One of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, Death of a Salesman, depicts the last 24 hours of Willy Loman’s life, an unsuccessful salesperson with warped views on the American dream and the path towards it. The play is a sociological critique of certain ideals, ideas, and morals prevalent in 1930s American culture (Rahman, 2016). The drama also delves into his relationships with his wife, children, and colleagues. Throughout Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, he employs symbolism to express a larger notion and convey more than what is actually spoken. Miller illustrates the influence of these goods over the Loman family by using stockings, a rubber hose, a tape recorder, and seeds. The emblems of consumerism do not appease the Loman family but rather contribute to their issues.
Death of a Salesman grew out of a short tale Miller penned when he was seventeen while working temporarily for his father’s firm. It is related to the story of an older salesperson who sells nothing, gets insulted by purchasers, and obtains his metro fare from the youthful narrator, only to jump beneath a train platform. Willy was fashioned after Miller’s salesman uncle, Manny Newman, a competitor in all situations, in all activities, and at all moments. He and his brother saw sprinting neck and neck with his two boys in some sprint in his imagination that never ended.
Willy and his son Biff are at odds throughout the play. He saw a ton of potential in the sporty and womanizing Biff as a parent. Nevertheless, after dropping out of college, son and father had a falling out, and Biff clearly rejects his father’s views of the American dream (Basara, 2019). Happy’s type of lifestyle is more in accordance with Willy’s, although he is not the favored child and is, altogether, a weak figure with little substance. Willy’s connection with his father and uncle Ben is also examined. Willy’s parents used to create and sell whistles, and he had his household travel all across the nation for that reason. Ben, who made his wealth traveling, followed in his father’s footsteps.
In Death of a Salesman, flashbacks are utilized to convey Willy’s recollection of reality. The impression not only alludes to the past but also an ancient agricultural existence. Willy fantasizes about wealth his entire life and fabricates falsehoods about his and Biff’s achievements. The more he delights in fantasy, the more difficult it is for him to confront reality. Biff has the knowledge the family has been living in deception and attempts to confront reality, having no more patience to live this way.
Miller constructs his own interpretation of a conventional drama in Death of a Salesman by comparing individuals to Greek symbols and focusing the play on the lives of a regular men. Arthur Miller sought to demonstrate that the ordinary man and those with authority were more similar than most people believed. Miller caused a dramatic format that rightfully claims the position of what may be dubbed a contemporary tragedy, appealing to modern audiences in a way that few other modern plays have (Bayouli and Sammali, 2019). They responded to matching events with the same mental processes and emotions. Humankind adores tragedies. Therefore, Miller felt compelled to write one that would make his readers feel sorrow and worry for the protagonists, as they may be experiencing similar emotions in their own experiences. A tragedy impresses the viewer and should elicit emotions comparable to those experienced by the story’s protagonists.
The Rubber Tube
Loman’s play presents the rubber tube as a dark and sinister emblem. The rubber pipe is the tool that the central protagonist, Willy Loman, maintains concealed in his underground for his attempted suicides. At its most basic, the rubber pipe represents Willy’s silent intention to erase himself in the middle of what has proven to be an uninteresting and shallow life. The narrative is unclear as to how many occasions Willy has tried murder in this method, but the placement of the rubber pipe serves as a warning that Willy is on the brink of death. As the play unfolds, we find that Willy’s suicidal thoughts are fueled in part by his hope for his relatives to obtain a large life insurance claim if he dies. Willy Loman’s tragic fact is that he is more valuable dead than lives.
The elastic hose first appears in the script when Linda Loman tells her child, Biff Loman, about discovering it in the basement. Fearful that Willy will realize she understands his suicidal ideation, Linda conceals the pipe while Willy is gone on work and then replaces it in the underground when Willy returns. Linda’s response is intriguing since it displays her dread of taking away Willy’s autonomy, even when mortality is implicated. Linda’s decisions, in a way, modify the rubber pipe into a mark of her own dramatic tension regarding her man; in other phrase, Linda’s substitute of the rubber pipe appears to indicate her tragic willingness to participate in Willy’s irrational ambition that his self-harm will resurrect the family’s opportunity to accomplish the American dream.
The silicone tube is a symbol of both prosperity and loss. It’s linked to the natural gas line in Willy’s house and gives him the option to commit himself. Willy took this as an opportunity to eventually do something for his household after years of failure. When he is passed, he will no less be a nuisance to them, and they will love him forever. Willy, however, is unable to execute suicide in a convincing way. His effort fails, so he pretends to his relatives and confesses that he is about to commit himself. His spouse Linda, who discovers the tube, and Biff both know what he intends to do with it. When questioned by Biff, Willy cannot find enough strength of will, to tell the truth and even attempts to lie. As his failed attempt to take his life is amplified by his inability to speak the truth, Willy is regarded by his relatives as a loser rather than as a good entrepreneur who died.
Impact on Audience
The play’s themes and their portrayal are close to what the audience may experience themselves in real life. Willy’s self-hatred, an inner struggle that tortures him, and crushing sorrow are all sentiments that the audience can identify with because people inevitably feel the same sometimes during their lives. Individuals identify with Willy because he is a guy motivated to extreme action in the face of misfortune, despite the fact that most people do not commit suicide in the face of adversity. Willy may elicit pity from the viewers since he feels he has no other choice than to commit himself. However, some people from the audience may respond with scorn and resentment against Willy since he has lost his family and chose not to fight to get them back.
In any case, people still find this play highly thrilling because Willy’s circumstance is not unusual. His mistakes made all of his close ones turn away from him, and no amount of effort he put in helped to restore their faith in him. Willy passionately opposes Biff’s argument that they are both regular, common citizens, making the audience experience the innate fear that a similar situation may also occur to them.
Symbolism is used in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman to communicate a greater idea and convey more than what is being said. Miller uses stockings, a rubber hose, a tape recorder, and seeds to demonstrate the power of these items over the Loman family. Death of a Salesman developed out of a short story Miller wrote when he was seventeen while working for his father’s company on a temporary basis. It is similar to the story of an elderly salesperson who sells nothing, is abused by customers, and takes his metro fare from the young storyteller, only to drop beneath a railway platform. The rubber tube serves as a dark and frightening symbol. Willy Loman, the key protagonist, has a rubber pipe hidden in his underground for his attempted suicides. The rubber pipe, at its most basic, depicts Willy’s quiet resolve to delete himself in the midst of what has proven to be a boring and superficial life. Once he dies, he will no longer be a bother to them, and they will adore him eternally.
Bayouli, T., & Sammali, I. (2019). Tragedy and Social Drama in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, 3(2).
Basara, I. (2019). Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in the Context of the American Dream. Josip Juraj Strossmayer University of Osijek.
Rahman, H. T. (2016). A Study from a New Historicist Approach of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Middle East University.