Death of a SalesmanContrast between 1940s and 2000s Salesmen, And a brief history from 1880-2013 By Josh Deutscher “And it’s a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still — that’s how you build a future.”
A Brief History: 1880-20131883: Brooklyn Bridge in New York City finished1885: Statue of Liberty gifted by France1891: Birth of Basketball1899: Invention of Aspirin1901: First vacuum cleaner invented1914: Beginning of World War I1919: 19th Amendment gives women the right to vote1924: Invention of Television1932: Amelia Earhart is first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic1939: Beginning of World War II1945: U.S. drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki1949: NATO Established1954: First atomic submarine launched1958: NASA Founded1962: Cuban Missile Crisis1963: JFK Assassinated1971: VCRs Introduced1984: Poison gas leak in Bhopal, India1986: U.S. bombs Libya1991: Soviet Union collapses1993: Use of the internet grows exponentially1997: Scientists clone sheep2001: 9/11 terrorist attack in the U.S.2005: YouTube is launched2009: Barack Obama becomes first black U.S. president2010: Haiti is hit by devastating earthquake
Linda Loman: Housewife, MotherWilly Loman: Age 63,Father and Husband, Salesman The Loman Family Of 1949 Happy Loman: Age 32, Willy and Linda’s Younger Son Biff Loman: Age 34, Former High School Football Player, Willy and Linda’s Older Son
Willy Loman is the father of two boys, Biff and HappyLoman, husband to Linda Loman, but above all, asalesman. He is highly delusional, proud, andunstable; he often has flashbacks of memories of hischildren and his wife when he was proud of them.During conversations, he often imagines his dead olderbrother, Ben, giving him advise and speaks to both hisimaginary mentor, and his real family and friends at thesame time. Willy often talks about what it means to besuccessful, and in his mind, it is more important to bewell liked than honest, hard working, or respected.Many times throughout, Willy uses forgottensubconscious thoughts as argumentative points withLinda and his son Biff. For example, he is angry withLinda whenever she mends stockings because it Willy Lomanreminds him of Linda’s stockings, which he gave to awoman that he had an affair with. He is often angry “And when I saw that, I realized that selling was thewith his son Biff for wasting a few years since high greatest career a man could want. ’Cause what couldschool jumping from job to job, and later expresses his be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age ofanger at Biff for not attending summer school and eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, andending his football career, even though it was pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?”discovery of Willy’s affair that caused this. Willy’s -Willy Lomanpurpose in his life, according to him, is to be successfuland raise his sons to be successful to the standard thathe considers success.
“I stopped in the middle of that building and I saw – the sky. I saw the things that I love in this world. The work and the food and time to sit and smoke. And I looked at the pen and said to myself, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am!" - Biff Loman “Pop, I’m nothing! I’m nothing, Pop. Can’t you understand that? There’s no spite in it any Biff Loman more. I’m just what I am, that’s all.” - Biff LomanBiff Loman is Willy and Linda’s eldest son, and was a big football star in high school. However, whenBiff visited Willy in Boston while he was away on business to tell him how he flunked Math, Biffdiscovered his father with another woman. Devastated by his father’s true nature, Biff didn’t takesummer school and drops out of high school, losing his big opportunities and scholarships. In the nextseveral years, Biff tries to stay home as little as possible and works in the west as a farm hand, andjumps from place to place and job to job. He steals a suit, among other things, in order to impressWilly and ends up in jail for three months.Biff often changes from lying to try make his father proud, and hating him for the things he’s done andthe person Biff has become because of his father’s influence. In the end, Biff becomes tortured bywho he is and what he’s becoming, and finally reveals the truth to his family about himself and hisfather.
Linda LomanLinda Loman is Willy’s wife and the mother of theirtwo sons. She is often concerned with the affairs ofher sons but ultimately supports and calms herhusband when Biff and Willy argue. Willy often yellsat her when she makes small, upbeat commentsabout what Willy is speaking about, telling her to notinterrupt. She does her best to love and care for herhusband, despite how he treats her, and lecturesher sons when their arguing worsens Willy’scondition. She’s also is the first to discover thatWilly has tried to commit suicide and uses it toconvince Biff and Happy to stop the arguing withtheir father. Happy Loman Harold “Happy” Loman is Willy and Linda’s younger son, who is much more stable than both Willy and Biff, but also more dishonest and preoccupied with women. He is generally supportive of his mother and father, but often spends his time focused on women and ways to advance to a greater position in his job, rather than the poor condition Willy is currently in. Happy is also fairly optimistic and ambitious, especially while around his parents and while keeping the peace between Willy and Biff.
