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Symbolism in Death Of A Salesman Essay


Throughout the play, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, the play gives a tragic but realistic view of society back when the play was created around the 1950s. The symbolism that Arthur Miller creates in this play is the theme of failure. Throughout the play, Willy Loman who is the main character refers to diamonds many times which is a significant symbol in this play. You guys! There was a man started with the clothes on his back and ended up with diamond mines!...Whats the mystery? The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and hes rich!(Meyer, I388). To Willy, these diamonds represent everything to him such as wealth and happiness and also signify Willy's failure as a salesman and as a father. During the play, Ben, Willy's brother talks about the success he had by walking through the diamonds mines in Africa and becoming rich by the time he was twenty-one. When Willy was younger, he passed up the opportunity to go on this journey with his brother to find their father in Alaska but ended up in the jungles of Africa were Ben became rich while Willy dreams of becoming successful passed him by. This chance that Willy passed up soon leads to his down faults in life that the audience sees throughout the play. The diamonds symbolize the success Willy wanted but never could get.

Another important symbol in the play Death of a Salesman are the stockings that Linda mends throughout the story. During the play, Willy gets very upset with the condition of Linda's stockings. Whats that (Meyer, I387) Willy said and Linda says Just mending my stockings theyre so expensive (Meyer, I387). Willy gets so mad and snatch the stocking from and say I wont have you mending stockings in this house! Now throw them out! This anger is a type of flashback to his son Biffs discovery of him having an affair on his wife in a hotel room in Boston. Biff accuses his father Willy of giving Linda's stockings away to the woman he was having the affair with. After Biff caught his father in the act of cheating all respect for him was lost. The stockings symbolize Willy's disloyalty of his wife and his two sons. The new stockings represent the guilt and disloyalty to his family and can also represent the family financial success in being able to provide for the family.

One of the biggest symbol used in the play Death of a Salesman, is the seeds which Willy tries to plant in ground. These seeds represent Willy's last attempt to leave something behind to his family of something he accomplished before he commits suicide, to show his work and effort as a salesman and a father. "Oh, I'd better hurry. 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." (Meyer, I428). Willy grows a garden in shame of not being able to support his family and having nothing to leave his sons when he passes away. He feels that he needs to leave something behind for his two sons that will represent new growth. However as we the audience view Willy shows that the seeds will fail to grow in the harsh conditions of his backyard, just as Willy and his family have failed to grow and be successful in what they do. Even as he tries to leave something behind to be remembered his life has already been a failure. The use of symbolism in the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller creates the story of a dysfunctional family and the ways they struggle in becoming successful in life. The diamonds, the stockings, and the seeds, along with other items throughout the play are all symbolic of Willy's dreams that have failed.

Works Cited

Meyer, Michael. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature, New York: Boston,


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