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Analysis of the ending of 'Death of a Salesman' by Arthur Miller

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Analysis of the ending of 'Death of a Salesman' by Arthur Miller

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  • December 15, 1996
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The play 'Death of a Salesman' shows the final demise of Willy Loman, a sixty-year-old

salesman in the America of the 1940's, who has deluded himself all his life about being a big

success in the business world. It also portrays his wife Linda, who 'plays along' nicely with

his lies and tells him what he wants to hear, out of compassion. The book describes the last

day of his life, but there are frequent 'flashbacks' in which Willy relives key events of the

past, often confusing them with what is happening in the present.

His two sons, Biff and Happy, who are in their 30's, have become failures like himself. Both

of them have gone from idolizing their father in their youth to despising him in the present.

On the last few pages of the play, Willy finally decides to take his own life ([1] and [2]). Not

only out of desperation because he just lost his job, with which he was hardly earning enough

to pay ordinary expenses at the end. He does it primarily because he thinks that the life

insurance payout [3] will allow Biff to come to something [4], so that at least one of the

Lomans will fulfill his unrealistic dream of great wealth and success.

But even here in one of his last moments, while having a conversation with a ghost from the

past, he continues to lie to himself by saying that his funeral will be a big event [2], and that

there will be guests from all over his former working territory in attendance. Yet as was to be

expected, this is not what happens, none of the people he sold to come. Although perhaps

this wrong foretelling could be attributed to senility, rather than his typical self-deception [5].

Maybe he has forgotten that the 'old buyers' have already died of old age. His imagined

dialogue partner tells him that Biff will consider the impending act one of cowardice. This

obviously indicates that he himself also thinks that it's very probable that Biff will hate him

even more for doing it,...