Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Death of a Salesman” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Death of a Salesman” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Role of Modernity in Death of a Salesman
In “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, the main character, Willy Loman is a man living on the cusp of modern America, in the late 1940’s. As more and more new appliances and cars are being manufactured, Willy Loman is constantly trying to obtain the best things for his family. As he slowly starts to lose his mind in this materialistic world, it becomes clear that the only thing he is really concerned about is keeping up with the people around him in terms of success and possessions. Throughout the play, he constantly mentions the fact that he is running out of money and can no longer pay for their new appliances, and he mournfully regrets not going to Africa with Ben, who struck it rich. In many cases then, modernity sets the stage for the . What kind of commentary is Arthur Miller making about the race for material goods and the cost that it has to our mental health? What instances in the book back this up?Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Abandonment in Death of a Salesman
Death of a Salesman ‘s Willy Loman had a life that was full of abandonment from the start. In true , ith the desertion of his father at a young age, followed by Bill’s expedition to Africa, Willy has been left behind many times by the people he loves. As his fear of abandonment grows stronger, so does the grasp of control that he tries to maintain over the lives of his family. However, that control does not prevent Biff from abandoning his dreams at the discovery of his father, nor does it prevent Biff and Happy from deserting Willy at the restaurant after his outburst. In the final scene of “Death of a Salesman”, the audience learns of Willy’s own abandonment of his family, in the form of suicide. In what ways is Willy trying to rectify the situation in his life? Can his self-inflicted death really be considered abandonment?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Madness in Death of a Salesman
As Willy Loman’s story unfolds throughout” Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, it becomes progressively clearer that the salesman is losing his mind. It begins with the flashbacks to an earlier life, when Willy was happy insulting Charley and his son Bill. However, the flashbacks quickly turn into haunting scenes, where the sound of the woman’s laughter can set Willy off on a rampage very quickly. Eventually, his madness destroys him, as he is found out in the garden, plotting with an imaginary Ben the ways in which he can make twenty thousand dollars. His madness progresses from flashbacks to the sound of the woman’s laughter, to interaction with imaginary people, and throughout it all, his family is struggling to cope with the situation. What can be said for the ties of the family in this situation? Despite the fact that Willy was an adulterer, Linda stayed by his side as he lost his mind; what does that say about the power of love in the face of madness?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Death of a Salesman and Betrayal
Betrayal is a thread that ties together much of the plot in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman feels personally betrayed by his son Biff’s inability to succeed in life, despite what Willy sees as loving encouragement. Biff Loman, however, feels betrayed by his father because of the affair that he discovered when he heard a woman laughing in the bathroom, which also echoes a betrayal of Willy’s marriage vows. Perhaps the biggest and most tragic betrayal of all lies in the loss of Willy’s job and subsequently, his mind. In what ways does betrayal affect the plot? How do each of the characters who experience this betrayal deal with its effects?
* For an analysis of the tragic elements in Death of a Salesman, compared with another tragedy or, check out . *
~ Be sure to check out thePaperStarter entry for “The Crucible”which is another play by Arthur Miller ~
This list of important quotations from “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Death of a Salesman” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers or, in this case, scene and act numbers to help you find the quotes easily.
“When I was seventeen, I walked into the jungle. And by twenty-one, I walked out. And by God, I was rich!” (I.vii)
“When a deposit bottle is broken, you don’t get your nickel back.” (II.iv)
“After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.” (II.iv)
“We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house.” (II.vii)
“He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong.” (II. Vii)
“I looked up and I saw they sky … and I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been.” (II.vii)
“I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.” (I.iix)
“I’ve got to get some seeds. I’ve got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground.” (II.iii)
Does Willy Loman die a martyr? How do Linda's and his sons' interpretations of his death differ?
A strong answer will note that Willy has a noble conception of his suicide - he kills himself because he truly believes that the insurance money will allow his sons to achieve their destined greatness. But Miller does not give the audience the easy satisfaction of seeing Willy's plan come to fruition. It is highly doubtful that the Lomans would actually receive any insurance money at all. He has a record of suicide attempts, and it would be near impossible to convince the insurance company that his death was an accident.
