• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Explore the ways in which Miller uses symbolism to emphasise the tragedy in Death of a Salesman.

Extracts from this document...


Ben Grantham Ms Pritchard S Peters Collegiate School 20962 Candidate Number: 6055 Explore the ways in which Miller uses symbolism to emphasise the tragedy in Death of a Salesman. A symbol is defined as ?an object or action that represents an idea, function or process,? essentially anything which ?stands for? something else. When viewed in relation to the Aristotelian model of tragedy in Poetics, Miller?s rich use of symbolism in Death of a Salesman contradicts a key premise within Aristotle?s tragedian theory, labelling the tragic hero?s hamartia as the cause for their downfall. Miller uses symbols to explore the motifs of success, freedom and failure, as well as to help shape our view of his characters. Throughout the play Miller emphasises the strength of these symbols through the way they affect the Loman family and in particular Willy, whose obsession with the American Dream ? and all that it encompasses ? brings him to his tragic end. We may consider Willy to posses the tragic flaw of hubris, which will only assist the interplay of the material and figurative symbols Miller creates to entrap Willy within his beliefs, leaving him unable to escape. Inherent throughout the play is Miller?s heavy use of symbols to convey meanings such as hope, struggle and self-worth. ...read more.


This peripheral is sharply contrasted by Miller?s references to the ?jungle? through Ben, who despite being dead before the play begins, remains a big influence to Willy and his search for capitalism. The jungle?s symbolic connotations of ?wild freedom? and ?liberty? epitomises all that opposes the American dream. One could also argue that they represent the opportunities Willy rejected due to his hubris, his uncompromising faith in the American dream. Rollyson explores this idea and states ?Willy is only as solid as the society in which he tries to sell himself,? and everything from his view of America as ?the greatest country in the world? to his idolisation of ?David Singleman? suggests that the American dream is something he is deeply ?sold? into. Through Miller?s use of a non-linear narrative, the audience gains a greater understanding of the way symbols are established and the development of the setting in which they manifest. Willy?s recollection of the past makes us aware that the apartment buildings replaced their natural surroundings, most notably the ?two beautiful elm trees,? the presences of which echo through the repeated appearance of leaves around their home. The construction of the apartment buildings has rendered their neighbourhood lifeless, and Willy?s statement ?The grass don?t grow any more? may reflect on the state of poverty throughout the United States, induced by the Wall Street crash. ...read more.


With the working title The Inside of His Head, Miller originally intended to make the setting itself a physics manifestation of Willy?s internal mental state, with the stage layout resembling the shape of a head. One could argue that Miller?s use of ?imaginary walls-lines? ? which characters walk through instead of the doors as to indicate a recollection of Willy?s past ? would show a comprised mental structure within Willy?s psyche. Although these externalities largely influence Willy?s behaviour, we must also consider him as symbolic, as he represents the struggling everyman whose belief in the flawed American dream is slowly killing him. Miller?s use of symbols within Death of a Salesman allows us to witness exactly how Willy, a tragic character bounded by ?his temper, massive dreams and little cruelties,? becomes progressively more influenced by both his thoughts and surrounding environment. By stimulating our senses and heightening dramatic tension, it is a quintessential device used to enhance the audience?s understanding and sense of sympathy toward this tragic character so mentally distorted by this ideal, without which there would be no tragedy to interpret. As a play famously described as ?a time bomb expertly placed under the edifice of Americanism,? Miller makes a great effort to illustrate his beliefs of the American Dream as a corrupt ethos by showing its tragic effect on the common American man. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Arthur Miller section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Arthur Miller essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    Death of a Salesman: Is Willy Loman a tragic hero or a tragic victim?

    5 star(s)

    is viewed in light of Willy's hope to set up his family for life with the insurance money: "I see it like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough..." Willy's comparison of his suicide to a diamond suggests that he believes it will produce something concrete for his

  2. Peer reviewed

    How does the Requiem reflect the elements of tragedy explored within Death of a ...

    3 star(s)

    This idea, as expressed by Thomas Adler, Ruby Cohn and others rests on the existence of other factors in Willy's life, Willy is not only proud, but stupid, cursed with the wrong dreams, lacking in vision and most of all weak.

  1. Character Analysis - Willy Loman

    He even tells his sons to steel from the building site to impress him. Even though Charley advises Willy not to teach them to do this Willy does not follow his advice. Willy is shown to be full of fear about whether or not he is teaching Biff the right things or not.

  2. Death of a Salesman. 'Explore the relationship between Willy and his sons'

    Hap cannot settle down with one woman and even says to Biff, Biff: "Nah I'd like to a girl - steady, somebody with substance' Happy: "That's what I long for" Biff: "Go on! You'd never come home" Happy: "I would!

  1. An Analysis of the Dramatic Impact of the Restaurant Scene in Death of a ...

    Ben eventually leaves for Alaska, and Willy is left pondering over his warped vision of the American Dream. Thus, he tries desperately to prove it to his family, and Biff, who Willy loves dearly and has great ambitions for, drops Willy with his dreams when he finds out his betrayal to Linda.

  2. Joe Keller is a tragic hero

    As such, Joe's character as a "success dream" example, contrasts with Willy Loman in Miller's "Death of a Salesman" (1949) where Willy's obsession with the past and success dream in the past contributed to his failure in the present (1949).

  1. In the light of critical opinions discuss Millers exploration of the American Dream in ...

    His imagination may lead him to a world in which he has no fears and feels that his life is fulfilling. In contrast to this, the language he uses is very simplistic. Willy expresses himself through statements and clich�s that are repeated so frequently that they border on monotonous with

  2. Death of a Salesman is an indictment not of Willy Loman but of the ...

    And by God I was rich.' Ben is idealised by Willy since he fulfilled the genuine American Dream: to start out with nothing and eventually become rich through effort and hard work. Ironically, this wealth is achieved outside America suggesting that there is little left available for the ordinary individual within the country's own boundaries.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work