes that he was never a salesman for
Oliver, but just a lowly shipping clerk fired for stealing from the company he worked for. Finally Biff realizes that
his father's illusions of success for him are just that-illusions. Soon Willy enters, telling his boys that he has been
fired; next, he hears from them that the deal with Oliver didn't work out. An argument ensues-this seems to be
the final straw in the undoing of the Loman family.

Summary: Act 2, Scene 6


Unable to cope with the bad news, Willy saunters into the restaurant bathroom where he drifts into his fantasy
world again. This time it's a flashback to Biff's high school days. It seems Biff has just flunked math and will not
graduate from high school. Soon Willy relives the terrible hotel room scene where Biff walked in on him and
another woman.
Going back out to the table, Biff berates Happy for feeling no compassion for Willy. He begs his brother to forget
the girls (the woman and her friend) long enough to console his father. It seems Happy tries to forget his
problems by surrounding himself with women. He leaves with the women, telling them that the babbling fool in
the washroom isn't really his father.
Summary: Act 2, Scene 7
This scene continues the flashback to the Boston hotel room where Willy and the prostitute are staying.
Unfortunately for Willy, he is about to receive an unexpected visit from his son, Biff. Biff is heard knocking on
the door, and finally Willy opens it after telling the woman to hide in the bathroom. Willy opens the door,
shocked to see his son. He quickly tries to get Biff, who is telling him that he's flunked math and won't graduate,
to go with him downstairs, away from the prostitute. This strategy almost works, but just as they are about to
leave, Biff hears someone in the bathroom and soon the naked prostitute walks out, asking Willy for her
stockings. Biff immediately realizes what's going on and begins to cry, learning that Willy is paying this woman
in Linda's stockings. He can't describe the anger and loathing he now has for his father, crying, "You fake! You
phony little fake!"
Having finished this flashback, Willy moves through the restaurant, getting ready to pay the waiter and leave.
On the way out, he asks the waiter where he can buy seeds for his garden. He tells Stanley, "I've got to get some
seeds. I've got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing's planted. I don't have a thing in the ground." This is a
last, desperate attempt by Willy to salvage what's left of his life and his legacy. Planting seeds represents the
success he hopes to leave for his sons and his wife.

Summary: Act 2, Scene 8


Back at home, Willy is planting his garden outside as Biff and Happy walk into the kitchen where Linda is
waiting. She lambastes both boys for abandoning Willy in the restaurant; she seems very angry that this critical
day in the life of her family has been a failure.
Out back, Willy plants carrot seeds while he talks to Ben about killing himself in order to secure his twenty
thousand-dollar life insurance policy for his family. He tells his perhaps-mythical brother that his funeral will be
a big event where thousands of businessmen from around New England will come to pay their respects. Soon
Biff walks out to the "garden" to confront his father once and for all. He tells him that he is "never going to see"
what he is and that there is no use trying to carry out his illusions anymore. Furthermore, Biff says that he's
leaving and probably never coming home again. Yet Biff isn't done with his father. He goes on, "We never told
the truth for ten minutes in this house!" Indeed Biff blames Willy for his failure in life, charging, "I never got
anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from anybody!" To top it off,
Biff dispels Willy's idea that the Loman family is special. Biff asserts, "Pop! I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you!"
This infuriates Willy who counterattacks, "I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!"
After the argument is over, Willy absentmindedly remarks, "Isn't that remarkable? Biff-he likes me!" Here, Willy
finally realizes that Biff is really being honest about his feelings, not merely trying to "spite" his father, as Willy
initially believes.
Alone again, Willy returns to his imagined conversation with his brother Ben. When Ben says that "the jungle is
dark but full of diamonds," Willy seems to believe that his brother is advocating his decision to commit suicide
for the life insurance money. "Can you imagine that magnificence with twenty thousand dollars in his pocket?"
Willy asks his imaginary brother as he thinks of Biff. In this way, it seems as though the death of this salesman is
near. Though he won't die in his idealized green slippers, Willy believes that suicide is the best option left.

Summary: Act 2, Scene 9


This final scene details Willy's funeral. To Linda's surprise, no one attends the funeral besides the family except
for Charley, Willy's only friend. The funeral scene is important, because it shows the increasing divergence
between Biff and Happy. While Biff realizes that their father "had the wrong dreams," Happy defends Willy's
aspirations, saying, "I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a
good dream. It's the only dream you can have-to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is
where I'm gonna win it for him." In this way, Happy picks up the torch that his father has left at the grave.

CHARACTERS
Willy Loman: Willy is the main character of the play and often considered its tragic hero. The sixty-something
failing salesman grows increasingly insane throughout Death of A Salesman, eventually ending his life in
suicide. Willy tries to persuade himself and others that he and his sons are successful, but in the end, Willy is
unable to live up to his own expectations (and those of his rich brother Ben, who expects Willy to do much more
with his life than he has). All in all, Willy is little more than a failure and a crazed lunatic living in the past.
Many critics, however, believe that Miller has portrayed Willy as a tragic hero.
Linda Loman: Linda is Willy's wife and the boys' mother. Throughout the play, she serves as the enabler for
Willy to live in his fantasy world. She tries to protect Willy from the harsh reality of their lives because she finds
it too hard to get to the root of his problems.
Biff Loman: Biff is the grown-up son of Willy and Linda Loman. He has gone from job to job, never finding any
lasting happiness or success. This displeases Willy, who, after never finding success himself, places the burden
of success on the shoulders of Biff. Eventually Biff realizes "what a ridiculous lie [his] whole life has been,"
seeing that his father has immersed himself in nothing but illusions.
Happy Loman: Happy is the younger brother of Biff who also can't find success or happiness. After living in the
shadow of Biff throughout his childhood, Happy tries to mask his lack of self-confidence by surrounding himself
with women and pretending that all is well. After his father dies, he tries to carry on his unrealistic notions of
success.
Charley: Charley is Willy's neighbor and only friend. He offers Willy a job when the old salesman is fired, but
Willy can't bring himself to work for Charley, since this would be admitting failure. Throughout the play, Charley
tries to give Willy constructive criticism, hoping to get him on the right track. Thus, Charley symbolizes the
reality that Willy never acknowledges.
Bernard: Bernard is Charley's son and a childhood friend of Biff. Unlike the Lomans, Bernard is rooted in reality
and eventually becomes a successful lawyer. In many ways, Willy sees Bernard as the competition to Biff (as he
sees Charley as his own competition).
Ben: Ben is Willy's rich, older brother who left him at an early age to make his fortune in Alaska and Africa (the
wild frontiers). Many critics believe that Ben is nothing more than a figment of Willy's imagination, yet to Willy,
Ben is very real. Ben is the driving force behind Willy's idea of success. Willy feels that, like his older brother
who has struck it rich with diamond mines in Africa, he must establish himself as a rich and powerful
businessman in New England. So in many ways, Ben is the symbol of the standard of success that proves too
hard for Willy and his sons to match.
Howard: Howard becomes the owner of Willy's company after his father dies. Howard is not sympathetic with
Willy when the salesman asks for a New York job, telling him that there's no place for him in New York. Miller
uses Howard to represent the cruel nature of capitalism.
The Woman: Willy's misstress. When Biff sees her in his father's hotel room, he loses respect for his father and
his dream of going to college dies.

METAPHOR
Seeds/Garden: Miller uses these motifs throughout his play to symbolize Willy's need and desire for success.
They also represent the legacy that Willy never leaves with his family. Though Willy attempts to plant his garden
near the end of the play, this is too little too late. His life has already been a failure and he has left nothing
remarkable by which to be remembered.
The Jungle: The jungle, or woods, represents the chaotic yet rewarding nature of life. Ben tells Willy, "the jungle
is dark but full of diamonds." So like Ben, Willy hopes to strike it rich in the business world of New England. Yet
Willy never finds the diamonds (success/happiness), and he leaves life without fortune or fame. In many ways,
the jungle also represents the twentieth century free market economy (and the American Dream ideal) that
Miller often criticized.
Biff's stealing: This symbolizes the inherent impossibility of Willy's strategy for success. Willy doesn't believe in
working one's way up the ladder of success; he thinks that since he's a Loman he should be automatically granted
managerial status. Thus Biff, following the example of his father, hopes to "steal" his way to the top instead of
working for it.
Stockings: These represent Willy's adultery as well as the "phoniness" of Willy's existence. Though Willy says
he's doing all he can for his family, he actually gives Linda's stockings to his prostitute.
Tennis: Bernard's reference to tennis ironically proves his success and the Lomans' failure, since Oliver is
suppose to give Biff and Happy a big deal in the sporting goods business. Though Bernard's future doesn't
revolve around sports, he has access to tennis rackets while the Lomans (who's lives do revolve around this
sporting goods idea) don't have this access.
THEMES
Death of A Salesman has several themes that run throughout the play. The most obvious theme is the idea
of reality versus illusion. Though Linda, Biff and Happy are all unable to separate reality from illusion to
some degree, Willy is the main character who suffers from this ailment. For years, Willy has believed that
both he and his boys (particularly Biff) will one day be great successes. Though he's a disrespected
salesman, he calls himself the "New England man." Though Biff has done nothing with his life by the age of
thirty-four, Willy tells others and tries to make himself believe that his son is doing big things" out west.
Willy's brother, Ben, continually appears in the troubled man's mind, offering hints on how to make it in the
world of business. Willy feels that he must live up to the standard that Ben has set, but this is found to be
impossible by the end of the play. Only Biff ever realizes who he is ("a dime a dozen") and what his
potential really is. He is the only member of the family to finally escape from the poisonous grasp of
illusion.
One of Miller's secondary themes is the idea of the American Dream. Throughout his play, Miller seems to
criticize this ideal as little more than a capitalist's paradigm. Though Willy spends all of his adult life
working for a sales company, this company releases the salesman when he proves to be unprofitable. Willy
confronts Howard, his boss (and Miller indicts free market society), when he charges, "You can't eat the
orange and throw the peel away-a man is not a piece of fruit." Here, Willy feels that Howard has gone back
on his father's word by forgetting him in his golden years, throwing away the peel after eating the orange, so
to speak. Thus, Willy is unable to cope with the changing times and the unfeeling business machine that is
New York.
In many ways, Death of A Salesman has a tragic theme consistent with great tragedies such as Oedipus the
King and others. Though Willy is a very modern man, and certainly not a member of the aristocracy, he
lives a very tragic life. Though he believes that he and his sons are great men, his flawed character perverts
his idealistic vision of success and happiness.
The idea that "personality wins the day" is one such flaw in Willy's logic. Indeed, substance, not personality
or being well liked, is what wins the day. Charley and Bernard, who have success but not personality, prove
to Willy that his notion is incorrect. But unfortunately, Willy never understands this, and so goes to his
grave never truly realizing where he went wrong.