Criticism and Deconstruction in the Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller’s American masterpiece Death of a Salesperson, very first presented on the stage in New york city City in 1949, represents a successful literary effort at mixing the themes of social and personal disaster within the same dramatic framework. Yet the story of Willy Loman is likewise one of false values sustained by practically every publicity company in the national life of the United States. Thus, Willy Loman accepts at face value the over-publicized suitables of material success and blatant optimism, and therein lies his own individual disaster. His downfall and last defeat show not only the failure of a guy but also the failure of a way of living, being a traveling salesman. Miller’s ability to predict this story of his awful, lower middle-class hero into the common experience of so many Americans, who sustain themselves and their households with impressions and neglect truths, makes Death of a Salesperson one of the most significant plays in American theater within the last fifty years.

The character of Willy Loman, the themes of social and individual disaster, and the total commonality found within Miller’s play are prime territories for further exploration through making use of mental criticism and literary deconstruction. In the realm of psychology, Willy Loman’s accomplishments and sources of satisfaction seem simple and straight-forward, yet they do supply an excellent psychological foundation on his life, due to his leading a really average presence as a taking a trip salesperson which he thinks will enable him and his family to achieve wealth and comfort. For twenty-five years, Willy has been working to settle the home loan on his modest home, and when that is accomplished, he will obtain a sense of flexibility, or the “American Dream”. This goal, because of the economic/social conditions that existed at the time in which the play is set, provides an ideal picture of his supreme aim in life, plainly outlined by dollar signs and a sense of ownership, 2 key points to personal success as far as Willy is worried.

Emotionally, the essential element which causes Willy’s anxiety is his inability to face truth in today. His life, it appears, is lived in the past and the future, and his declaration “You wait, kid, prior to it’s all over we’re gon na get a little place out in the nation” (Miller 57) symbolizes his constant residence on some rather unwise dreams. As a salesman, Willy travels from one state to another, staying in low-cost motels while on the road peddling his products. This increases the importance of his house because it is not just a location of habitation but a representation of fleeting stability, a concrete need that can not be removed when the last payment has been made. While discussing his kids with his other half, Willy boasts “And they’ll get married, and come for a weekend …” (Miller 62) which represents his pride in his ownership of your home. Through all this, Willy has actually stayed continuous and alert, maintaining his undeviating belief that he is really living the “American Dream.”

In addition, the competitors that Willy encounters in his day-to-day selling activities is too difficult for his modest skills, and the path he has selected rejects his real being at every step. He idolizes the “dream” beyond the fact in himself and becomes a romantic, a shadowy non-entity whose only joy depends on eagerly anticipating miracles, because reality continuously buffoons him. His genuine capability for manual labor beyond being a salesman seems minor to him, for he informs his boy Biff in Act II “Even your grandpa was more than a carpenter” (Miller 36). From this self-denial, Willy loses the sense of his own thought; he is a stranger to his own soul; he no longer knows what he thinks either of his boys or his automobile; he can not tell who are his true buddies; he is permanently in a state of passionate or depressed confusion.

As far as deconstruction is concerned, Death of a Salesman is a broad open area that can be dissected from numerous viewpoints. Firstly, as Miller excavates the different layers of Willy Loman’s life, the reader ends up being aware of the hollowness of his dreams and the level to which his illusions secure him from being overwhelmed with regret and remorse. From this viewpoint, Willy’s inner feelings and feelings connected to his job as a salesman and his position as a family man could be deconstructed in order to expose his true inspirations. Secondly, Willy continues to profess his faith in the honor of his profession. This raises an essential question worrying Ben, Willy’s sibling– is his life a reputable option to the one Willy lives, or does Willy see it as just another variation of the “American dream”?

Just as Willy refuses to acknowledge the effects 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 sees his child Biff as he really is, then Willy will have to admit to himself that Biff’s discovery of the affair might have weakened the inflated self-image Willy motivated in Biff. Willy informs Biff that “I won’t take the rap for this, you hear? (Miller, 103), even as Biff firmly insists that he does not blame his father for his own failures. As an area for deconstruction, this circumstance raises many other concerns related to the true character of Willy Loman and how it connects to those around him.

Obviously, the deepest insight into Willy Loman takes place when Charley asks “Willy, when are you going to grow up?” (Miller, 68), but this can also be used to Charlie himself, for he specifies that “My redemption is that I never ever took any interest in anything” (Miller, 74), which shows that both characters are children at heart, for without desire, there is no factor to fear frustration.


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