Arthur Miller A native New Yorker, attends the University of Michigan. In May, 1936, wrote his first play, No Villain, in six days during spring break. In May that year, No Villain receives the Hopwood Award in Drama, a prestigious U-M writing award. In 1937, that play is produced in Ann Arbor and Detroit. Also in 1937, Miller receives a 2nd Hopwood Award. Graduates in 1938
Death of a Salesman Death of a Salesman opens on Broadway in 1949, directed by Elia Kazan. It wins the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Tony Award, among numerous other honors.
Personal Life In 1956, Arthur Miller divorces his wife and marries… Marilyn Monroe! Was a stormy marriage; ended in divorce 5 years later. Miller continues to write and produce plays on Broadway. Death of a Salesman enjoys numerous Broadway revivals and is considered his greatest work. He dies in February 2005.
Death of a Salesman Takes place in a New York City suburb, late 1940s. Characters are: Willy Loman and his wife Linda Their 2 adult sons, Biff and Happy A neighbor/friend, Charlie, and his son Bernard Willy’s brother Ben
Death of a Salesman Play has 2 Acts and a “Requiem” (a very brief final act). Most of the action is at Willy and Linda’s home. Play is frequently a “stream of consciousness” from inside Willy’s head. He talks to himself and goes in and out of flashbacks.
Overall Plot A traveling salesman named Willy Loman is burdened by the American Dream and wants to succeed, but is troubled by it all. He has daydreams, ranting to himself and makes up stories about how successful he is. This happens through lying to his sons and wife, even cheating on her. He pushes his sons, Biff and Happy to achieve “the dream” through the ways he feels best. Willy attempts suicide a few times by inhaling gas through a rubber tube with the heater that fuels his own home.
Plot (contined) His mental health is so poor that he gets fired when asking for a local job. He meets his sons at a restaurant one day to discuss their careers, but can’t get beyond the fact that Biff has failed yet again and continues to deny and deny the facts. Eventually, this ongoing lying and burden Willy withholds lead to his own death when he crashes his own car. In the end, barely anyone shows up to his funeral and now the money from his death allows his family to pay off their house for good.
Willy Loman Main character of this play, a traveling salesman, who gets fired as a result of going mental. Obsessed with the American Dream Exhausted, old, delusional A dishonest man, lying to his family members and himself
Biff Loman Willy’s son who failed to live up to his father expectations and would work out west. Once was a football star in high school, but then flunked math and decided not to go to summer school. Unlike his other brother and father, Biff realizes who he really is by the end of the play.
Happy Loman Willy’s younger son who wished to follow in his father’s foot steps. Ended up working as an assistant's assistant in a department store But always seemed to be “happy” with his life, whether it be sleeping with countless girls or acting bigger than who he really is.
Linda Loman Willy’s wife full of loyalty and strength, completely unaware of Willy’s cheating on her. Full of emotion and just wants to be free of debt Nurturing yet takes out some anger on Biff when Willy continues to fail.
Charley Next-door neighbor of the Loman’s Owns successful business Offered Willy a job at one point but he declined
Bernard Charley’s son Biff’s friend who worked hard in school Warned Willy of Biff flunking math but he ignored him Ended up a successful lawyer
Howard Wagner Willy’s boss who ends up firing him although much younger Bill Oliver An old employer who is involved in business and met with Biff at his interview Ben Willy’s older dead brother who appears in his daydreams. Wealthy and successful
Key Events Willy gets fired from his job by Howard. Biff flunks math in high school and does not go to summer school because he found out his dad cheated on Linda. Biff goes to talk with Bill Oliver and Willy tells him how to go about it. Willy and Biff’s argument both at the restaurant and at home (mostly about being failures and their lives full of lies) Willy’s death and funeral
Major Themes to Keep in Mind The American Dream Dishonesty and Lies Hopes and Dreams Success vs Failure Identity