7 Hours Left to Support a Troper-Created Project : Personal Space (discuss)

YMMV / Death of a Salesman

  • Alternate Aesop Interpretation: Some argue that rather than being a deconstruction of The American Dream, the play comes off as more of a reconstruction of the American Dream the way Bernard's character is presented. He's portrayed as being diligent, studious, and hard-working to the point of criticizing Biff for blowing off school. Willy and his family on the other hand, while they dream big, don't seem willing to put in the effort needed to live the lives they want. In the end, Bernard's work ethic pays off and he grows up to be a wealthy lawyer and Willy is dependent on his money.
    • Bernard doesn't really feature in the story much, but his (successful) father, Charlie's line that: "My salvation is that I never took interest in anything" doesn't make him sound happy or self-actualized, but rather broken and demoralized. Perhaps to an even greater extent than Willie...
      • If your goal is to earn a living by being liked don't turn down the job your friend is giving you because they like you.
    • Another reading, though certainly not Miller's intent, is that The American Dream is ultimately played brutally straight in Willy's case. If the American Dream implies change above all else, mainly the change from poor to rich, then it certainly also implies that those seeking to achieve it may need to change what they're doing to achieve it. Rather than find a new career, develop new skills, or make himself useful in a different area of his current field that wasn't dying, Willy blundered ahead as a travelling salesman (though he did try to get a desk job), always believing that the Dream was in reach if he could only become sufficiently well-liked. According to this reading, the Dream didn't fail Willy, Willy failed the Dream.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: Most interpretations of Ben Loman see him as rather cruel and uncaring toward his kid-brother. On the other hand, one could say that Ben Loman cared more about his brother than Willy's own family, who did nothing to try and dissuade Willy from his own folly until it was far too late. One of the most pivotal scenes in the play is when Ben comes by and visits the family before they're to attend a football game Biff was playing in. He straight-up offers his brother a third of his mines in South America (where Ben had found his riches) and the chance to escape from the vicious cycle Willy was caught in. It was Willy who refused and insisted he could make it big in New York. This was reinforced by Linda, who basically scolded Ben for the offer and insisted that Willy stay in New York.
    • Linda is another character who gets a variety of interpretations: Is she a doormat? A nag? An enabler of Willy's worst qualities? Just trying to be a dutiful housewife? Did she crush Willy's chances for success by discouraging him from going to Alaska, or did she prevent disaster by holding Willy back from pursuing an ill-advised pipe-dream? Does she know about Willy's infidelities?
    • Between his memory loss, hallucinations, random emotional outbursts and difficulty operating even relatively simple machinery, Willy appears to be suffering from some undiagnosed form of dementia, possibly early-onset Alzheimers.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: Biff Miller himself even acknowledged it.
    • Also Charlie, mainly for being one of the only rationally thinking characters in the play and having a good sense of humor to boot.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Dreamers get crushed under reality's dirty heel. Deal with it.
    • In addition to their obsession with popularity, Willy and Biff do not realize the amount of effort needed to achieve their dreams. To illustrate, Charlie's son Bernard works hard to become a successful lawyer and Uncle Ben goes into the jungle for four years to find diamonds and come out rich. On the other hand, Willy and Biff are always looking for an easy way out and that's why they ultimately fail in life.
    • Sometimes it's okay to stop pursuing a dream when it's obvious your talents and passions lie elsewhere.
    • If you set your sights too high, you're liable to end up disappointed.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Chinese love this play about father-son relationships, which is why it also shows up in The Simpsons.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The play disturbingly turned out to be somewhat predictive, as a 2015 study revealed that many, many middle-aged men in the U.S. were basically going through a 21st century version of what Willy Loman went through, with tragic consequences. So many deaths of so many "salesmen"...
  • My Real Daddy: Dustin Hoffman is considered by many to be the definitive Willy Loman.
  • Older Than They Think: Willy Loman now stars in a popular American sitcom. They changed his name to Michael Scott.
    • George Costanza is sometimes teasingly referred to as 'Biff'.
    • Long before he was ever known as Michael Scott, Willy Loman was going by the alias Al Bundy.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Played With. Willy plans for his death to obtain big insurance money for his family to compensate for all the grief he caused for them or/and so he can live his ideals through Biff. A defied trope since he really gains nothing out of it.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Political?: Some politically conservative and/or pro-capitalist critics have claimed that it is intended as a Take That to Capitalism in general. Though Miller in his earlier years had associated with individuals that were black listed, but to evaluate the play solely from this perspective would cause one to miss many of the aforementioned themes on this page and the Main Page. As a counterpoint, it is also worth mentioning that Biff does manage to find success within the capitalist system (though not through the traditional American Dream, which is what Miller's criticism, regarding its excessive materialism, is the intended target for), thus making the argument of this play as anti-capitalistic problematic.
    • There's also the issue of the characters of Charlie and Bernard, who are more true capitalists then the Lomans are in that they value actual skill and talent more than personality or the ability to make an impression, not to mention being significantly more well-off, and are ultimately healthier people for it. Charlie even shows compassion by continuously bailing Willy out and repeatedly offering him a job to save him despite him clearly being unstable, which Willy won't accept out of pride and jealousy.