First performed in 1949 and highlighting several essential themes, Death of a Salesman is a play written by Arthur Miller. This two-act tragedy describes the life and death of low middle-class American salesman Willy Loman. While being intimate and local, this play can be applicable to thousands of life stories worldwide. Miller’s exceptional writing skills allow readers and viewers to fully dive in and feel all the tragedy of the story of the unfortunate and unsuccessful salesman Willy.
Death of a Salesman narrates the salesman’s life by blending the present and the protagonist’s memories. This approach also helps to emphasize that salesman loses his mind since he increasingly drops touch with reality by going into memories. The story’s main idea is the downfall of the protagonist and his pursuit of the American Dream, the opportunity to become a successful and wealthy person. Willy worked for over thirty years but did not succeed; both of the salesman’s sons did not live up to his hopes either. His failures are highlighted by prosperous people around and memories of his brother, while Willie is mired in debt, frustrated with his work, life, and family. In the end, accepting his setbacks, the salesman decides to commit suicide and provide his family with insurance payments of twenty thousand dollars.
To create the salesman’s story, the author used a variety of literary devices. Miller (1998) used similes in various places, such as “like Thomas Edison,” “like an old dog,” and “like a young god” (p. 7, p. 40, p. 51). Another literary device presented in the play is a metaphor: “the world is an oyster” “I am a dime a dozen” (Miller, 1998, p. 28, p. 105). The irony is often applied in the play, such as Willy’s foresight statement that a person is “worth more dead than alive” (Miller, 1998, p. 76). Anaphora is sometimes used to enhance the effect in dialogues: the repetition of phrases such as “I’ll whip him,” “you’re no good,” and “I’m like a boy” (Miller, 1998, p. 26, p.. 87, p. 11). In addition to the mentioned literary devices, Death of a Salesman contains allegories, allusions and symbolism.
Death of a Salesman is a masterpiece that demonstrates the impossibility of the American dream and the consequences of pursuing it. The tragedy steeped in disappointment contains a ton of literary devices. With these tools, Miller brightened the piece, added realism, provided immersion, hid some ideas, and brought others to the surface. The author’s exceptional writing skills allow feeling the frustration and consequences of hopes that never were fulfilled.
Miller, A. (1998). Death of a Salesman. Penguin Books.