Death Of A Salesman

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Megan Pinnock Mrs. Mirenda Eleventh Year English 25 April 2001 The Significance of Plants and Trees in Death of a Salesman When one thinks of trees and plants, one might get the image of something that is growing, tangible, independent, and flourishing. In Death of a Salesman the images of trees and plants symbolizes the life that the character Willy Loman wants to return to.

In the play the character Willy Loman is struggling with the fact that he can no longer plant on his land anymore. In the play it states that Willy bought his house because it stood in a wooded suburb where he could plant gardens and do a little hunting. Also, behind the house stood two elm trees, which symbolized the rural way of living, the way Willy wanted to return to. This also symbolized a time when Willy was at the zenith of his life.

Now, he could no longer do so because the trees were cut down and apartment buildings were erecting around the little house. This gave Willy a feeling of being suffocated and choked in (Parker, Literary Companion 68). There were also incidents in the play where Willy ended up in car accidents because of day dreaming about the countryside and watching the scenery of trees. This shows the longing deep inside of him to return to the way things use to be, a place when things were prosperous in his life. In another scene Willy?s brother tries to convince him to go to Alaska with him. His brother remarks that in Alaska, the jungle [made up of trees] is a place for riches and wealth. This statement mirrors the inner feelings of Willy, him wanting to be rich and successful. His brother symbolizes what he wants to be in life. His brother had nothing and went to the jungle to get rich, that jungle represents a life of successfulness.

However for Willy the jungle becomes a place of death, like the woods. He believes that if he can get back to the place where there is greenery, symbolizing a place where he can be free, productive and not choked by society and it?s ideals for what a man should be, then he could accomplish his goals and be comfortable in his surroundings. Yet, he still gets consumed with what the jungle of life demands of him. He feels that he can never be victorious in this life so he resorts to death to get out of it (Roberts 54).

In contrast, to the jungle being a place of riches when Willy is in conflict and adversities over take him he says that the woods are on fire. This means that all his dreams and his aspirations are ablaze or burning right before him. The things that he wanted to achieve in life are going down the drain. When things go wrong in his life he falls into a state in which he is certain that he will never amount to anything. The author uses the technique, expressionism whenever Willy remembers the past. The stage is covered with checkered patterns of leaves and vanished trees. This represents his dream to be prosperous and auspicious, but have now disappeared or vanished. In most cases he remembers events in his life when things are going good this show his longing for the past (Parker 25-26).

In comparison to the trees, plants and the planting of plants also play an important role in the play. In the first scene Willy Loman complains about him being closed in and feeling stifled. He also makes a comment that he cannot even grow a carrot in his back yard any more. Although the buildings are closing the house in and there is an image of being choked in because of no light shinning on the back yard; he stills decides to plant seeds on a unfertilized ground. There is also another incident where he loses his job and he goes to buy seeds to plant, knowing that nothing can grow in his back yard. This reflects his need to create something and leave something behind that is tangible for his family. In other words Willy knows that nothing can grow in his yard because it is barren, but he stills insist on something being planted there. He feels the need to leave something that one can touch and see. Truly Willy?s dreams are higher than what he can make come to past. His dreams never really come to past and never really line up with reality. This is a result of him constantly dwelling in the past. He believes that he has lost control over his life and what he can make come out of it, especially with his job and his sons (Roudanè 66).

In addition to Willy?s reminisces he remembers when he had lilacs, wisteria, and peonies growing in his back yard. This reflection of flowers signifies the longing and yearning to go back to a time when things were looking bright in his life. This was also a time when his boys were young and were innocent. During this time they probably adore him and looked up to him very much. . Now he felt inferior and unproductive. The flowers represent goodness, freshness, and newness, something that was irrevocable to him. It can be said that he was desiring to see those flowers again, but this time in the natural and not in memory. Willy felt that life was closing in on him so this is why he reverted to growing plants in his back yard. He felt the impulse to leave something behind him so that his family could benefit from even it was just some flowers that he remembered from his past. However it is while he is planting seeds he comes up with the plan to commit suicide, this way he can leave twenty thousand dollars of insurance money for his boys. So know the act of planting and leaving something behind makes him revert to suicide. He gets consumed and has to abandon his physical life. Willy is trying to reconnect himself with what he believes is his destiny. He was so over come by his misconception of what he thought he should be that he never really became what was designed for him. (Roberts 54).

Therefore one can see the significance of plants and trees in Death of a Salesman They represent the desires and the misfortunes of the character. They also portray the mixture of reality and illusions, what was and what really exists.


Works Cited Parker, Brain. ?Expressionism in Death of a Salesman.? Literary Companion to American Literature on Death of a Salesman. Thomas Seibold. California: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999.

Parker, Brain. ?Point of view in Death of a Salesman.? Modern Critical Interpretations Arthur Miller?s Death of Salesman. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988.

Roundanè Matthew C. ?Death of a Salesman and the poetics of Arthur Miller.? The Cambridge Companion to Arthur Miller. Christopher Bigsby. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Roberts James L. ?The boxed in Motif.? Cliff Notes on Millers Death of a Salesman. Gary Carey. Nebraska: Cliff Notes Inc., 1964.