“Death of a Salesman” a timeless re-read

The play has been produced many times, most recently in Londons West End in 2019.


The play has been produced many times, most recently in London’s West End in 2019.

The American dream seemed to inappropriately frame what success meant, especially in the 20th century. This theme is heavily emphasized in “Death of a Salesman”.

Arthur Miller is a well-known American playwright who was likely inspired by several events he lived through: including the Great Depression, World War II, and the Red Scare. Though he is best known for Deaths of a Salesman, some other works of his include Focus, The Misfits, The Crucible, and All My Sons.

“Death of a Salesman” debuted in 1949 and features the characters Willy Loman, his wife, Linda, and his sons, Biff and Happy. When Biff returns home jobless and poor, conflict grows between him and Willy. Willy, a long-time salesman, can not understand his son’s failures. Bewildered at what went wrong, Willy grows lost in thought and is driven closer to losing his sanity.

I found the play to be admirable in that it challenges a once generally accepted idea in American society: anyone could work their way to success through dedication and an ambitious attitude. Through Willy and Biff’s characters, the script essentially argues that traditional success is often a dead-end destination. Willy’s job, for instance, is attainable and realistic, but it fails to provide him with fulfillment. On the other hand, Biff aims for an unachievable goal but finds himself somewhat more content as he is true to himself. The clashing of their values tackles a conflict well that resonates throughout American society even today: What truth does the American Dream actually hold?

Besides how I found the play’s theme to be praiseworthy, I often felt the transitioning of scenes confusing. At times, I had difficulty understanding what was reality and a part of Willy’s imagination. So, I had to reread many scenes to solidify my comprehension of what was occurring. Normally, I would find this aspect frustrating. However, considering the context of the story- Willy being driven toward insanity- I find this feature to be effective. It parallels Willy’s perception of his surroundings. I believe writing the play in a fashion where there is a thin line between reality and imagination, excellently allows the audience to truly grasp what Willy is thinking.

Following the first performance of Miller’s play, the audience did not stand and applaud. Instead, they audibly wept. I wholeheartedly understand why.

Death of a Salesman is unlike most pieces of literature. Instead of conforming to a widely accepted idea that appeals to the majority, Miller took a risk with his story. This risk is what makes the play so unique, heart wrenching, and powerful. I would encourage everyone to read this script and embark on an adventure that made American individuals reconsider their values.