Many symbols are incorporated into the play “Death of a Sales man” and
they in turn relate to both character and theme. The hose, tape recorder
and th e seeds are some of these symbols.
The hose in Miller’s drama directly relates to the theme of d eath.
The hose is a line attached to the gas main in Willy’s house which allows
him to snif f the gas. This action can be seen as Willy’s suicide wish, and
escape from the realities of life. As seen in the loss of his job and his
failure to succeed. The hose also represents grief and deception. For when
Linda, Willy’s wife, finds the hose, she is distraught over its in tended
purpose. The deceptive nature of the hose is apparent when Willy is
confronted about it by Biff his son and Willy denies its existence. A
similar denial is also evident when Willy is confronted with the tape
recorder in Howard’s office.
The tape recorder signifies the change in Willy’s life throug h the
advancement of technology. It also represents the end of Willy’s career.
This is brought about when Howard, Willy’s boss and godson, shows the tape
recorder to Willy and appe ars to be more interested in the sound and
technology of the machine instead of Willy, who i s fighting for his job.
Howard no longer need s Willy’s services and without concern fires him.
This , to Willy, was like, “eating the orange and throwing away the peel”.
However, Willy is partly to blame, as he does not accept change and wants
to remain in the pas t. This is foreshadowed in the scene where Willy is
left alone with the tape recorder and is unable to shut it off. Willy
believes in using his old techniques and style to succeed. N evertheless,
in hi job, it is not what you know, but it is who you know. Willy is not up
to date with the business nor technology. Yet, Willy still has hope, and
wishes to leave some fo rm of support behind for his family as illustrated
in his planting of the seeds.
Willy feels that he must leave something behind something for Biff. In
Willy’s imaginary world he wants Biff to be magnificent and he symbolicall
y plants seeds in his garden. In spite of such an action he is doomed to
fail. Willy sta rts planting the seeds at night, but at night there is no
sun shining and this seems very od d as seeds require light to grow. What
else is strange is the fact that Willy’s house is boxed in between large
apartment buildings and is covered by the shadows cast by them. It is
eviden t that no light will fall on Willy’s garden. Willy’s attempt to
plant and grow seeds is futile, but he persist in his attempt to seek
reconciliation and forgiveness. Thus the hose, tape record er and the seeds
are all symbolic of Willy’s dreams gone sour, and his inability to live in
the present. His death is inevitable and is mirrored by his life.