The Death of a Salesman is a play written by Arthur Miller. It tells the story of the life and death of the lead character, Willy Loman, a salesman by profession. It is also filled with different symbolisms which imply something beyond the tangible world. In this particular play, the author permits his audience to witness both the past and the present as they happen simultaneously in the life of the protagonist. In this way, the audience learns what actually transpired in the life of Willy in the objective sense. At the same time, they also see the way the protagonist subjectively views the events in his life.
The contrast that it presents renders the story captivating. There is a subjective reality in the novel (Abbotson 7). It is manifested in the manner the audience sees both the truth as the protagonist sees it and the truth as it really is. The different symbolisms in the story have an impact on its meaning as well as on the characters portrayed. The apartment buildings towers over the Loman residence. These tall structures in contrast to the small house of the Lomans signify the protagonist lack of success (Sterling 9). The house where Willy and his family live is also transparent.
Such transparency indicates the futility of the American dream as well as the failure of the protagonist, who falsely claims that the house is well built and that there are no more cracks that may be found on it anymore. Their house can be seen through, just as Willy’s eldest son, Biff ultimately sees through his father. Moreover, the refrigerator in the household frequently breaks down. The apartments buildings dwarf the protagonist’s house, making him the “lo man” in their neighborhood, a person who has witnessed other people rise while he has not (Sterling 10). The protagonist’s lack of stature is repeatedly stressed throughout the story.
The claustrophobic effect of the towering apartment buildings implies his worthlessness. Moreover, it implies the idea that business and development appear to have overtaken him. Since the apartment buildings stands too close and quite tall, the sunlight fails to pass through (2. 8). This suggests the absence of light or enlightenment for the protagonist and his family. For this reason, the characters do not seem to know who they are in reality. In the absence of the sun or a successful son, the protagonist feels barren and therefore tries to replant once more or to try all over again.
Willy’s desire to plant new seeds shows his frustration over his eldest son, to whom he has built upon all of his hopes. Moreover, the symbol of the pair of stockings is vital. It represents the guilt and infidelity of the protagonist (Sterling 11). What the Diamonds symbolize Success is symbolized by the diamonds in the story. The diamonds were found by Ben in the jungle (Griffin 42). Willy then received a diamond watch fob from him. In order to pay for a course of his eldest son, Willy had to pawn the watch (Murphy 141).
Willy’s action here symbolizes his attempt to pass on the success to his eldest son. His attempt to take his own life and his action of leaving money to his eldest son are done to achieve the similar end. Willy envisions that his eldest son can realize success through the insurance money he will ultimately leave behind. As far as Willy is concerned, diamonds are symbolical of a wealth that is tangible. For that reason, diamonds serve not only as a warrant of a man’s work and life, for that matter, but also of a man’s ability to pass down material possessions onto his children.
Those are the things that the protagonist desperately longs for all his life. Ben found a fortune in the discovery of the diamonds. The jungle where the diamonds where found and the darkness of the place may be regarded as a representation of death. Nonetheless, in relation to Ben, it is symbolical of the industrial marketplace (Griffin 54). On the other hand, for Willy, the diamonds signifies his failure in his profession. Willy was eluded by the promise of financial security in spite of his faith in the American Dream, a conviction so firm that he even let go of his chance to visit Alaska.
Toward the end of the story, he is encouraged by Ben to ultimately break into the jungle and redeem his elusive diamond (Breitkopf 6). This would mean taking his own life to secure the insurance money he can receive and use it to make give a meaning to his otherwise worthless existence. What the Seeds symbolize Willy’s chance to prove his worth as a father and as a man is symbolized by the seeds in the story. The nocturnal and desperate effort he displayed in planting vegetables in the garden represents his shame with regard to his insufficient ability to provide for his family (2. 8).
This act also symbolizes his lack of material wealth to pass on to his offspring when his time comes. He believes that he has labored quite hard. However, he dreads that he may not be able to provide his children any greater help than what his own father has given him. The seeds also serve to represent his sense of failure in raising his eldest son. Notwithstanding the foolproof formula of success that the American Dream suggests, he failed in his efforts to bring up and cultivate his eldest son.
Later on, Willy came towards a realization that his eldest son’s lack of ambition and failure in life mirrors his ability to perform his role as a father. What the Stockings symbolize The affair of Willy with another woman is symbolized by the stockings. There were several instances when Linda was seen repairing her stockings (1. 3). On the other hand, Willy even gave his mistress a new pair of stockings (1. 3). Similarly, he does not give his love to the one who is supposed to receive it. He gives his love to his mistress when he is supposed to give it to no one other than Linda.
Consumed by his guilt, he orders Linda to stop repairing her stockings whenever he catches her doing so. The stockings also represent material possession. In this light, Willy believes that he cannot afford for his wife a new pair of stockings. On the contrary, Linda is more pragmatic than her husband. Rather than, throwing them away, Linda hides them instead. She acknowledges the fact that she cannot afford to waste the stockings or anything for that matter. The unusual obsession of the protagonist over his wife’s stockings foretells his eventual flashback wherein his eldest son discovers his affair.
Biff, who was then a teenager, accuses his father of giving away his mother’s stockings to the mistress. The pair of stockings bears a metaphorical weight as a representation of sexual infidelity and betrayal. The new pair of stockings is crucial not just for Willy’s pride for being a success in terms of financial wealth and therefore having the necessary power to support his family. It is also crucial for his ability to lessen the guilt that he feels toward, and keep back the memory of his betrayal of his wife and son.