What are the reasons for Willy's failure in "Death of a salesman"?

Term Paper, 2003

10 Pages, Grade: 1,0 (A)

Abstract or Introduction

In this paper I will try analyze the reasons for Willy’s failure. Is it his own fault that he is not able to succeed in his life? Or is the society he lives in to blame as well? As Miller is known for his critical views on modern society , I will try to find out if it is not society that is responsible for Willy’s failure.

At first, I am going to examine how Miller describes society in his play. Next , I will analyse Willy’s dream and what he thinks is most important to achieve success. At last, I will compare those conceptions in order to find out what leads Willy to his failure.

2 Characterization of the society Willy lives in

The house Willy and his wife Linda live in is described as a “small, fragile- seeming home with a “solid vault of apartment houses around (Miller 5)

This description at the beginning of the play already reveals a feeling of threat. It seems as if those tall apartment houses menace the home of
Willy and Linda. Those tall buildings could stand for progress and change within society as they are now built everywhere, whereas Willy’s house could represent isolation and former times. Miller emphasizes these images by saying that Willy’s house stands amidst those tall buildings like “a dream rising out of reality” (Miller 5). While reading this threatening image at the beginning of the play, the reader already starts to fear that Willy’s house will be swallowed by those apartment houses, as there seems no escaping. At the end of the play, this presentiment becomes real as Miller describes that “over the house the hard towers of the apartment buildings rise into sharp focus” (Miller 151). As the house does not only stand for itself but also for its inhabitants, those passages could be interpreted in the way that people who do not follow the ever-changing and progressive society will be excluded from and even destroyed by it. Apparently, in this society one has no other choice than to follow the progress or be left behind. If one is not able to do so - for whatever reasons - one will not be able to resist for long, he is condemned to lose against this reckless society. In another scene, Willy tells his wife Linda:

The street is lined with cars. There’s not a breath of fresh air in the neighborhood. The grass don’t grow any more, you can’t raise a carrot in the back yard. They should’ve had a law against apartment houses (Miller 13).


What are the reasons for Willy's failure in "Death of a salesman"?
University of Frankfurt (Main)  (IEAS)
Introduction to Literature Studies
1,0 (A)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
461 KB
What, Willy, Death, Introduction, Literature, Studies
Quote paper
Andreas Kirchmann (Author), 2003, What are the reasons for Willy's failure in "Death of a salesman"?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/25066


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