Death of a Salesman Research Essay Every child dreams of being something spectacular when they grow up like an astronaut or a ballerina. Then they mature some and some of those goals disappear, but most teens still dream of being famous in some way like being a professional sports player or the newest singer-songwriter. Even as adults, people still want to leave their mark on the world somehow even if their childhood dreams have vanished. Willy Loman, the main character in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, had this same urge to be known and successful. All he wanted was to make a name for himself and be remembered in the world, but his fate took a turn for the worst. The theme of Death of A Salesman surrounds this urge in Willy Loman, a salesman of thirty-four years who believes he is vital to the New England territory where he works, and his constant quest for identity that eventually turns into the American nightmare rather than the dream. The plot of Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman is based around Willy Loman, his family, and his need to be remembered. As the play opens, Willy is returning home from a sale he had left to New England for that morning. He tells his wife, Linda, that he just can’t seem to keep his mind on driving he has to do anymore. He asks about his son, Biff, who has recently come home for a visit after being away for a while. Willy can now not do his job because he is 1 unable to drive. He even asks his boss for an office job to get off the roads but instead is fired. Willy loves work so not being able to do his job makes him very suicidal. His son Biff has also seemed to be incapable of being successful in any business. Willy’s wife Linda tells Biff that he needed to get a job because his father’s life was in his hands.
Biff and his brother, Happy, decide to ask Bill Oliver, whom Biff used to work for, for a loan of $10,000 to begin a business of their own, but instead he ended up waiting six hours to meet Oliver. The climax occurs when Biff finds out that his family has been living in an illusion. Biff comes home and finds Willy out in the backyard, apparently losing his wits planting seeds and talking to his brother, Ben, who has been dead for nine months. Biff tries to explain to his father that he is no leader of men and that he is a common person. But Willy refuses to believe him and tells Biff how great he could be. Willy says to Biff, “I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman!” He then resolves on suicide, which he has hinted at before, because, with $20,000 in insurance benefits, Biff could be such a magnificent person. Willy then commits suicide. But he dies a forgotten man, and nobody but his family attends the funeral. His goal was to achieve the American dream of fame and fortune, but he instead got the American nightmare. The death of Dave Singleman was a major foreshadowing aspect in Death of a Salesman. Dave was the character who inspired the play’s title, but also foreshadowed to Willy’s fate. Dave was a salesman like Willy, but Dave was very well liked and he was successful with his buyers.
When Dave died, hundreds of other salesmen, friends, and buyers came from all over the world to pay their respects to him. It was this ‘death of a salesman’ that Willy was interested in. Willy believed that selling was also his greatest asset and he too could be surrounded by friends and 2 family who would respect him. Another piece of foreshadowing to Willy’s suicide occurred when his wife, Linda, found the rubber pipe on the water heater. Willie was going to try to end his life by connecting the hose to the water heater and breathing it in. He attempted to keep it hidden from Linda, so she would not know just how depressed he was. When Linda figured out Willy’s plan, she kept his sons from confronting him about it because she was scared it would make him feel even more ashamed of himself than he already was. According to Baker in The Arthur Miller Journal, “Linda Loman’s statement in Arthur Miller’s Death of A Salesman that ‘Life is a casting off’ adds meaning to the play in several senses… It expresses Linda’s effort to unify her family through her domestic duties and frugality”(p.57).
Linda may seem to have a less tragic fate in this play in the sense of death, but really she had just of terrible of a fate by losing her husband to his own selfishness. His quest for identity put a stop to her previously known identity and turned her life into a nightmare. Thomières, in his essay “All is not Gold: Fatherhood and Identity in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman”, explains the end of the play saying, “As the play closes, it is true, he finally unites the two dreams and lays his ‘hand’ upon the diamonds, except that that synthesis lies only in his imagination and that it is the hand of a dead man, and also except that, as Charley said at one point, ‘nobody’s worth nothin’ dead’ (98).” Willy felt the only way of obtaining his American dream was to obtain the success and immortality in the world either through himself or his children, but he ended up with nothing. This play exemplifies that what people want is not always what is best for them. By questing for a new identity and “better” life, Willy ultimately caused great struggles for his family and ended his own life. He truly turned his American dream into the American nightmare.