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In general, unless otherwise stated, answers consisting of 5-10 complete, well-written sentences will suffice.

1.Arthur Miller’s play is filled with oft repeated phrases such as “well liked,” “the woods are burning,” and “I’m going to lose weight.” What others can you find? What general purpose do these repetitions serve in terms of characterization?

2.Why are Willy’s interview suggestions to Biff so contradictory? Does Willy follow his own advice in his conversation with Howard Wagner?

3.Charley claims that Willy was happy “with a batch of cement.” Willy himself desperately wants to grow things and laments, “I don’t have a thing in the ground.” What positive and negative values are suggested by these details?

4.Willy Loman, wife Linda, and sons Biff and Happy are all archetypal characters—simplified and compressed personalities with exaggerated strengths and weaknesses. What label would you assign to each? Why?

5.Examine the copy of Johann Peter Hasenclever’s painting included in the materials for Lesson 7. What character types can you see in Hasenclever’s work? In 5-10 sentences per type, identify 3 explaining why you have chosen these particular distinctions.

1.Identify the six elements of plot in an infographic, and summarize the action of each part for Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”

2.What is the inciting incident or destabilizing event in Miller’s play?

3.The play is set in post-World War II New York City, while the flashbacks take place in 1928. Why is this?

4.Is Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” about Willy Loman or someone else? Why?

5.How does Biff grow, or change, over the course of the play?

6.How do Linda and Happy’s character defects contribute to Miller’s plot?

7.Does Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” have a subplot? If so, what is it?

Create a PowerPoint in which you answer the following questions:

Identify the overarching theme in Miller’s play and why you feel this is the most important of all the themes present in “Death of a Salesman.”

Which details seem especially important to the play’s theme?

What words, phrases, or objects provide clues about the theme of Miller’s play?

What is the play’s attitude toward its theme? How do you know this?

Part 1

1.In Arthur Miller’s play – Death of a Salesman, some of the other oft-repeated phrases are found to be –“still lost” or “to get some seeds”, “remarkable thing”, “happy to meet you” and “old confidence”. The general purpose behind designing oft repeated phrases in the lips of the characters of the play is to imply the individual role and contribution in the central theme of contradiction and denial of the play. According to Baker, the oft repeated phrases “to get some seeds, happy to meet you, old confidence” have been given for serving the predominant functions of individual characters and the circumstances related to them (60).     

2.Willy Lowman’s interview suggestions to Biff are found to be contradictory due to the reason that Willy instructs Biff to talk as less as possible in time of giving interview though Willy at the same time instruct him to start out with describing several stories for lightening up the conversation. It is not possible for a person to stay serious and to be engaged in a story-telling conversation at the same time. The particular reason is the way that indicates that Willy’s instructions “A business suit, and talk as little as possible, and don’t crack any jokes” are contradictory (Baker 175).

On the other hand, Willy himself does not seem to follow any of his instructed guide lines as his interview Howard Wagner is found to be a rather harsh and impulsive interview. It has been completely opposite to what exactly instructed by Willy to his younger son. Instead of maintaining a clam gesture, Willy is found yelling at Howard when hears that Howard still wants him to work as a sales person in the New England area – “Howard, all I need to set my table is fifty dollars a week” (Marino 25).

3.When Charley claims that Willy had been a happy man and only his dreams had been wrong, it conveys the unconditional love, generosity and humbleness of Charley for his neighbor Willy. It shows the positive value of Willy, who instead of inappropriate ideas and attributes, retained generosity and love for his family. Willy’s phrase is indicative of the negative consequence and futile aspirations of him. According to Miller, Willy’s words – “Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground” are indicative of the fact that ultimately he could not cumulate any identifiable contribution for his family (50).  

