Plot Summary Of Death Of A Salesman By Arthur Miller

The “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller tells a sad story of Willy Loman and his family. Throughout the story the family live in denial. The denial of some serious matters erodes the foundation of the family. The family is unable to truly communicate and support one another. This is unfortunate because Willy needs help as he is losing his grip on reality as he toggles between fond memories of the past and the bleak reality of his present life. He becomes so frustrated with his life that he commits suicide in hopes that the $20,000 of insurance money he leaves behind will solve the family’s problems and he will be a hero in their eyes.

At one time, Willy was very proud of his sons, especially Biff. He compares his sons to Adonis and Hercules. He says his sons have “personal attractiveness. ” Willy believes because his sons are physically attractive, and they are well liked that they are powerful so they will ultimately be successful in life. However, Willy fails to deal with Biff’s issues of stealing, being rough with the neighborhood girls and failing Math. Willy does not deal with these serious issues in Biff’s life because he believes that Biff will be successful because he is “very well liked” and has a promising football career ahead of him. About this same time, Biff discovers his father is having an affair while he is out of town on long business trips. Again, Willy refuses to deal with the seriousness of the situation and plays off the affair as if it is no big deal. Willy does not acknowledge that he has betrayed his marriage vows and the trust of his wife and kids. Biff also does not deal with his father’s affair. He keeps it to himself instead of telling the rest of the family. He calls his father a “phony little fake. ” Because he is angry with his father, he does not attend summer school so that he can pass math. Biff ends up not going to college to play football. Biff then spends his life bouncing around from job to job. Biff continues to steal and even goes to jail for three months for stealing a suit. Biff and Willy continue to be angry with one another and spend most of their conversations yelling not enjoying each other’s company as fathers and sons should.

Willy also spends his entire sales career avoiding dealing with his shortcomings as a salesman. Rather than admitting that he is not a top salesman with great influence, he inflates the stories of his business success to his family. He tells them he can park wherever he wants, and he does not have to wait to see anyone and that when he dies so many people will come to his funeral because he is so well liked. None of this is true. He embellishes his life so that his family will think that he is well liked because for Willy that is how you measure a man’s success in life. He barely brings home enough money to pay the bills. In fact, near the end of the story he must go to his neighbor, Charlie, every Friday to borrow money. Charlie has offered Willy a job many times, but Willy’s continued denial of his unsuccessful life forces him to always turn Charlie’s offer down. In his denial he allows himself to pretend that he earned that money through his sales. His denial and inability to face his problems with work lead to his current financial troubles and ultimately to him being fired because mentally he cannot keep it together. Willy continues to relive the past to lament, question, and justify why he did not follow his brother Ben to Africa and become rich. Willy is haunted by his brother’s words “I went into the jungle at 17 and came out at 21 a rich man. ” Willy , now 60, has nothing but broken-down appliances, an old car, and an old empty house that is not yet paid off as material evidence of the hard work he put into sales for all his adult life.

Willy’s wife Linda also denies the serious problems that her husband is facing. She knows that Willy has tried to kill himself in the past by wrecking his car. She knows this because the insurance adjuster puts that in the reports of his accidents. Linda has further evidence of his suicidal tendencies because she has found a hose hidden in the cellar that he could use to kill himself with carbon monoxide from the exhaust of the car. Yet she does not confront Willy or try to get him help because she feels like it will humiliate him and does not deserve to be humiliated. She also knows that he does not exceed at sales. She allows him to give inflated earnings but then finally gets him to give an accurate account. But they never discuss his lack of success. She simply goes along with everything he says. She believes that he is a good man and he does not deserve to be treated so unfairly by his sons and his boss. She continually defends her husband to the point that she calls her sons names tells her sons to get out and not come back.

In the end it is Biff who finally has the courage to say that “we never told the truth for ten minutes in this house” and “we were all full of it”. The whole family finally has it out one last time in the kitchen when confronts his father with the rubber hose from the basement. He reminds his brother Happy and his mother that they are just as guilty because they went along with this charade for their entire lives never facing the truth about the family and its problems. Biff declares that he is going to go his own way and find happiness doing what he loves which is not being a salesman. Happy on the other hand feels sorry for his dad and says that he will stay here, become a great salesman and get married because he thinks that will please his father and make everything better. With the sons having made their decisions for their future the family goes to bed except for Willy. The rest of the family seems to be at peace. Unfortunately, Willy has already made up his mind to kill himself. He believes that the only way he can rectify the situation is to kill himself for the insurance money. In his mind if he does this, he will die a noble death which will erase all his past failures with his family because they will see that he was really something.

In the final scene, Willy’s real-life success is exposed. The only people at his funeral are his wife, two sons, and Charlie and Bernard. No great crowds as he had imagined. His death was anything but noble. Biff states that his father had the “wrong dreams” and the “he did not know who haw was. I know who I am”. Happy, in denial, defends his father and says “I am staying in the city and I am going to beat this racket. I am going to show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain”. Finally, his wife, also in denial, cannot understand why Willy did this to himself when she just made the final payment on the house. Her final words are “we were free and clear”. It seems that only Biff has broken the cycle of denial and Linda and Happy will remain living their lives as usual, denial and all.

10 October 2020
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