Personal failure in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman"

Essay, 2016

6 Pages, Grade: 94


Karina Kovalenko

Essay #2

ENG 131

April 14, 2016

Responsibility for Willie’s personal failure

in the Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

The Death of a Salesman is a realistic drama play consisting of two Acts and Requiem written by Arthur Miller in 1949. The play brightly depicts the main character Willie Loman as a person having wide-spread unreachable “American dream” dream – the idea that dominated in people’s minds as a symbol of success and happiness. Miller said “…a lot of people give a lot of their lives to a company or even the government, and when they are no longer needed, when they are used up, they’re tossed aside…Willie Loman’s situation is even more common now than it was then [1949]. A lot of people are eliminated earlier from the productive life in this society than they used to be” (Mays, 2010, p. 1736). Willie represents the one who tried to fulfill this dream to be a salesman and failed being “eliminated from productive life”. Even being old and having wife Linda and two adult sons Biff and Happy, Willie willfully continues going against himself. The plot combines present actions and flashbacks – as a reality and illusion, which is one of the main themes of the Death of a Salesman. Moreover, the title of the play announces a reader more about coming end of an unrealistic image of a salesman than of a concrete character. Willie betrayed his real wishes and life path, and, although he is responsible for failing his self-realization in life, his environment as well as his wife and sons’ influence contributed to the elimination of real dreams to the same extend as he himself did.

From the beginning of the play a reader sees Willie as an unhappy person that often recalls moments from the past and compares them with the present, understanding his own fault and unrealistic ambitions of his personal failure but arguing about his importance as a salesman. The place of action in the play is primarily Loman’s house, but flashbacks take place in New York and Boston as well, so a reader can puzzle Willie’s motifs based on his life before the actual time of action. Firstly, during the play, having a family and being an old man, Willie often thinks about his life, his real dreams but cannot admit that he does wrong things. He is too old to be a salesman and cannot fit the requirements to reach success in this field. However, he continues persuading himself and his family that this is exactly the life he wants to live. He says “They don’t need me in New York… I’m vital in New England” (Miller, 1949, p. 1671).

Willie lost his talents but he is persuaded that he did right to such an extent that he has lost himself. This affected his mental condition and sometimes he cannot distinguish the reality and memories. The main character wants his dreams and reality match but he realizes that they do not, and this spoils him inside. He worries about wasted time and that is why he recalls past so often. He chose to resist his insight and repress his smoldering thoughts about favorite work, and does not want to change this mind. He is obsessed with being a salesman, and he tries to convince himself that it will bring him respect from other people. Willie often says his sons that having many contacts and being respectful means success (Miller, 1949). Eventually, though, no one from people he knew comes to his funeral (Miller, 1949). This final scene of resolution in Requiem once more proves and emphasizes his failure to be a person he wants to become.

Furthermore, he decided to guide his sons to have the same work denying their wishes. Willie does not accept Biff’s wish to become a farmer and says “he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week… at the age of thirty-four” (Miller, 1949, p. 1672). He blames Biff for being lazy, having accomplished nothing and abandoning his potential. Understanding his current life condition and not wanting to admit his failure, Willie blames everyone but not himself releasing his anger and desperation. In addition, he does not want to disappoint his wife Linda and he is weak in terms of expressing and defending his own point of view regarding his real dreams. For example, when he attempts to tell her that he wants to quit his job and to have a garden, Linda refuses this idea reminding what he has to do, and Willie agrees (Miller, 1949).


Excerpt out of 6 pages


Personal failure in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman"
LCC International University
Introduction to Literature
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ISBN (Book)
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personal, arthur, miller, death, salesman
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Karina Kovalenko (Author), 2016, Personal failure in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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