Death of a Salesman
By: Arthur Miller
Presentation by: Natalie Sanchez
Is the main character one that
teenagers today can relate to?
Willy Loman lives his entire life as a salesman, going after the
American dream and believing that he will one day run a successful
company. He never achieves this goal, and as he gets older, his
mental health deteriorates making it impossible for him to run a
country. Considering most teenagers have barely entered the
workforce and don’t know much about a failed career, I don’t think
Willy is a relatable character for most teenagers. I do think,
however, that his son, Biff, is a relatable character. Biff was a star
in high school, but fails math and doesn’t graduate. With no clear
direction in life, Biff never succeeds in the work force and ends up
back at his parent’s house with no money or a job. I think most
teenagers can relate to not knowing what to do after high school; a
lot of teenagers fear not finding a job that they’ll be happy with for
the rest of their lives.
• Mental Health
• Personal failure
Willy’s mental health has obviously deteriorated, but his family
refuses to acknowledge that he has become sick. Biff and
Happy pretend that their father doesn’t need help or care.
They are careless with him. Willy’s wife, Linda, sees that
he is sick, but allows him to continue his independent
lifestyle because it is all the family has ever known.
There is a lot of failure in this story. Willy doesn’t advance in
the workplace and begins working for only commission.
Considering Willy’s dream was to one day run the company
and be rich, this is a personal failure. Similarly, Biff fails
at finding a job and sticking to it. Happy, claiming throughout
the story that he has a successful job, doesn’t have an
assistant buyer job either. None of the characters know
how to accept failure and move on towards a brighter future.
They all stay in their permanent ruts.
In the story, Willy gets very angry with his
wife for attending to her stockings
The stockings represent Willy’s guilt
for having an affair with his wife. The
woman he cheated on her with wore
stockings, and when he sees his wife with
stockings, it makes him remember his
Willy attaches a rubber hose to his gas line.
While they never say exactly what he was
using it for, the rubber hose is obviously
a symbol of his numerous attempts at
suicide. It also foreshadows Willy’s suicide
at the end of the story.
Towards the end of the story, Willy becomes
obsessed with going to purchase seeds.
This occurs after he looses his job being
a salesman, and he realizes he can no longer
put food on the table. I believe that the seeds
are a symbol of Willy’s want to provide for his family
and prove to them that after so many years of work,
he has something to show for himself.
• What you sacrifice for success:
Willy, in pursuit of the American dream, makes
poor decisions throughout his life. He spends a
majority of his life traveling, away from home without
his family. He sacrifices spending time with his family
for his job. He chooses affairs over working on his
relationship with his wife that he so often doesn’t see.
He sacrifices once in a lifetime opportunities, like when
he rejects traveling to Alaska with his brother. Lastly, he
sacrifices his mental health by making his happiness
so dependent on a job that isn’t working out. I think this
story shows that while success is important, if you give
up on life opportunities and give up your responsibilities,
you’ll end up with life long regrets.