Death of a Salesman

Dramatic Dreams

Death of a Salesman, a gripping drama written by Arthur Miller, illustrates the suffering and hardships experienced by a mercurial 60-year old salesman who is on an unusual journey to achieve the American dream. Similar to the numerous early American dramas, the main character has a dream of attaining prosperity and status in his community. Death of a Salesman unveiled the emotional breakdown suffered by the play’s tragic hero, Willy Loman, at the dramatic moment when he realized the only way he would be able to support his family was to commit suicide so they could obtain his life insurance money. Death of a Salesman mixes many of his personal interests, such as mythology and fantasy, and his remarkable life experiences into a landmark play that will be read, studied, and watched for many years to come.

Born on October 17, 1915 in New York City, Arthur Asher Miller was the son of a highly regarded woman’s clothing (mainly coats) owner. Unfortunately, his moderately wealthy Jewish-American family ended up losing their business during the depression and had to move to Brooklyn, New York. He attended Abraham Lincoln High School. Graduating in 1932, he tried going to the city college, but quit after only two short weeks. Miller then started working at as a store clerk for a couple years to earn enough money to be able to attend the college of his choice—The University of Michigan.

      In Michigan, he faced harsh anti-semitism for the first time; he was the only Jew working there. The anti-semitism he faced motivated him to write a play he named Focus in 1945. He was exempt from military service during World War II because of a football injury to his left knee—which could have been a possible motivation for making Biff Loman a washed up football player in his play Death of a Salesman. As a journalism major, Miller became the reporter and part-time editor of Michigan Daily, the school’s newspaper.

      During his time working at that...