Discussing Death of a Salesman

“Death of a Salesman”, written by Arthur Miller, is a play in which there are scenes involving intense emotion. I am going to write in detail about how Arthur Miller conveys the intense emotion of anger in a particular scene, how he makes the reader aware of the intensity of the emotion in the scene, and the importance of the scene to the play as a whole. The main character of this play, Willy Loman, is a sixty year old man with a wife, Linda, and two sons, Biff and Happy. Willy has been a salesman for thirty-four years of his life. However, he is not very successful at his job and struggles to come up with money to cover the costs of his family. Having to travel across the country at the age of sixty and making next to no money at all for it results in him being exhausted. This, in turn, causes his state of mind to deteriorate. more

As a child, Willy’s eldest son, Biff, loved and admired his father. In his childhood, he was confident, popular and a good sportsman. He was considered a local ‘hero’ with a very promising future, due to his skills at football. He looked up to his father as a role model, and was determined to succeed in his father’s terms as a salesman, but followed his father’s advice and concentrated on manly things rather than his school-work. (Biff) – “This Saturday, Pop, this Saturday, just for you, I’m going to break through for a touchdown.”

This shows clearly Biff’s admiration as a child for his father, as he talks of the biggest football game of his life, which he and his father believe will take him to success. But as we are introduced by Miller to the older Biff, it is immediately evident to the reader that Biff’s admiration of his father has declined dramatically. The reader is shown this by Miller through the difference in the characterisation of Biff as a child compared to present. He is no longer confident, but lacks self assurance, he is neither popular nor successful in life.

(Willy) – “How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it’s good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it’s more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week!” It is also made clear to the reader that Biff’s relationship with his father has been damaged. We are later shown how and why by Miller, in the scene where Biff goes to visit his father in Boston.

The scene in which the anger- Biff had failed his maths exam, which he needed to pass in order to get into university. He goes to visit his father, who is working in Boston, for comfort and assurance. Although Willy appears to be faithful and loyal to his wife, he is found by his son to be in the hotel room with another woman. Biff is shocked to find out that the man he saw as his role model is untrustworthy and is actually not the man he made himself out to be. This is shown by Biff’s hesitancy when he first finds out that his father is with another woman.

(Biff) – “Dad…” (Willy) – “She’s nothing to me, Biff. I was lonely, I was terribly lonely.”As Biff overcomes his shock, he becomes more and more angry at his father.  (Biff) – “You – you gave her Mama’s stockings!” (Willy) – “I gave you an order!” (Biff) – “Don’t touch me, you – liar!” (Willy) – “Apologize for that!” (Biff) – “You fake! You phoney little fake! You fake!” The intensity of this emotion is made clear to the reader in this scene through the way Biff shouts at his father. He almost rebels against his father, destroying everything that his father had given to him in terms of his future. For example, we are told later on in the play that Biff abandoned the idea of going to university, of working as a salesman, following the footsteps of his father, of even working in the city. Evidently, he made the decisions to do so as a result of this moment in the play.

Effectively, the anger Biff felt during this incident in Boston affected Biff’s relationship with his father, which is shown throughout the play. Biff is even reluctant to help his father when he needs him most – at the age of sixty, struggling to earn money and becoming more and more mentally unstable, even suicidal. However, the incident in Boston was also a benefit to Biff, in that he no longer went along with his father’s delusional outlook on life, but was able to face up to reality, against his dreams. So although he is unsuccessful in life, he does not dwell on his dreams like his father and is therefore able to live his life in truth and reality. In conclusion, I found that Arthur Miller is very successful in conveying the intense emotion of anger, and developing a scene involving this emotion to have an effect on the play as a whole. Miller also effectively makes the reader aware of the emotion in the scene through his use of characterisation and conflict between two characters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *