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Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller
Main Ideas

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