Symbolism in Death of a Salesman

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In the play, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, the playwright offers a tragic yet realistic view of society in the 1950's. The symbolism that Miller employs in this play are vital in communicating the significance of the central theme of failure within a success oriented society. Throughout the play, Willy, the main character, refers to diamonds many times, which are very significant symbols and contribute to the story as a whole. To Willy, these diamonds represent material wealth and, thus, a justification of ones life and the ability to pass material goods onto one's offspring. Therefore, these diamonds also signify Willy's failure as a salesman and as a father. During the play, Ben, Willy's brother, refers to the success he obtained by wandering through the diamonds mines in Africa and becoming affluent by the time he was twenty-one. When Willy was younger, he passed up the opportunity to go on this journey with his brother and thus passed up the prospect of becoming a success. This chance that Willy passed up soon leads to his deterioration that the audience sees throughout the play and later to his demise. On the whole, these diamonds symbolize the success Willy wanted, and came so close to, but never could achieve.

A symbol that is even more critical to the understanding of the play Death of a Salesman are the stockings that Linda, Willy's wife, is seen mending throughout the story. During the play, Willy has a bizarre fixation with the condition of Linda's stockings. This obsession foreshadows his later flashback to his son Biffs discovery of him having an affair on his wife in a hotel room in Boston. Biff accuses Willy of giving Linda's stockings away to the woman he was having the affair with. After Biff caught his father in this act of infidelity, the two lost the bond that they shared in the years prior to the incident. The stockings therefore symbolize Willy's betrayal of his wife and his two sons. New stockings are important for...
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