[[quoteright:349:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/7da_thu_death_011907.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:349:[[ForegoneConclusion This guy dies.]]]]

->''"He's liked... but not well-liked."''
-->--'''Willy Loman''', ''Death of a Salesman''

Once upon a time, playwright Arthur Miller (some time husband of MarilynMonroe) set out to disprove one of the fundamental theories about the TragicHero -- specifically, that the TragicHero must be royalty, nobility, or some other type of great man who has far to fall (which he does) and much to lose (which, again, he does). Miller intended to write a play with an EveryMan, a [[MeaningfulName low man]], as the TragicHero. He may instead have created an entirely different archetype, the [[ThisLoserIsYou "pathetic hero"]]. Either way, in doing so, he wrote what is often considered the greatest American play.

Willy Loman is an aging, washed-up salesman obsessed with the concept of greatness and convinced that being liked is the most important thing. Biff is his younger but equally washed-up son, once a high school sports hero with a bright future, now a perennially unemployed loser. The play follows the family's attempts to make one last grab at the American Dream.

It's a very stagy play, since it's from Willy's dreamy, hallucination-and-flashback-ridden perspective. They managed to turn it into a very faithful, satisfactory movie, with DustinHoffman as Willy and JohnMalkovich as Biff.

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!!This play provides examples of the following tropes:

* TheAllAmericanBoy: Biff as a kid. As he grows up, not so much.
* AmericanDream: Deconstructed, brutally, as the pursuit of this is ultimately what leads to Willy and his sons' failures. In the end, Biff rejects the American Dream, convinced that it will [[TragicDream only lead him to ruin]]. Happy elects [[DramaticallyMissingThePoint to follow it anyway]].
* AnachronicOrder: The past and present get put in a blender, and set to puree. There aren't even any scene changes between them, just sepia-toned or other lighting switching on. This is probably because Willy is starting to go insane.
** Also, the actors stop caring about the walls in flashbacks.
* AnAesop: You don't have to follow the AmericanDream, just find something you want to do and be good at it.
* ArcWords: "He's liked, but he's not ''well liked''."
* BrokenPedestal: Biff idolized his father, until he found out that he's [[spoiler:cheating on his wife]].
* ButtMonkey: Willy, and by extension, the average working man everywhere. See: ThisLoserIsYou.
* CallingTheOldManOut: Biff has essentially been doing this non-stop, deliberately (if subconsciously) striving to disappoint his father.
* TheCasanova: Happy is an inveterate womanizer. He's certainly not above calling on call girls.
* CatchPhrase: (several characters have them, in various permutations)
--> '''Uncle Ben:''' "When I walked into the jungle I was seventeen, and when I walked out I was twenty-one. *''laughs''* And by God, I was rich!"
--> '''Willy Loman:''' "He's liked, but he's not ''well liked''."
* DownerEnding: [[spoiler: Willy dies, the rest of the Loman family continues its proud tradition of sucking at life.]]
** [[spoiler: HopeSpot: Biff gets out like his Uncle Ben before him.]]
** [[spoiler: Linda's words after the death are "I'm free". It's up for debate if she meant she is now free from anguish often caused by Willy, or free as in free of debt (the play was written during a time that if a spouse died, their debt did not transfer to the living).]]
* DramaticallyMissingThePoint: Happy, thinking he can just do better than his father at this career.
* DrivenToSuicide: [[spoiler: Willy.]]
* TheDutifulSon: Happy tries to be, but as Willy, Linda, and Biff all note, he's far more interested in being a "philandering bum." Biff too, up until [[spoiler: he catches Willy having an affair.]]
** Played with in Bernard and Charlie. Charlie has a much more hands-off approach to parenting than Willy, but Bernard is much more successful and responsible despite (or because) of this.
* ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin: [[spoiler: It's about the events leading up to the '''death of a salesman'''.]]
* FatalFlaw: Willy is in love with a dream and never recognizes that it doesn't match up to reality. He obsesses over irrelevancies and his own (prominent, but ultimately meaningless) flaws rather than the false promises of society that lead him to where he is.
* FlashbackEffects: The stage instructions explain how Willy's imagination works on stage.
-->"''Whenever the action is in the present the actors observe the imaginary wall-lines, entering the house only through its door at the left. But in the scenes of the past these boundaries are broken and characters enter or leave a room by stepping 'through' a wall onto the fore-stage.''"
* ForegoneConclusion: Willy's a salesman. Guess what? [[spoiler: He dies.]]
** Some readers, however, expect the title to be a metaphor, or otherwise consider it too obvious of a giveaway, so they will get mad if you ruin the surprise.
** It probably helps that there is a TitleDrop in the middle of the play, in reference to a ''different'' salesman.
* FutureLoser: Young Biff
* GloryDays: Willy is always hearkening back to his. [[NostalgiaFilter They were probably not as glorious as he remembers now, though.]]
* TheHeroDies: Durrr...
* HeroicBSOD: Young Biff has one when he [[spoiler: catches Willy cheating on Linda.]]
* HollywoodNerd: Bernard. Subverted later in that [[spoiler: he DOESN'T pull a WhosLaughingNow on the Lomans when he's a successful adult and makes an honest attempt to help Willy and Biff.]]
* ICouldaBeenAContender: Willy is convinced that he could have been running the New York office if his old boss hadn't died.
* ImmediateSelfContradiction: Willy Loman falls prey to this trope, calling Biff a "lazy bum" and then later saying "There's one thing about Biff—he's not lazy." In a later scene he calls his car the best car in the world, only to yell about how awful it is when a bill for it comes in.
* IResembleThatRemark: After Linda tells Willy he has to control his temper with Biff.
-->'''Willy:''' When the hell did I lose my temper? I simply asked him if he was making any money. Is that a criticism?
* JadedWashout: Willy Loman
* JerkJock: Young Biff. That phase abruptly ends when [[spoiler: he catches Willy cheating on Linda, and promptly disowns his father and gives up on success.]]
* KnowWhenToFoldEm: [[FatalFlaw Willy doesn't]]. He's really not cut out to be a salesman at all and would have had a far better life as a construction tradesman. On the other hand, this is the lesson that Biff learns by the end of the play.
* {{Leitmotif}}: The stage directions specify a flute tune at the start of flashbacks as part of the FlashbackEffects.
* LikeFatherLikeSon: Willy and Happy both have a hard time staying faithful to one woman, though [[TheCasanova Happy]] more so than Willy.
* LonelyFuneral: [[spoiler: For Willy.]] He was liked... but not well-liked.
* MeaningfulEcho: "He was liked, but he was not ''well liked''."
* MeaningfulName: People frequently interpret Loman as "low man", but actually Miller took the name from ''Film/TheTestamentOfDrMabuse'': "What the name really means to me is a terror-stricken man calling into the void for help that will never come."
** Willy's "hero" is salesman "Dave Singleman" who devotes his whole life to selling, living and dying a single man.
** Subverted with "Happy" who never does seem to be truly happy.
* TheMinnesotaFats: Uncle Ben is this to Willy; he seems to symbolize "greatness" that way.
* TheMistress
* NoNameGiven: Willy's mistress is only called "The Woman".
* NotableOriginalMusic: The stage directions specify musical cues (composed by [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_North Alex North]]) at certain points in the play (the most persistent of which is the {{Leitmotif}} played on the flute), which are woven into the play in a way so that the music and the characters interact with and react to the music and vice versa.
* NotNowKiddo: Bernard, warning Biff that he needs to study and getting brushed off by Willy.
* [[OnlySaneMan Only Sane Woman]]: Linda is by far the most stable of the play's characters, although even she fails to realize what a few important things about their situation. Biff is as well, but to a lesser extent as he's still DesperatelyLookingForAPurposeInLife.
* ParentalFavoritism: Willy has a tendency to ignore Happy -- Biff is the one his hopes are invested in. Played with in that Happy is far more like Willy than Biff is, and Biff is much more antagonistic to Willy.
* PopularIsDumb: Unpopular but studious Bernard becomes successful, but popularity-obsessed Willy and Biff fail in the real world.
** Though Played With in that it is frequently implied that Willy and Biff are only popular in their own minds and that not many actually respect them.
* {{Pride}}: Willy cannot accept the idea that he, and more importantly Biff, are not great men but just average Joes.
* ProperLady: Linda is Willy's HouseWife and tries to be supportive. Deconstructed with everything else since this requires her to participate in Willy's lies and be miserable.
* SpoilerTitle
* StepfordSmiler: Happy (hence the name).
* StockingFiller: The Woman.
-->''You promised me stockings, Willy!''
* StupidSacrifice: Willy is repeatedly offered a different job by his neighbor Charlie but always stubbornly refuses.
* ThisLoserIsYou
* TitleDrop: According to Willy, Dave Singleman "died the death of a salesman".
* TragicDream: The whole point of the play.
* TragicDropout: Biff became this when he gave up his chance to make up a failed exam after [[spoiler: finding out his father was having an affair.]]
* TragicHero: Unlike a Tragic Hero, Willy Loman is a "pathetic hero" because he learns nothing from his ordeal or mistakes, maintaining his belief in the power of popularity to the end, nor does his death somehow make life better for those he leaves behind (as his hallucination of his dead brother tells him, [[spoiler: they won't honor his insurance policy in the case of a suicide]]). But because of the play's popularity, it took Miller years of defending his success in creating a Tragic Hero out of the common man to admit he failed with Willy Loman and that Biff really should have been the protagonist (especially since he does learn something).
* UnconfessedUnemployment: [[spoiler: Willy has a hard time admitting to his wife he's out of a job.]]
* TheUnFavorite: Happy Loman.
* WellDoneSonGuy: Young Biff but he loses faith in his father, and in life, when he [[spoiler: catches Willy in an affair]].
* WhamLine: [[spoiler: "Pop, I'm a dime a dozen and so are you!"]]
* WhosLaughingNow: Bernard is, once he becomes a successful high-flying lawyer. Willy Loman, who once looked down on him, comes crawling to him for help.
** Averted in that Bernard is not cruel or condescending, and gives Willy advice. Not to mention he doesn't seem to hold any bad feelings toward the Lomans for looking down on him and considers Biff a good friend.
* YankTheDogsChain: For just a moment, it looks like Biff is going to get a job and sort out his life. But no.
** This turns out for the best though, since it helps him realize what he wants in life and not be trapped in a delusion like Willy.
* YourCheatingHeart
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->''[[TragicDream I'm gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It's the only dream you can have -- to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I'm gonna win it for him.]]''
-->--'''Happy Loman''', ''Death Of A Salesman''
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