Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller is a play full of symbolism significantly communicating the central themes of failure within a successful orientated society, bringing us back to the idea of the desire for the American Dream. By the use of symbols Miller portrays Willy Lomans problems with his life and his self and also uses them to expand on issues concerning other characters like his two sons and wife, but these characters are often representing something themselves.
From the start of the play there is a lot of amplification on growing seeds and it seems to be something Willy seems to feel very passionate about. Willy is preoccupied with being well known and leaving something to his family when he dies so he wants to grow something that will thrive, provide for others and remain after his own death solely providing thrive for his role as a father and a salesman. Also when Willy is talking about them it is almost like Miller is informing the audience of Willys emotive feelings “Nothing’s planted.
I don’t have a thing in the ground” it seems there’s a real pessimistic outlook for Willy and this could be symbolising how he feels about his life and his belongings too. One thing Willy feels deeply about if also his cars which they all seem to symbolise his mental well being throughout his life. When Willy is in his mobile concurrency’s Miller portrays him in his happiest times of his life when all the family were together and he had an aim for him and his family’s life.
This is what makes Death of a Salesman such an outstanding play, the realisation of reality for Willy and his dreams and desires shown in the mobile concurrencies. Another significant symbol Miller uses is the use of the stockings; Willy gives the stockings that are meant for Linda to his mistress, becoming a symbol of Willy’s sexual infidelity. Every time we see Linda mending her old stockings he also seems to get sensitive and precarious telling her “I won’t see stockings in my house. symbolising his own betrayal and guilty realisations of how he isn’t providing for his humble wife, the only one that does truly care for him and love him. Additionally the Lomans family don’t seem to be in a rewarding finance position too as Willy isn’t making the money he’d hoped for so him buying the stockings for his mistress and not for Linda who actually needed them is also a symbol of how Willy will put his ego-stroking affair over his loved ones and how the mistress and the new stockings fulfilled him with pride.
In Willy’s mobile concurrency’s we are introduced to Willy’s dead brother Ben, Ben is Willy’s hero in that Ben is his ideal of economic and personal success it seems Ben is symbolised as everything Willy wanted to be. However Ben also symbolises false sense of conduct as Ben’s personality traits and leading words take Willy away from the realistic financial circumstances he is in.
Ben also talks much about the diamonds that made in rich from the jungle, they seem to represent the idea of concrete wealth in Death of a salesman and Willy’s unsuccessfulness in selling. The diamonds represent pure, material achievement something Willy strives for and we know that Ben asked Willy a great amount of times to go to Alaska with him and become rich but he is so obsessed with the American Dream that he sees that as failure and would rather still to is under achievable job.
Critics say that Willy’s need for Ben and his repetition of diamonds sometimes conflict with his need for Linda because Linda symbolizes something stable and certain, while Ben represents something unrealistic. Miller also puts much emphasis on the stage prop, the rubber hose reminding us of the symbol of suicidal and how desperate and weak Willy really is.
Linda finds the rubber hose hidden behind the fuse box in the cellar, apparently trying to kill himself by inhaling gas which seems quite ironic as gas is one of the essential for homes as it provides heat, metaphorical portraying how Willy can’t even keep up with such basic necessities and how these necessities he has been working for every day in his life like the car and the gas could, under the surface, be killing him. Willy’s attempts of suicide seem to symbolise escape from reality and his failure in life and the American Dream.