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Death of a Salesman (1949), Miller (1915–2005)


·      Miller:  Son of a clothing manufacturer

·      Father’s business collapsed—Depression

·      First successful play All My Sons (1947)

·      At the preview of All My Sons, Miller ran into his uncle, Manny Newman, a traveling salesman.  Newman’s life (lonely hotels, “hopeless hope of the day’s business”; pathetic competitive spirit; obsession w/ fame) inspired Salesman. 

·      Salesman was written in six weeks.

·      An American tragedy (pity; fear)


Death of a Salesman (1949): 1471–1494


*Please prepare responses for the following.  Where applicable, put page numbers and quotes.  Divvy up responsibilities fairly.  Put names on your sheet.


1.  Character Profile:  Tell us everything you can about your character:  Willy, Biff, Happy.

a.  What is/are the character’s conflict(s)? 

b.  Is the character round or flat?

c.  Discuss the name of the character.

d.  Share some insights re: this character.


2.  Analyze/discuss:

a.  Setting in terms of theme (1471; 1474)

b.  Foreshadowing (1471; 1472; 1473)

c.  Symbolism:  Fridge/Car (1483-1484)


All:  Theorize re: why both sons "steal," take what is not theirs (1479; 1481; 1492)

Pre-Discussion Questions:


Write for 10 full minutes.  If you finish one question, move on to another.


1.  Why are we never told what Willy sells?


2.  What happens when a person retires?  Think about all of the different things that happen, and give your thoughts about each.


3.  What is Miller suggesting to people who choose to pursue money rather than a personal talent or skill?


4.  Is it true that being well-liked will get you farther than being qualified?


5.  If Willy had gone with Ben, what do you think would have happened?  Would he be rich by now?