Death of a Salesman: Express Book Report

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Learn more about plot, summary and symbolism from Death of a Salesman
Written by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman is a famous play following the experiences of an American family. The protagonist of the story is a man named Willy Loman who is an older salesman. Willy is married to a woman named Linda and the couple has two grown up sons named Biff and Happy. The story begins when Willy is returning home from a travelling sales trip. Realizing he is too old for constant travel, Linda encourages Willy to ask his boss for a position at the local office. That same night, Willy and Biff get into an argument based on the disappointment Biff is to Willy. Willy always expected Biff to be successful and Biff feels that he can never live up to his father’s expectations. Biff tells his father that he is going to get a loan and open a business. Willy is satisfied with Biff’s plan and the argument is resolved. We also learn that Willy often has flashbacks and talks loudly to himself. The fits occur several times a day and Linda admits to their sons that Willy has been attempting suicide. Willy’s disappoint in his life is blamed on Biff’s lack of achievements. The next day, events take a turn for the worse. Instead of getting a new position Willy is fired from his job and Biff does not get the loan for his business. The two argue again and Willy resorts to having flashbacks and talking to imaginary people. Willy decides that the only way his son will be successful is if Willy is dead, so Biff could use the insurance money to start a business. The story ends when Linda and the sons hear a loud crash and discover Willy has killed himself.

Main Characters: Willy Loman- The protagonist of the story, Willy is disappointed by his failures and the failures of his son. Biff Loman- The eldest son, Biff realizes that he will never live up to the expectations of his father. Happy Loman- The younger son who is not held to the same expectations as his older brother. Linda Loman- Willy’s wife who supports his dreams and acts as the emotional strength to the family.

Symbolism: Diamonds- to Willy diamonds represent tangible wealth. They also symbolize Willy’s unwavering faith in the American Dream which is desperately seeks. Seeds- the seeds symbolize Willy’s shame about being a failure and having nothing to pass on to his children.

About the Author: Arthur Miller was born in New York in 1915. While at the University of Michigan, Miller wrote several plays which gained him attention and awards. The play Death of a Salesman created quite a stir and won Miller a Pulitzer Prize. Death of a Salesman was published in 1949.

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