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Role of Women in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Role of Women in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman is of course about a salesman, but it is also about the American dream of success. Somewhere in between the narrowest topic, the death of a salesman, and the largest topic, the examination of American values, is Miller’s picture of the American family. This paper will chiefly study one member of the family, Willy’s wife, Linda Loman, but before examining Miller’s depiction of her, it will look at Miller’s depiction of other women in the play in order to make clear Linda’s distinctive traits. We will see that although her role in society is extremely limited, she is an admirable figure, fulfilling the roles of wife and mother with remarkable intelligence.

Linda is the only woman who is on stage much of the time, but there are several other women in the play: “the Woman” (the unnamed woman in Willy’s hotel room), Miss Forsythe and her friend Letta (the two women who join the brothers in the restaurant), Jenny (Charley’s secretary), the various women that the brothers talk about, and the voices of Howard’s daughter and wife. We also hear a little about Willy’s mother.

We will look first at the least important, but not utterly unimportant, of these, the voices of according t…

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…n French. Deland, Florida: Everett/Edwards, 1969. 273-83.

Koon, Helene Wickham, ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Death of a Salesman. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice, 1983.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Literature. Ed. Sylvan Bates New York: Longman, 1997. 1163-1231.

Parker, Brian. “Point of View in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” University of Toronto Quarterly 35 (1966): 144-47. Rpt. in Koon. 41-55

Stanton, Kay. “Women and the American Dream of Death of a Salesman.” Feminist Readings of American Drama. Ed. Judith Schlueter. Rutherford, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1989. 67-102.

Symbolism in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Symbolism in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman is wrought with symbolism from the opening scene. Many symbols illustrate the themes of success and failure. They include the apartment buildings, the rubber hose, Willy’s brother Ben, the tape recorder, and the seeds for the garden. These symbols represent Willy’s attempts to be successful and his impending failure.

When Willy and Linda purchased their home in Brooklyn, it seemed far removed form the city. Willy was young and strong and he believed he had a future full of success. He and his sons cut the tree limbs that threatened his home and put up a hammock that he would enjoy with his children. The green fields filled his home with wonderful aromas. Over the years, while Willy was struggling to pay for his home, the city grew and eventually surrounded the house. Tall apartment buildings “trapped” Willy’s house. Instead of pleasing aromas there were only foul smells filling the home. The development around the home parallels the changes in Willy’s career. Willy had a bright future, but he did not grow and “develop” his skills, believing that a good appearance was all that was necessary to succeed. Over time, Willy’s sales skills became stagnant and Willy was “trapped” in his job. The sweet smell of success had been replaced by the stench of failure.

The rubber hose represents both success and failure. It is attached to the gas main in Willy’s house and provides him with the opportunity to commit suicide. Willy sees this as a way to finally do something for his family to make up for years of disappointment. He will no longer be a burden to them when he is gone, and they will remember him in a posit…

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…r because he did not change with the times. Finally, Willy hoped to show his family that he could do something right and give them a little pleasure by planting seeds in the backyard. He hoped that these seeds would grow into a wonderful garden for all of them to enjoy. Then his family would appreciate him. But the garden fails, as does Willy.

Works Cited and Consulted

Baym, Franklin, Gottesman, Holland, et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 4th ed. New York: Norton, 1994.

Costello, Donald P. “Arthur Miller’s Circles of Responsibility: A View From a Bridgeand Beyond.” Modern Drama. 36 (1993): 443-453.

Florio, Thomas A., ed. “Miller’s Tales.” The New Yorker. 70 (1994): 35-36.

Martin, Robert A., ed. Arthur Miller. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1982.

—. Eight Plays. New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1981.

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