The crux of an essay should be that Willy thinks he is martyring himself, but his martyrdom is in vain.
Death of a Salesman is one of the foundational texts describing the American dream. How does Miller's play differ from the more traditional Horatio Alger model? Is Miller overwhelmingly cynical on the topic?
Strong answers will contrast Miller's pessimistic and cynical take on the concept of the American dream with its glorified Horatio Alger representations. Traditionally, the American dream means that any person can work his way up from the bottom of the ladder to the top. Miller's work isn't so much a direct subversion of that dream as it is an exploration of the way in which the existence of the American dream can ruin a person's expectations.
Discuss the motif of women's stockings in Death of a Salesman? What are Willy and Biff's attitudes toward them? How do Linda and the woman with whom Willy is having an affair regard them?
To the women, stockings serve as a symbol of what Willy can provide and as a measure of his success. To Willy, they are a symbol of his guilt over the affair. To Biff, they are a symbol of Willy's fakeness and his betrayal of Linda. Each time the stockings appear, they serve each of these three purposes for every character present.
Describe the significance of names in this play. How do Happy and Biff's names contrast with or support their characters? Interpret the name "Loman."
Happy - a boy's name. As his name implies, Happy is someone who should be content - he has a job, an apartment, and a never-ending stream of women - but he remains deeply unhappy.
Ben - Willy's brother is named after the biblical figure Benjamin, which means "one who is blessed." The biblical Benjamin far outstripped his brothers in all areas, rousing their jealousy.
Loman - Willy is a low-man. No great hero, he is already so low on the ladder that he has hardly anywhere to fall.
What is the role of modernity in Death of a Salesman? Have cars and gas heaters fundamentally changed the American dream? How does Miller view these innovations?
The answer should note that Willy is a man left behind by progress. His is a profession that only functions in a small niche of time - he is reliant on the automobile and the highway system, but can't survive the advent of more sophisticated sales methods than the door-to-door. He is startled and confused by Howard's gadgets, and longs for an outdoors life that involves creating things with his hands.
Discuss the gender relationships in this play. Are there any positive models for a harmonious relationship? Does Miller find this concept plausible?
There are only two women of significance in the play, Linda and The Woman, who does not even merit a name. Happy nicely exposits the dichotomy between the two types of women in the world, as represented by his idealized mother and by The Woman and Miss Forsythe. The attitude towards women that Willy modeled for his sons was that women exist to be conquered - and once they've been had, they are no longer worthy of respect.
Analyze the role of seeds in Act II's final segment. What do they stand for?
Willy begins to obsess over seeds as he realizes that he has nothing to pass on to his sons. He hasn't created anything real, nothing physical that you can touch with your hand. But seeds are an investment in the future, something that is both tangible and grows with time, and that is what he wants to pass on to his sons.
Discuss examples of ways in which Willy Loman's suicide is foreshadowed in the first act of the play.
Be sure to note that the question isn't really whether Willy is going to die, but how. The discussion of Willy as suicidal is quite on the nose in the first act, but what is left ambiguous at that point is the how and the why. We are given both the rubber hose and the car as possible modes of suicide, and general despair and desperation as motivations, but the ultimate motivation of insurance money does not become an issue until the end of the play.
Compare Death of a Salesman to A Streetcar Named Desire. How do Willy Loman and Blanche Dubois each represent a fundamental element of the American drive towards progress and success?
Willy and Blanche are both victims of modernity. Willy cannot compete against the young men in the modern business world. And Blanche cannot adapt to the coarseness of life in the new South. Rather than adjusting, both characters descend deeper into their idea of the idealized past, until they lose hold on reality altogether.
Compare Death of a Salesman and The Great Gatsby. How do Willy Loman and Jay Gatsby suffer a similar fate?
Answer: Although they lived very different lives - Willy, objectively a failure, and Gatsby, objectively a success - Willy and Gatsby had similar downfalls. Both were caught up in the illusion of the American dream, fervently believing that they could and should reach for the stars. But after a lifetime of having relied on personality to get by, the men found themselves terribly alone, even in death.