Death of a Salesman Themes

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Death of a Salesman Essay In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, there are a number of ideas conveyed to the reader/audience through the relationship between Willy and Biff. The most prominent theme shown is that it is everyone’s (and particularly the parents’) personal responsibility to distinguish between reality and illusions in their lives. The consistent and repetitive use of this motif throughout the work by Miller, displays how vital he finds this theme to be in society, and uses Willy and Biff’s characters to depict his view on this. To Miller, Willy Loman’s surname had a very distinct and specific meaning (derived from a Fritz Lang film The Testament of Dr. Mabuse) which was translated as - a terror-stricken man calling into the void for help that will never come. During this play, one of the main forms of this void is that of an idealised American Dream, which is simply not universally attainable. The manner in which Willy does not recognise this and subsequently attempts to pass on to his children the superficial values of “personal attractiveness”, is constantly reminding us of his delusions of grandeur from the reality we find him in. Biff however recognises the falsity of his father’s words, and we see their juxtaposing perspectives on values and reality clash on numerous occasions. Early on, Willy claims: “...because it’s not what you do. It’s who you know and the smile on your face! It’s contacts, Ben, contacts!” The reader sees here the extent to which Willy misunderstands society, and how it is that the American Dream has deluded him into believing he will be successful, simply because a societal ethos tells him it is so. Biff comparatively says: “-I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been. We’ve been living in a dream for fifteen years...” and shows the reader that he has gone above and beyond his father. Not because he has
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