Death Of A Salesman Betrayal Essay

Betrayal in Death of a Salesman

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The Betrayal That Led to the Downfall of A Dream In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller utilizes the theme of betrayal as a way to draw a parallel to the downfall of how the Loman family perceives “The American Dream”. Willy Loman believes in “The American Dream” and is constantly striving to live by it. Willy is a very insecure salesman who is unable to provide financial support for his family. He imagines that “The American Dream” stands on the pillars of being well liked and aesthetically appealing to those who he surrounds himself with.

It is unclear to him that as a salesman, that he must be able to sell the product as well as his personality. Willy believes that success and goals of “The American Dream” are easily obtainable and refuses to accept that due to his betrayal to his wife, his sons, and himself, no hard-work was done to go about living in the American way that he had always pictured in his mind. Betrayal is a word that is never used throughout the play, but it is constantly shown through the actions and thoughts of the characters that ultimately lead to the failures and misfortunes of Willy’s diminishing life.

It is unclear to Willy that through the constant pushing of his family to be successful and wealthy, he starts to lose himself and becomes unaware of his family’s unhappiness, because success does not always equal bliss. The first time that betrayal becomes apparent in the story is in the beginning of the play when Willy’s two sons, Happy and Biff come home to live with them for the time being. Willy is constantly speaks highly of his son Biff throughout the play and admires all of the achievements that he has accomplished in his high school years.

Willy is also always pushing Biff to be the best that he can and motivates him to be as successful as possible because that is the only way they will be able to live happy lives. Although Willy is so thrilled to have a son who he loves so much and continues to praise, in reality, Biff is nothing to that extent and is ultimately a let down to Willy. Willy is aware of this betrayal when he yells about it to his wife, Linda, “How can he find himself on a farm?… not finding yourself at the age of thirty-four is a disgrace! ” (pg. 15-16, Act 1). Willy expresses his anger about his son Biff, not realizing that he is part of the reason hy Biff is unsuccessful. Biff has no one to look up to because Willy is also a man who is unable to provide his family with the care and provisions they need and he unreasonably boosts Biffs’ confidence that he could be a successful man just like himself, when in truth, Willy is not at all what he thinks of himself. How can Biff justify reasons to live up to the standards of “The American Dream”, when Willy sets no example. Willy is betrayed by Biff and cannot allow himself to come to the conclusion that he was the role model who relentlessly lived a lie that stirred up the struggles and downfall of his own son.

It becomes relevant once again that Willy betrays his family when he is caught by Biff, being unfaithful in his marriage to Linda. Biff finds this out when he travels to Boston to reveal to Willy that he let him down. The let down turns around when Biff realizes that there is a woman in Willy’s bathroom. Biff immediately drops any desire to be like his father or show him that he can be the best and live this “magical dream” that Willy has supposedly paved for him.

Biff and Linda are both betrayed by Willy with his careless action of cheating and being caught. Biff is aware that “The American Dream” is nothing that he has ever been part of, “I realize what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been” (104), and will never get to be part of. Biff comes to understand that the life he has been living is the life that his father wished he was able to live. He only breezed through his high school years because his father glorified everything that he did and made sure that he was always popular.

Biff thought that being popular was the way to be successful because that was how Willy was also able to become so “successful”, when really, it was people like Bernard who strived for good grades and worked hard, who became the successful one. The biggest betrayal of all was the betrayal of Willy to himself, which irrefutably led to the end of this so-called, “American Dream” as well as his own life. Willy couldn’t keep himself in the reality of his life because everything he told himself was a lie. Everyone around Willy knew that he lived in his own world, including his boss Howard.

Willy goes into Howard’s office, so sure of himself that he will get exactly what he is asking for and after telling Howard that his sons are working on a successful deal, Howard replies, “This is no time for false pride, Willy” (83), showing that even Howard can tell that Willy lies to himself everyday about promises for his future and the future of his family. Willy was never prosperous as a salesman, which is probably why he was just a salesman. He never made the money that he wanted to make, he was never fully happy in his marriage, and he grappled with his attempts to make his sons be something they could never be.

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Arthur Miller identifies the perfect example of the “low-life” of a salesman within Willy “Lo”man. Willy goes into a different state of mind to not have to face the reality of the life that he has failed and in doing so, he causes his mental health to suffer greatly. He conjures up the idea that he is worth more dead than alive and ends his life in hopes that the insurance claim will help build his family back up and they can go on to live “The American Dream”, but it was already too late, for this dream he had for him and his family had already been crushed.

Author: Brandon Johnson

in Death of a Salesman

Betrayal in Death of a Salesman

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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)

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