English 4, Period 2
25 January 2013
Literary Analysis Essay
The play, Death of a Salesman, was written by Arthur Miller in 1949 in the United States during the Korean War and the start of the baby boom. The play resembles the struggles put in front of people on their paths through life. In Willy, the salesman’s case he is struggling to keep his life going. He is too old to work and is now realizing that. He has to rely on his former boss and a family friend for financial support. His two sons, Biff and Happy, are living two different lives and their father is now living through them. The want for the “American Dream” in the book brings sorrow to everyone part of it. The title Death of a Salesman symbolizes the “American Dream” and how, like everything else in life, it slowly fades away. The salesman resembles that everything is how you want it to be at one point in your life. Whether it is for twenty years or just twenty days, eventually it will slowly decline and die away. The first sign of the “American Dream” in the play is when Willy says, “Why boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich (Act 1, Scene 4).”
Arthur Miller begins the play by showing the audience the true stress that Willy is under. It starts out with a conversation between Willy and his wife, Linda. The conversation shows how Willy is under a lot of stress by him always putting two fingers in his eyes and even at one point he calls his son, Biff, “a lazy bum (Act 1, Scene 1)” but then contradicts himself by saying “There’s one thing about Biff-he’s not lazy (Act 1, Scene 1).” Willy has very high expectations for his kid and part of it is he living through them and wants them to succeed and achieve the “American Dream” like Willy could not.
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