Important Side CharactersCharley: Bernard: Uncle Ben:Willy Loman’s next door neighbor Charley’s son and childhood Willy Loman’s dead olderwho jokes with Willy while they friend of Biff and Happy. Willy brother, who Willy admiresplay cards together. He lends pictures him as a nerd, but turns and often hallucinates about.Willy money because he isn’t out to be much more stable, In his daydreams, Willy asksmaking much on commission as independent, and successful than Ben to tell him what to do anda salesman anymore. Willy’s sons. to inspire his sons, just like Ben inspires him. To Willy, Ben is successful in everyway Willy wishes to be. “Why, boys, when I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich.” - Uncle Ben
Why Success is so Important to Willy LomanWilly is a hard working salesman, but he directly associates popularity with success; the concept that bybeing well liked, the “sky’s the limit”, and that it doesn’t matter what you say, but how you say it, and who youknow. Willy is partially correct in that presentation is very important in the business world, and people youknow can open up opportunities, but it is always better to be honest and respectable rather than followingconformity in order to be popular. Happy is like his father in many ways; willing to be dishonest to get ahead,trying to make others think well of him, and being loose with women. Willy’s two life goals have been to besuccessful, and for his sons to be successful. The lie that Willy and Happy have been living, however, is thatbeing well liked isn’t everything. Willy thinks that Biff and Happy will be ahead of Bernard in the businessworld, but Bernard, like his father Charley, ends up respected and successful, even though he isn’t well liked.Willy’s desire to be successful is tied with admiration of his brother, Ben, and uses his thought of being wellliked to become his role model, and wishes the same for his sons. “Without a penny to his name, three great universities are begging for“I bet he’d back you. him, and from there the sky’s‘Cause he thought highly the limit, because it’s notof you, Biff. I mean, they all what you do, Ben. It’s whodo. You’re well liked, Biff. you know and the smile onThat’s why I say to come your face! It’s contacts, Ben,back here, and we both contacts! The whole wealthhave the apartment. And of Alaska passes over theI’m tellin’ you, Biff, any lunch table at thebabe you want…” Commodore Hotel, and- Happy Loman that’s the wonder, the wonder of this country, that a man can end with diamonds here on the basis of being liked!” - Willy Loman
Linda Loman: Middle aged wife, works at home The Loman Family Of 2013 Happy Loman: YoungWilly Loman: Salesman business man, meets a lot of women Biff Loman: Young man, doesn’t know what he wants to be yet. Troubled past.
1950s: Sales in the 1950s were struggling to recover because of World War II startingto settle down, but sales of the black and white television were through the roof, as 77%of households purchased one.1960s: Luxury items began to become more popular with musicians such as Elvis andthe Beatles becoming relevant. The invention of color TV was also a big seller forsalesmen.1970s: Video games started to become a bigger market as new popular games, such asSpace Invaders and Pong, entered the scene. In households, things like the new VCR andthe such started to be produced and sold cheaper, and being a salesman became morerelevant.
1980s: Much of the developed world lost the desire to purchase and consume luxuryitems as the world entered a global recession. In the latter half, the markets began to re-stabilize and salesmen started selling new popular items, such as home console videogames and the personal computer.1990s: The global economy had recovered but the places where a salesman couldmake a living were decreasing. Sales were becoming more popular over the internet andover the phone as new technologies were developed, such as the portable CD player.2000s: Salesmen have become all but extinct in the 21st century, an age of smartphones and tablets, online buying, and over the phone transactions. The few salesmenthat remain stick to car dealerships and television infomercials as the sheer intensity ofconsumer buying has skyrocketed in a digital age.
Works Cited:Miller, Arthur, and Arthur Miller. “Death of a Salesman” 1949. Print.Shmoop Editorial Team. "Death of a Salesman Respect and ReputationQuotes Page 1" Shmoop.com. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 2Apr. 2013.SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on Death of a Salesman.” SparkNotes.com.SparkNotes LLC. 2002. Web. 14 Mar. 2013.
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