4.For Willy Loman, it can be said a perfect label for his character would be – “a man of contradiction”, as most of the time Willy is shown to be contradicting most of the things, which he either used to believe or instruct others. For Linda Lowman, a proper label would be – “a devoted wife” as till the last, we see her unconditional love and devotion for her husband and children (Tuttle 97). Biff’s character can be labeled as a “catalyst” as the character seems to drive each of Willy’s actions and memories throughout the play. Finally, according to Baker et al. Happy can be labeled as “the younger counterpart of Willy” due to the reason that like the habit of Willy, Happy is shown as a manipulator of reality (175).

Repetitions and Characterization

5.After examining the copy of Johann Peter Hasenclever’s painting, it has been understood that varied of character types are there in one frame. Among them, three most significant character types are found to be one of the companions of the chief delegate of the lower estate, the chief delegate himself and the elderly person seated at the table and staring vacantly. The first character is a typical character type that is a combination of cunningness, cruelty and threatening attitude. The character is representative of those people who enjoys other tragic situation. The painting is evidence of the fact that such characters are present everywhere as they hide their cunningness within the veil of false honesty. The character of the chief delegate of lower estate seems like a typical type who has less confidence upon himself. More precisely, the character represents all those individuals who, instead of holding a significant place in the society fears for the consequence. They always carry the fear of losing the battle. It means they always feel unconsciously that they are not eligible for the position they holding. The last character is a type of person who is less worried about the entire thing that is happening around him. Such characterization is indicative of those individuals who are neither happy with the situation they are in nor interested to bring any change in it. Moreover, such characters prefer to participate in every social event though with lack of enthusiasm and contribute nothing and play a bias attitude.        

Info graphic

1.The inciting incident has been Willy’s hallucination about his relationship with another woman and the incident where both of the boys leave their father alone in the restaurant. The moment when Willy gets fired from his job can also be considered as an inciting incident. According to Yamasaki, the inciting incident “is the event or decision that begins a story's problem” and therefore, the moment Willy understands that he would not get his expected job, the level of his mental depression, anxiety and hallucination increased. As per the play, the particular incident had been fueled by the moment when two of Willy’s sons made him realized his futile existence by leaving him in the restaurant. Therefore, understandably both of the aforementioned situations should be considered as inciting or “exciting” incident of Miller’s play.   

2.Instead of the fact that the play is set in the post-world II in New York city, all the flashbacks have taken place in the year 1928 because of Willy Loman’s continuous hallucination regarding his past. Willy is shown as a character that continuously hallucinates and in a flashback mode and his distorted vision regarding the futile American dream is primarily derived from the backdrop of 1928. As per Tuttle, Willy’s frequent hallucination is the sign that the person has not lived a satisfying early life, which has been set in the mid 1928 (98). Therefore, understandably from his younger life to his relationship with his brother and his image, all the scenes shown in the flashback mode are set in the aforementioned time period.

Contradiction in Willy's Advice

3.Instead of the fact that the play centers on Willy’s character and circumstances, the basic storyline is about most of those lower middle class American male individuals, who possess a meaningful and successive dream but could not make it up in real life. It is about all those middle class and lower middle class men, who are the victims of America’s success. According to Palmer, the characterization of Willy is symbolic, which symbolizes two particular things. One is the apparent illusion and futileness of American dream of becoming rich and wealthy and the other one as per Baker is the tragic, mundane and inevitable fate of most of the middle class and lower middle class service men of the contemporary time (61).  

4.Biff’s growth towards becoming a gentleman and a loving son, revolves around Willy’s character. His final realization about Willy’s false and wrong dreams comes when he encounters his father’s death. On the other hand, his perception regarding being honest comes at the time of his encounter with his boss. Initially, the play shows Biff’s growing tendency of not to abide the social rules. However later, over the course of the play, his characterization changes with the realization that his father’s dreams have been materialistic, which in real life biff himself does not want to have (Yamasaki 26). Therefore, Biff’s old characteristics gradually changes and transform him into a better person.

