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Death of a Salesman: Free Study Guide / Summary / Analysis

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DEATH OF A SALESMAN BY ARTHUR MILLER

ONLINE GUIDE / NOTES / ANALYSIS

REQUIEM

Summary


At Willy's grave a few days later, Linda wonders why no one has come to the funeral. Linda also tells Charley that for the first time in thirty-five years, they have cleared their debts. Biff comments to Charley that Willy had all the wrong dreams, but Charley answers that a salesman must have dreams to live.

After the others leave, Linda stays at the grave to say goodbye to Willy. She tells him that she has made the last mortgage payment on their house; ironically, now that it is paid for, she says that there is no one to live there.

Notes

The requiem is a sad afterword on Willy Loman’s life and brings the play to an appropriate and tragic end. After he commits suicide, no one attends Willy's funeral, proving he was not well liked or admired, as he had longed for. The empty funeral is final proof that his dreams and philosophies were phony. Biff seems to know that Willy had all the wrong dreams, but he himself does not yet have a firm grasp of reality; there is, however, some hope for him, since he is able to admit the failures of his life. Happy, on the other hand, is mired in a world of illusions, just like his father. He honestly believes that he will soon be promoted to store manager, thereby justifying Willy’s dreams for him. It is obvious that Happy will never be any more successful than Willy.

The motif of being "used up" closes the play. Willy's life was used up - by the Wagner Company and by his fantasies. This “used” motif is the basis for Miller's strongest condemnation of American society. Like most middle class men, Willy worked very hard and had very little. He was never able to get anything paid before it was used up. By the time he paid off the refrigerator, the car, and the house, they were falling apart and in need of repair. By the time Willy is ready for retirement, he is used up by his company, who has sucked all his youthful energy while keeping the American Dream in front of him with the promise of promotions that never came. Willy was simply never able to keep up with even his modest existence. He made matters worse by fooling himself into believing that there was hope. When Willy was no longer able to keep up the pace of twelve hours a day and attract new customers, the company discarded him like an orange peel. The death of the salesman, at his own hands, is a true tragedy and negative comment on the unfilled American Dream.


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