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Death of a Salesman

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Author: Arthur Miller

Date of birth-death: 17/10/1915 �€" 10/02/2005

Title: Death of a Salesman

Published by: Penguin Classics

Year of first publication: 1949

Publication date of your edition: 2000

Relevant data on author and period: 1932: Arthur Miller graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School, he worked at several menial jobs to pay for his college tuition.

1940: Arthur Miller married his college sweetheart, Mary Slattery, the Catholic daughter of an insurance salesman.

1948: Miller wrote part one of Death of a Salesman in a day, six weeks later, he finished the play.

1949: Death of a Salesman premiered on Broadway

1956: Miller married Marilyn Monroe.

1961: Miller and Monroe divorced.

1962: Miller married Inge Morath. They had two children, Rebecca and Daniel.

Narrative point of view

In the play "Death of a Salesman", the story is told from different points of view. Most parts are about the main character, Willy Loman. Willy is living a very hectic life and he has a lot of strange thoughts about certain things. He has a lot of flashbacks and those are described too.

Most of the time the conversations are between Willy and his family. When Willy is having a flashback, the characters he's talking to are death in real life.

In the book, when a character is talking it's formulated like this:'

Biff: Let's go to sleep.

Happy: I guess we didn't settle anything, heh?

Sometimes there are some pieces of texts between the conversations. This is to make a certain situation more clear or to explain something.

When a character says something with an emotion it's formulated like this:

Biff [with enthusiasm]: Listen, why don't you come out West with me?

Happy: You and I, heh?

In this way it's easier to imagine the situation because it brings up certain images.


Relations with Willy Loman

Primary characters

Secondary characters (flashbacks) Tertiary characters

Linda Loman (wife) Ben (brother) Charley (neighbor)

Biff Loman (son) The woman (mistress) Bernard (son neighbor)

Happy Loman (son) Howard Wagner (boss)

Stanley (waiter)

Miss Forsythe and Letta (women Biff and Happy met)

Jenny (secretary Howard)


The basic story takes place in the late 1940s. The storyline takes place within one day, in the present time. Everything is told very elaborate. One chapter is equal to one conversation. In this way, we get to know the characters very well.

Willy's flashbacks are from about 15 years earlier. You can tell this because his sons were very young at that time. Most of the time it's confusing whether the play is about the past or the present time. Because Willy is so hectic and confused all the time, you often don't know in which time he's living. An example where Willy is confused and goes from present time to a flashback is:

Charley: Don't call me disgusting, Willy. (present time)

[UNCLE BEN, carrying a valise and an umbrella, enters the forestage from around the right corner of the house. He is a stolid man, in his sixties, with a moustache and an authoritative air. He is utterly certain of his destiny, and there is an aura of far places about him. He enters exactly as Willy speaks.]

Willy: I'm getting awfully tired, Ben. (flashback)

[BEN'S music is heard. BEN looks around at everything.]

Charley: Good, keep playing; you'll sleep better. Did you call me Ben?

[BEN looks at his watch]

Willy: That's funny. For a second there you reminded me of my brother Ben.

Ben: I only have a few minutes.


The story takes place in New York, America. Willy Loman and his family live in a small house with a small yard. Their house is surrounded by apartments. Because of the huge number of population at that moment in New York (American Dream), Willy gets a bit paranoid. He's surrounded by all kinds of apartments and there are people everywhere. This is why he's so confused all the time, his life seems very hectic. At the end of the book he walks outside and starts to scream about how crowded his neighborhood is.

Willy [suddenly conscious of BIFF, turns and looks up at him, then begins picking up the package of seeds in confusion]: Where the hell is that seed? [Indignantly] You can't see nothing out here! They boxed in the whole goddam neighbourhood!

The place of the play is similar to the feelings in the play. Willy is hectic all the time, so is their neighborhood because it's so small.

Most of the time the play takes place in their home or garden. But at a certain time, they go to a restaurant. Willy is also at his office.

Social setting

The author does not give his meaning about certain things. He also doesn't chooses a side. This is because it's a play. The book only gives us the texts and feelings of the characters. The author isn't important at all.

The characters live in a poor environment. Willy doesn't earn much and he has to work very hard and a lot to pay the bills. Meanwhile, he borrows money from his neighbor. His wife, Linda, doesn't know about this.



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