5.Linda’s biggest flaw, which is not to aggravate the fragile mentality of her husband, leads Willy’s character to grow more suicidal and irrational tendencies. Her biggest defect is found to be her fears regarding Willy’s fragile mentality. On the other hand, Happy’s character defect is notably his misdirected dreams and persuasion with varied women. His characteristics shows his loneliness instead of having a successful job and it contributes to Miller’s one of the key indication regarding American dream that is – the dream of becoming wealthy and happy is not possible for everyone (Baker 65). Both Linda and Happy continuously struggle to keep the fantasy of the American dream alive.  

6.The play’s sub plot is supposed to be Linda Loman and Happy Loman’s continuous struggle to make the fantasy of American dream alive. Linda’s continuous support to Willy and Happy’s successful financial life with growing loneliness continuously support the main plot of denial and contradiction. As per Palmer “the predominant theme of denial and contradiction”, which has evolved around the central character Willy with the help of a firm plot, would not have been successful if there had been no contribution of characters like Happy and Linda (130). Happy successful yet loneliness and Linda’s support out of fear should be called as the supporting plot or sub plot of the play.          

The mocking, tragic and sympathetic tone of the death of a salesman

The tone of Miller’s play is primarily found out to be sympathetic as the play’s directions are found to be sensitive to the pain suffered by each of the main individuals in the play. From the very inaugurating scene to the final scene of Miller’s the death of a sales man, the author has highlighted the tragic situation related to each of the towering figures of the play. Linda’s fear and helplessness, Happy’s loneliness, Willy’s futile dream and tragic consequence and Biff’s realization, as per THAKUR, each of the characterization, demands sympathy (45).

On the other hand, it can be also said that the tone is candid as the play straightforwardly highlights the vague acceptance of Willy regarding materialistic life. The tone of frankness is recognized through the play’s tone of mocking the vague American dream and its persuasion of Willy. The author chose a frank tone in symbolic way in order to reveal the contemporary trajectory of most of the middle class and lower middle class family men and women.  

Therefore, another tone is found out to be the tone of mocking. Through each of the characterization, the author mocks the blind acceptance and persuasion of the materialistic form of the American dream. It is because the protagonist’s and his two sons’ primary dreams and expectations have been oriented with material gain and happiness. The author has implied that the persuasion of the materialistic expectations is the flaw of American dream that catch up the attentions of aspired American men.  

The characterization and plot analysis have helped to understand three of the aforementioned tone of the play. Most significantly, the tones are recognized through identifying the vocabulary choice within the speeches. Ironic phrases like –“I don’t have a thing in the ground”, the attributes of each of the Loman family members and the sub plot have cumulatively supported the identified tones of the play (Baker 64).  

On the other hand, the greatest tone of the play, which is tragic, has been recognized by Willy’s continuous anxiety and suicidal tendencies those finally lead him to an unfortunate death. Among the mocking, frank and sympathetic tone of the play, it has been understood that the tragic tone that is portrayed through the tragic consequence of Willy stands potential among all. The mocking and frank tone have been used to showcase the acceptance of the materialistic form of the American dream, while the sympathetic tone has supported the play’s most powerful tone that is tragic from the very beginning.     


Baker, Christopher. "“Life Is a Casting Off” in Death of a Salesman." The Arthur Miller Journal 11.1 (2016): 57-65.

Baker, Howard S., and Margaret N. Baker. "Death of a Salesman: Lessons for the Self Psychologist." Progress in Self Psychology, V. 4: Learning from Kohut 4 (2013): 175.

Marino, Stephen. Arthur Miller-Death of a Salesman/The Crucible. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Miller, Arthur. After the fall. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

Palmer, David. "Death of a Salesman." (2014): 127-132.

THAKUR, SAYANTAN. "Miller’s Death of a Salesman: A Criticism of a Dream Deferred Society." PARIPEX-Indian Journal of Research 4.7 (2016).

Tuttle, Jon. "Death of a Salesman." (2014): 96-98.

Yamasaki, Bette. "In Search of Dignity: A study of the protagonist’s growth toward self-acceptance in Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, and Death of a Salesman." (2014).  

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