Arthur Miller’s Play “Death of a Salesman”


Arthur Miller’s father made women coats so Miller knew how it was discouraging to have high expectations in a business and not meet them. This gave him the idea of this play about a man who expected so much to become a prominent salesman.

The plot

The travelling salesman-Willy Loman left for a business trip but he comes home at midnight. His mind couldn’t concentrate on the road because he was daydreaming hence was unable to drive. While in the house a flashback of his family fifteen years back comes into his mind. In the flashback his wife-Linda and their sons Biff and Happy are seen in the stage. Biff his elder son was a football captain and pursued mathematics course. However, his father didn’t support him to meet his career goals. Even though Willy really wanted his son to excel, his behavior contradicted it. Biff borrows a football but his father does not punish him, he trusts his father so much such that when he does not pass his maths examination; he is sure that Willy would bribe the teacher. However when he goes to Boston Biff finds Willy with a woman in the restaurant an issue that interfered with their respect for each other (Miller, 1949).

Willy dislikes his neighbor Charley, a salesman with his own business who often offered him a job but Willy turned the offers down. Biff also did not like Charley’s son-Bernard who tried to help him in his studies. Bernard worked hard and succeeded to be a lawyer. Biff moved to the west and when he visited home his father was so upset with him. That night when the salesman was unable to drive and returned home, he really fought his son Biffy.

Happy the young son worked hard both for his father’s attention and to achieve something in life. He owned some essential properties and a good social life but did not have time for his father, even though he is seen offering him a holiday in Florida

Willy was sucked from his job when he went to argue with his boss for a change in the job position. Later he died having not achieved his dream.


Willy Lowman

Willy was the travelling salesman even in his late sixties. His life is troubled by the past incidences which keeps haunting him. This experience helps him discover new ideas in life. He is a low man since he is only paid on commissions on sales he makes and supports his family on loans from his neighbor charley (Sterling, 2008).

He has a bad relationship with the older one due to some past life events. The younger has no time to socialize with him. Just as the author calls the play ‘Confession’, Willy a life full of gilt, he often blames the past mistakes for the problems he face.

The character was so eager to see his dream come true that he was so discouraged when he did not achieve it. He lived an unrealistic life, for example he borrowed money from Charley and turned down his offer for job. Nevertheless his low life, forgiveness and love won his favorite son Biff.


Biff was a celebrity in sports while in school and also studied mathematics though he did not pass his examination. He was his father’s best child whom he thought his success would beat the whole world. He has a mixer of visions, sometimes he is so focused to succeed in life and a time he sounds as if he has lost his focus. Biff can’t work for any farm for long because after getting a job he steals and quits. At last we see him coming home to try to make out something beneficial in life. He quarrels with his father due to some past events which only he and his father knew.


Happy was Willy’s youngest son. He was good looking and a powerful man, his name suggested that he was a happy-go-lucky. He worked so much to capture his father’s attention. Happy loved women so much, for example,he picked two women- Miss Forsythe and Letta from the restaurant.

When he grew up he became financially stable with a happy social life. Happy is not transparent, in his work, he takes bribes from bribes from salesmen willing to do business with the company. Although Happy is generous to his father, he sometimes ignores him. For example, he tells some women “No, that’s not my father. He’s just a guy.”


She is a devoted and loving wife since Willy tells her “You’re my foundation and my support.” Linda always protected her husband; she is so strict on the sons when they seem to annoy their father. For example when they abandoned him in the restaurant she shouted to them “There’s no stranger you’d do that to!” (Sterling, 2008).


Charley was Willly’s neighbor and the father to Bernard. He was so hard working. Charley was a salesman in his own business. He is a caring character, for instance, he went to Willy’s home to know why he was shouting. He also did not mind giving Willy loan any time he needed.


Bernard was a hardworking character; he worked so hard in school and succeeded to be a lawyer. He tried to help Biff in his studies and did not wast time cheating and stealing with friends. Bernard is the only young person with an excellent social life. He has a wife with kinds and maintains a good relationship with his father.

Uncle Ben

Ben was Willy’s older brother. He had died long ago, so in the play he appears to his brother to give him some light over his life. Ben was a successful man and his brother thought that he was a man who had all the lucks.


Jenny was Charley’s secretary. She did not like Willy’s unrealistic behavior when he came to ask for a loan. She is happy when Bernard spoke to Willy while he waited to see Charley.

Miss Forsythe and Letta

These were the women in the restaurant. They were picked by Happy as he and his father waited for Biff to play. Their characters were fanatic and are used in the play to show the characters of Happy as a womanizer.

The woman at Boston

She worked together with Willy and admired his company as he made her happy. She spoiled the relationship between Willy and his son when Biff visited his father and found him with her.


He was the waiter in the restaurant. Stanley was so kind, when Willy was left by his sons in the washrooms Stanley helped him to his feet.


Howard was the boss in the company where Willy worked. He had inherited the company from his father. Howard was devoted to run a profitable business so although he had difficulties sucking Willy, he at last did it (Miller, 1949).


The theme of the play is to know what happened to the American dream. As a salesman the dreamer had a vision of becoming an excellent salesperson. The play should show whether the dreamer will have achieved his vision by the time he dies or who is likely to fulfill it.

The play also portrays who suffers from self identity and is a liar. He lives on loan so as to pleas his wife and prove to her that he still earns something. He lies to himself that he is an achiever hence is afraid to the realities of life. He also ha unrealistic expectation of his son who was an excellent sportsman becoming a prominent businessman.


Unlike in a novel where a person narrates a story, the play generally entails a conversation. All through the book there is a dialogue either between two people or among a group. The dialogue makes it real or creates some facts hence it more of a real life event than a tale.


The play mostly takes place inside a family house. The house has a kitchen, master bedroom and a small bedroom for the boys. There is also a backyard outside the house and an area where Willy stays as he imagines things. The author included stage directs to instruct the characters on what to do and how to set the stage. The play was also organized into scenes so as to allow changes of the stage to be made.


The play, Death of a salesman is inspiring, it shows how one can visionalize and mould his life. It is based on ones imaginations or dreams and makes them as real or practical as in the waking life.


Miller, A. (1949). The Death of a Salesman. New York City: Playhouse Repertory Company.

Sterling E. J. (2008). Arthur Miller’s Death of a salesman. Mexico City: Rodopi.

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