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Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title  · Death of a Salesman: Certain Private Conversations in Two Acts and a Requiem

author  · Arthur Miller

type of work  · Play

genre  · Tragedy, social commentary, family drama

language  · English (with emphasis on middle-class American lingo)

time and place written  · Six weeks in 1948, in a shed in Connecticut

date of first publication  · 1949

original publisher  · The Viking Press

climax  · The scene in Frank’s Chop House and Biff’s final confrontation with Willy at home

protagonists  · Willy Loman, Biff Loman

antagonists  · Biff Loman, Willy Loman, the American Dream

setting (time)  · “Today,” that is, the present; either the late 1940s or the time period in which the play is being produced, with “daydreams” into Willy’s past; all of the action takes place during a twenty-four-hour period between Monday night and Tuesday night, except the “Requiem,” which takes place, presumably, a few days after Willy’s funeral

setting (place)  · According to the stage directions, “Willy Loman’s house and yard [in Brooklyn] and . . . various places he visits in . . . New York and Boston”

falling action  · The “Requiem” section, although the play is not really structured as a classical drama

tense  · Present

foreshadowing  · Willy’s flute theme foreshadows the revelation of his father’s occupation and abandonment; Willy’s preoccupation with Linda’s stockings foreshadows his affair with The Woman; Willy’s automobile accident before the start of Act I foreshadows his suicide at the end of Act II

tone  · The tone of Miller’s stage directions and dialogue ranges from sincere to parodying, but, in general, the treatment is tender, though at times brutally honest, toward Willy’s plight

themes  · The American Dream; abandonment; betrayal

motifs  · Mythic figures; the American West; Alaska; the African jungle

symbols  · Seeds; diamonds; Linda’s and The Woman’s stockings; the rubber hose