Analyzing the Theme in Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.”

Arthur Miller presents the play, “Death of a Salesman” majorly focusing on social commentary, family drama, and tragedy. To bring out the theme of the American Dream; betrayal; abandonment. In the “Death of a Salesman,” the protagonist, Willy, trusts that anybody who is charismatic, good looking, and mainly warrants success that is naturally attained. In the plot of the play, the protagonist expresses his expectation on his son, Biff, who according to him ought to be successful though Willy thinks he is not doing enough to attain success. Also, despite the financial strain that Willy`s family is going through, the family members get overjoyed at the thought of full-filling their dream when Biff gets a business loan, and Willy gets a local job.  A dream that was never to come true.  In Act One, “Linda laments that life is a casting off. It`s always that way. Willy states, “NO, no, some people- some people accomplish something” (Arthur, n.d.). The play, therefore, is about Willy, a man who does not want to face what life has to offer. My essay, therefore, is an analysis of the major themes in the play, “Death of a Salesman.

The author has brought out a similarity in both the American society and Willy`s tragedy in the quest of their dream a fact that shows how man has lost his identity and is not able to embrace change. In the play, “Death of a Salesman,” the male character represent the fulfillment of shattered dream. The protagonist in the accounts for a man who is in denial: one who refuses to accept that he is a failure and instead drifts to his past where he was a success in whatever he did. This same character is exhibited by Willy’s sons, Biff and Happy.

The other important theme brought out in the play is contradiction. This idea is asserted through Will’s behavior that is riddled with discrepancies. In Act 1, Scene 1 Willy portrays his affinities. In this Scene, he calls his son Biff a “lazy bum” only for him to be called a “hard worker” a few lines down the line (Miller, 1949). Such characters display Willy as a man running away from reality. The final key theme that the play focuses on is the issue self-deception. From the play we see Willy going to the past as a way retracing order in his life. After his firing in Act 2, for example, Willy is seen trying to create an artificial reality about what is happening in his life. He consoles himself by refusing an offer of a job and convincing himself that his decision was the best option given his circumstances (Mamet, 2005). Miller marvels at his state.  The author shows how self-deception can lead to self-destruction.

In conclusion, Miller brings out three major themes: denial, contradiction, and the self-deception. He portrays the three as working together to produce a dreamlike environment in which a man’s individuality and mental well-being slip away. Miller is warning us that if we do not run away from denial, contradiction, and self-deception we are bound to destroy ourselves in the future. The above three are emotions that normal human beings can easily identify with and that mold our behaviors daily. His intention is to warn us against such characters because the same can lead us to our downfall as Willy did.


Arthur, M. (n.d.). The death of a Sales Man. Retrieved from

Mamet, D. (2005, February 13). Attention Must Be Paid. Retrieved from The New York Times:

Miller, A. (1949, February 27). Tragedy and the Common Man. Retrieved from

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