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Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller - Essay Example

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Symbolism in “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller 1 Introduction “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller is a sad story about Willy Loman, a traveling salesman, who is caught up in the past while he is attempting to live his life in the present. After a long sales trip that ended in his losing his job, he goes home to his wife Linda and two sons, Biff and Happy…
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Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller
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Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller

Download file to see previous pages... Broken and delusional, he goes home to his family, trying to make sense out of his life (Whitalec 144). The challenge for Willy is that he does not know how to do anything else but sales. Although he attempts to find a job with his neighbor Charlie, he is unsuccessful. Eventually, he decides that the best thing for him to do is commit suicide; at least his family will have the insurance money when he is gone. 2 Symbolism There are a variety of symbols that Miller uses to advance the story. The title itself is a symbol of the dying breed of traveling salesman, as well as a foreshadowing that Willy will eventually take his life. In the beginning of the story, Willy likes to do gardening at night and there is a great emphasis on planting seeds. Seeds are a symbol of growth and these are also the seeds of the many pleasant memories that Willy has about Ben and about his “past and barren present condition” (Ali 1). The seeds are also a symbol for the wealth that Willy wants and his need to put food on the table for his family. Planting seeds can also be about telling someone bits of wisdom. Willy felt that he was not able to help his son Biff in a way that would have helped him become someone in the world. From Willy’s perspective, Biff is not doing enough with his life and this is because Willy was not able to “cultivate and nurture” (Sparknotes 3) his son. Willy feels that if he could have planted the seeds of ambition within his son, that he would have done more with his life. The American Dream is a symbol that runs consistently through the story and it is a symbol of what Willy feels he cannot have, no matter what he does. Part of the American Dream is to have money and for Willy, the diamond mine that his brother was working with was about wealth. Diamonds present a symbol of wealth that is tangible to Willy and he sees diamonds as a way to validate his labor. Diamonds are also a symbol of a legacy that he could pass down to his sons (Sparknotes). Unfortunately, the American Dream has not meant wealth for Willy and at the end of the story he kills himself so that his family can receive the insurance money for his death. Stockings are often sold by salesman and Willy seems to be obsessed with making sure that his wife has new stockings all the time. These stockings are also a symbol of infidelity when Biff finds out that his father is having an affair and has given a pair of new stockings to his mistress. Also, new stockings for his wife provide Willy with the idea that he has taken care of at least one of his wife’s needs (Sparknotes). Willy lives in New York hoping that he will one day be able to move ahead in life. He yearns to leave the city and go to Africa with Ben (though Ben is now dead) or he would like to go to the American West. These symbols show Willy as someone who really wants more out of life but he does not know how to do this for himself; instead, he lives his dreams of wealth through hallucinations of his brother Ben. He had the change to go with Ben at one point in his life, but he did not do it because he was afraid. He allowed his home to restrict his movement. His home is actually another symbol of his restricted living. He does not have a space at home that is totally his and it is met with many financial problems that continue to keep him restricted (Witelec 1). The issue of acceptance is another theme that also acts ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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