How to Write an Essay on Death of a Salesman: Example and Tips
Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is an iconic American play that won the 1949 Tony Award for the best play, and the play itself was featured as a Broadway show, amassing over 700 performances. The play itself is considered to be one of the best of the 20th century, and besides the United States, the play was also well received and rode to great success in United Kingdom, Germany, India, and even China.
Thesis Statement Pointers
An excellent paper for Death of a Salesman comprises of a great thesis statement. Here we’ve put together a series of brilliant thesis statements that can help guide you well on your way to writing a killer essay. It’s often that students may feel overwhelmed by the number of options out there, so let us help you out by narrowing it down to the following thesis statements that discuss some of the key themes and ideas throughout the play. You can use one of these statements to help base your essay around, adding plenty of analysis as you see fit.
1. Modernity’s role in Death of a Salesman
Throughout this iconic play, the most prominent character Mr. Loman lives on the cusp of American modernity in 1940. The country is seeing a rapid increase in the amount of manufacturing, so Mr. Loman is always trying to obtain the best quality appliances and items for his family; however, he begins to go mad because of the pressures of the materialistic world. Willy Loman becomes a victim to the perils of consumerism and capitalist culture, constantly concerned about not being able to keep up with others in terms of owning the right things. It is a rather dismal outlook and holds true to society today. As the play progresses, Willy Loman mentions that he is slowly running out of funds leaving him unable to pay for new products. Arthur Miller has done well to bring out the worst of modernity in his play and leaves the audience very much questioning the role and application of consumerism in modern society.
2. The theme of contradiction
Death of a Salesman wouldn’t be the play it was without the theme of contradiction running through it. Willy Loman’s character is very odd and the man becomes very inconsistent in nature, paradoxically, this may be the only consistent thing about him. Willy’s inconsistency is apparent from the very start in Act 1, Scene 1, where he calls Biff a lazy bum, but then states how he’s such a hard worker and that one thing about him which can be true is that he’s not a lazy person. It is striking for the audience to witness such an inconsistent nature and this overall ties into Willy’s progressively worse mental health. It is likely that Willy’s inconsistent nature is, in fact, the result of him becoming unable to accept reality and, instead, he tries to recreate the past in order to be free from the present. This is made clear when Biff loses respect for him because of his affair, making Willy try and retreat in his mind to a time where he was admired by Biff instead of working in the present to try and make the situation better.
3. Abandonment as a theme
From the beginning of the play, the audience is very much pointed out to the role of abandonment that has played such a large part in Willy Loman’s life. Willy was deserted by his father from a young age and has often been left to one side by a lot of the people he knows and loves. Throughout the play, he becomes ever more fearful of abandonment and so becomes a lot more controlling around the household, trying to exert control over many of his family members. The controlling attitude doesn’t, however, stop Biff from carrying on with his dreams as he discovers his father, nor does it prevent him and Happy from abandoning Willy at a restaurant in the scene, where Willy has a loud outburst. Unfortunately, in the last scene, we learn of Willy Loman’s suicide and so a last act of abandonment. What ways is Willy trying to regain control through his suicide, and was it a strategy to make a point about abandonment?
4. The theme of madness
As the audience watches the play, it becomes clearer to them that this salesman is, unfortunately, descending into madness. The flashbacks, which appear in the play to a previous part in life when Willy was happy to insult Bill and Charley, point out the beginning of this madness. These flashbacks rapidly progress into haunted scenes where Willy is set off on a mad rampage very easily only by being triggered by the sound of female laughter. Unfortunately for Willy, it is clear of the audience that he becomes encapsulated in a sea of madness and it becomes the death of him - this is especially pointed out in scenes such as in the garden when he plots with an imaginary character about the best way to make 20,000 dollars. The audience is taken on a show of madness which starts from the flashbacks to becoming attached to the imaginary characters and people. The most harrowing part of Willy’s madness is that his family doesn’t know how to cope and struggle with a result of this. The play points out the overarching commitment to love as his wife Linda continues to stay by Willy’s side even though he is losing his mind.
5. Betrayal as a theme
The audience is taken on a trip through the theme of betrayal throughout the play, this theme tying together the vast majority of the plot in Death of a Salesman. Willy believes he is being encouraging and loving towards his son Biff yet he feels betrayed by him and his not wanting to succeed in life. Also, Biff feels as though his father has betrayed him because of the affair that his father had. Willy Loman obviously betrayed both his wife and his marriage bows. Betrayal is such a powerful theme in this play because it really brings out the worst sides of all the characters and adds to colour the theme of madness that echoes throughout.
The audience is taken on a trip through the theme of betrayal throughout the play, which ties together the vast majority of the plot in Death of a Salesman. Willy believes he is encouraging and loving towards his son Biff, yet he feels betrayed by him and his not wanting to succeed in life. Also, Biff feels as though his father has betrayed him because of the affair that his father had. Willy Loman obviously betrayed both his wife and marriage vows. Betrayal is such a powerful theme in this play because it really brings out the worst sides of all characters and colors the theme of madness that echoes throughout.