"Death of Salesman" by Arthur Miller: analysis of the ending; identifying symbolism and themes.

Essay by timestoodstillA, March 2006

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The end of "the death of a salesman" concludes the story at Willy's funeral. In the story there are very few people attending only Willy's family Charley and Bernard. Linda struggles to find the answer to why Willy killed himself because they were so close to paying off their bills. Linda then requests privacy and apologizes to the grave that she is unable to cry because it feels as though Willy is just on another trip.

Charley's speech is said to be a "memorable" moment of the play as he outlines the great expectations of being a salesman, there is evidence that this is simply trying to remove the guilt and blame from Willy's failed profession, because Willy has failed in his profession it can also be said that he has failed in his life as a human being. This is because his entire life has revolved around his occupation and he has been doing the job all of his working life, it was the failure of his job that led to his suicide therefore meaning he has failed as a human being.

It is Charley's speech that tries to deny and blur this fact just as Willy denied and "blurred" parts of his life. Willy can be seen as the result of the failed American dream. During Charley's speech it is evident that he concentrates in a large way on the "upward struggle" of a salesman's life. This directly links to Willy's failure of the American dream through his obsession of succeeding in material success with money, etc. There is also a reflection that Willy represents the human condition, that everyone has failed the original dream and have become obsessed with material success.

In many ways, Willy has done everything that the "myth" of the American dream outlines as the path to success. He bought a home and modern appliances; he raised a family and went into the business world full of hope and dreams of success and happiness in the near future. But, Willy has still failed to receive what the American dream offers. This could possibly symbolize that the American dream has been destroyed by the modern world or does simply not exist and is impossible the achieve. This can also be linked to the title of the book, in that it is called "the death of a salesman". Ultimately, Willy bought the sales pitch that America uses to advertise itself, and the price of his faith is death. This may be the reason why the American dream is a failure because either a person has no faith in it and turns to looking for material success or a person puts complete faith into it and finds nothing. Willy is just a common example of this henz the play's name "the death of a salesman".

Linda's first feeling that Willy is just on another trip, suggests that Willy's hope for Biff to succeed with the insurance money will not be fulfilled. Linda's comparison debases Willy's death, stripping it of any possibility of the dignity that Willy imagined. It seems inevitable that the trip toward meaningful death that Willy now takes will end just as bad as the trip from which he has just returned as the play opens. the repeating noise of the flute music, can be seen to symbolize Willy's hopeless pursuit of the American dream, and the picture of the towering apartment buildings over their house reinforce the fact that Willy dies as deluded as he lived and that even though his family now owns the house it is again pointless and sorrowful due to the surrounding buildings blocking out any sunlight. The sunlight in this case representing success of which there house gets none.