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Published: 22-09-2019

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Criticism and Deconstruction in the Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller’s American masterpiece Death of a Salesman, first presented on the stage in New York City in 1949, represents a successful literary try at blending the themes of social and private tragedy inside the very same dramatic framework. Yet the story of Willy Loman is also 1 of false values sustained by nearly each publicity agency in the national life of the United States. Therefore, Willy Loman accepts at face value the more than-publicized ideals of material achievement and blatant optimism, and therein lies his personal individual tragedy. His downfall and final defeat illustrate not only the failure of a man but also the failure of a way of life, getting a door-to-door salesman. Miller’s potential to project this story of his tragic, reduce middle-class hero into the typical expertise of so many Americans, who sustain themselves and their families with illusions and ignore realities, tends to make Death of a Salesman 1 of the most important plays in American theater inside the last fifty years.

The character of Willy Loman, the themes of social and private tragedy, and the general commonality discovered within Miller’s play are prime territories for further exploration through the use of psychological criticism and literary deconstruction. In the realm of psychology, Willy Loman’s accomplishments and sources of pleasure seem to be easy and straight-forward, but they do offer an outstanding psychological foundation on his life, due to his top a really typical existence as a traveling salesman which he believes will enable him and his family to attain wealth and comfort. For twenty-five years, Willy has been functioning to pay off the mortgage on his modest property, and after that is achieved, he will attain a sense of freedom, or the “American Dream”. This purpose, in light of the economic/social conditions that existed at the time in which the play is set, presents a ideal picture of his ultimate aim in life, clearly outlined by dollar indicators and a sense of ownership, two essential points to personal achievement as far as Willy is concerned.

Psychologically, the crucial aspect which leads to Willy’s depression is his inability to face reality in the present. His life, it seems, is lived in the previous and the future, and his declaration “You wait, kid, prior to it is all over we’re gonna get a little place out in the country” (Miller 57) symbolizes his continuous dwelling on some rather impractical dreams. As a salesman, Willy travels from state to state, staying in low-cost motels while on the road peddling his goods. This increases the significance of his residence simply because it is not only a spot of habitation but a representation of fleeting stability, a concrete necessity that can not be taken away after the last payment has been made. Whilst discussing his sons with his wife, Willy boasts “And they’ll get married, and come for a weekend…” (Miller 62) which symbolizes his pride in his ownership of the residence. By means of all this, Willy has remained continuous and vigilant, sustaining his unwavering belief that he is truly living the “American Dream.”

In addition, the competitors that Willy encounters in his day-to-day promoting activities is too challenging for his modest talents, and the path he has selected denies his correct becoming at each and every step. He idolizes the “dream” beyond the truth in himself and becomes a romantic, a shadowy non-entity whose only happiness lies in hunting forward to miracles, considering that reality continuously mocks him. His actual ability for manual work outdoors of getting a salesman seems trivial to him, for he tells his son Biff in Act II “Even your grandfather was far more than a carpenter” (Miller 36). From this self-denial, Willy loses the sense of his own believed he is a stranger to his own soul he no longer knows what he thinks either of his sons or his automobile he cannot tell who are his true buddies he is forever in a state of enthusiastic or depressed bewilderment.

As far as deconstruction is concerned, Death of a Salesman is a wide open expanse that can be dissected from numerous viewpoints. 1st of all, as Miller excavates the different layers of Willy Loman’s life, the reader becomes conscious of the hollowness of his dreams and the extent to which his illusions defend him from being overwhelmed with guilt and regret. From this point of view, Willy’s innermost feelings and emotions related to his job as a salesman and his position as a family man could be deconstructed in order to reveal his true motivations. Secondly, Willy continues to profess his faith in the honor of his profession. This raises a pertinent question concerning Ben, Willy’s brother – is his life a credible option to the one particular Willy lives, or does Willy view it as only yet another version of the “American dream”?

Just as Willy refuses to acknowledge the consequences of not going to Alaska with Ben, so he refuses to accept the consequences of his affair with the unidentified lady in Boston. If Willy views his son Biff as he actually is, then Willy will have to admit to himself that Biff’s discovery of the affair may have undermined the inflated self-image Willy encouraged in Biff. Willy tells Biff that “I will not take the rap for this, you hear? (Miller, 103), even as Biff insists that he does not blame his father for his own failures. As an location for deconstruction, this situation raises numerous other queries associated with the accurate character of Willy Loman and how it relates to those about him.

Of course, the deepest insight into Willy Loman happens when Charley asks “Willy, when are you going to grow up?” (Miller, 68), but this can also be applied to Charlie himself, for he states that “My salvation is that I never ever took any interest in anything” (Miller, 74), which shows that each characters are youngsters at heart, for without having need, there is no explanation to worry disappointment.


Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. 50th Anniversary Edition. Preface by Arthur Miller. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.
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