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Motifs in Death Of A Salesman Essay


Arthur Millers death of a salesman uses many motifs to make the story a much stronger piece of writing. Many of these motifs play a big role in shaping the story to this. Arthur miller uses the reoccurring action of biffs stealing extremely effectively. Along with using stealing as an important motif, he also encompasses illusion vs. reality. From the beginning, biff had not been taught the difference between right or wrong; miller uses this to his advantage as each time biff is shown to steal, miller alters his future by showing him the consquences of the action. Biff does not learn about the goodness and evil form his father yet from the actions of stealing.

An eample of this motif is seen when biff steals a football from school. Willy does not punish him yet he encourages him and congratulates him by saying Sure, hes gotta practice with a regulation ball, doesnt he? Coachll probably congratulate you on the initiative. In this situation, willy leads biff into believing that it is okay to steal, if it leads to success. Although biff does not suffer any consequences as of yet, his mind is set on that what his father is teaching him is correct.

Willy lomans synopsis of life is that one must do what it takes to succeed even it if means stealing/cheating . Biff following in the wrong example of his father believes him so and faces the consequences. A prime example of this can be seen when willy is telling Bernard to give biff the answers. bernanrd: where is he? If he doesnt study! Willy: youll give him the answers! through out this particular scene, Bernard speaks to willy about how biff needs to study. Willy tunes him out as he only listens to what he wants to hear. Ultimately, so does biff. The consequence of this is shown when biff fails math and does not graduate. His father had not given him the right lesson but Arthur miller uses the motif of stealing to show how it is wrong to cheat and one has to work their way to the top.

Another example of this motif in action can be seen when biff steals basketballs from work. Biff: I wonder if Oliver still thinks I stole that carton of basketballs. Happy: oh, he probably forgot that long ago. Its almost ten years. Youre too sensitive. Anyway, he didnt really fire you. Biff: Well, I think he was going to. I think thats why I quit. I was never sure whether he knew or not. Consequently, he loses his job and the respect of Oliver. This comes to haunt him later on as Oliver does not trust him anymore and he does not receive the financial help he needs to start his own business. Biff: Well, I waited six hours for him, see? All day. Kept sending my name in. even tried to date his secretary so shed get me to him, but no soap. Happy: because youre not showin the old confidence, Biff. He remembered you, didnt he? Biff: finally, about five oclock, he comes out. Didnt remember who I was or anything. I felt like an idiot, Hap. This conversation between happy and biff takes place after oliver claims he does not know him. This is the consequence of the theft of the basketballs. Biff tries to use the loman charm again here as he says he was willing to date the secretary just so he could get in to speak to Oliver.

At this point, Biff has begun to realize that there are serious consequences attached to his wrong doings. This is shown perfectly to him when he steals a suit and is sent to jail for three months. Biff: You know why I had no address for three months? I stole a suit in Kansas City and I was in Jail. This keeps him from finding a real job. This also may have been the reason he wanted to work out west since employers may have been performing background checks. In the west this would not have been a problem.

Throughout the play, biff is finding himself and realizing what his father had taught him was wrong. As biff is trying to rebuild his life, he takes a business proposal to Oliver, who claims he does not remember him. Biff feeling confused, steals his fountain pen and runs down six flights of stairs. In a later conversation with happy, he quotes I saw the thing that I love in this world, the work, the food, and the time to sit and smoke. And I looked at the pen and I thought, what the hell am I grabbing this for? Why am I trying to become what I dont want to bewhen all I want is out there, waiting for me, the minute I say I know who I am. This is the final turn in his life as he suddenly realizes stealing is not the way to success. Biff realizes the foolishness of stealing the pen and he is finally able to free himself from his fathers expectations.

From the beginning, Willy had encouraged Biff to steal from a young age. From cheating on his homework, exam to stealing building materials, willy wanted him to follow in his footsteps. Not only did he tell biff to steal, he did it himself. He tries to persuade the math teacher to pass biff, sleeps with a secretary to boost his sales.

Through all the rough times, Biff realizes his wrong and says he knows who he is. He has his faults, but he has realized his mistakes. He is a reliable, caring, and trustworthy human being. Arthur miller uses the motif of Biff stealing efficiently and portrays Biff as a reliable, caring and trustworthy human being lost in his fathers dreams who realizes his mistakes by facing the consequences of his actions.

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