Life, most importantly, the risks involved in it are symbolized by the jungle or woods in the story. The character who does not hesitate to take risks in his life is Ben. Literally, he entered the jungle with the intention of realizing his dreams. In this way, he gained control of his own life. On the other hand, the protagonist is afraid and is actually losing his grip onto his life. When he lost his job, Willy told his sons that the woods are on fire (2.
2). Moreover, Ben tells Willy that even while the jungle is dark, he must nonetheless enter into it (2. 8).
What the Garden symbolizes The protagonist’s desire to afford for his family a good life is symbolized by the garden in the story. Prior to the building of the apartment blocks, the produce from Willy’s garden grow in abundance. However the physical development in their neighborhood altered the case of his garden. The protagonist is attempting to cultivate something for his family.
For instance, he wanted to become successful so that he can very well provide for them. Willy was almost a success in doing this. However, he eventually failed to transform is dream into reality.
Toward the end of the story, one of the last things he did prior to his demise is to plant seeds in his garden. It is indeed, a futile attempt. Success, for Willy is something he most desperately craves but never possessed. What the Brand Names and the Car symbolize The use of brand names in the story, such as Studebaker, Hastings, Simonize, and Chevrolet aids in heightening the realism of the story (1.
3). These brands regarded as status symbols also signify the material success that the protagonist craves for and how it eventually proves to be hollow.
Willy is deceived into believing that the possession of these things is tantamount to success. Perhaps the most suggestive symbol presented in the story is that of the car. Community and family pride are symbolized in the weekend excursions and polishing. Still, the car also signifies the instrument by which the protagonist earns a living. Just like the car, Willy also comes to the point when he wears out (Otten 54). What the Rubber Hose symbolizes The appearance of the rubber hose calls to mind the desperate attempt of the protagonist to take his own life.
He tried to commit suicide by inhaling gas (2. 8). Ironically, gas represents one of the most important elements needed to produce heat which is something essential for the comfort and health of his family. Death, in the literal sense achieved by means of inhaling gas is comparable to the metaphorical death that the protagonist feels in his efforts to provide a basic necessity for his family. The theme of death is directly related to the symbolism represented by the rubber hose in the story. Willy’s attempt to inhale gas to kill him self denotes his intention of escaping the realities of his existence.
He tries to escape the difficulties of losing his job and his failure to realize success. Deception and grief is also signified by the rubber hose. Willy’s wife is bewildered over the supposed purpose of the rubber hose when she found it inside their house (2. 1). The deceiving nature of the rubber hose is manifested the moment Biff asked his father about it and the latter denies its existence (2. 1). What the tape recorder symbolizes The change in the protagonist’s life by means of the advancement in technology is symbolized by the tape recorder. Likewise, it symbolizes the end of his career as a salesman.
The moment Howard, his boss presented the tape recorder to him, it seems that Howard is more interested in the technology and sound of the equipment than on his employee who is trying to stay on the job (2. 2). Unfortunately, the services that Willy can offer is not longer needed on the job. He is then fired by his boss. Nonetheless, Willy also had his faults. He does not welcome change and would rather dwell on the past. The scene where the protagonist is left alone with the equipment and unable to turn it off foretells his reluctance to change (2. 2).
He still believes and would not want to change his old formula for success. However, in his job, what matters is whom you know and not what you know. He is not up-to-date with the latest in technology or even in business. Nonetheless, he never lost hope. He wanted to leave something behind for his family when his time comes. This intention is signified by his act of planting seeds in the garden. What the downward movements imply The words down, falling, and fall as well as the movement they suggest repeatedly appears in the story. They stress the downfall of the protagonist and his family.
The term “beaten down” is used to describe the protagonist (1. 6). Willy is also described to fall down in the bed with his mistress at one point in the story. He fell on his knees when his eldest son discovered his affair with another woman. Biff, his eldest son ran down eleven flights of stairs after stealing a pen from the office of Oliver. Ultimately, his wife dropped flowers down his grave as he was finally laid to rest (2. 9). He wanted to leave something behind to his eldest son. In his fantasy, he wanted his eldest son to be a successful man.
Willy’s act of planting seeds in the garden symbolizes his dream for Biff. However, Willy is destined to fail despite his actions. He began to plant seeds in the garden in the evening, the time of day where there is no light from the sun (Griffin 54). Obviously, the planted seeds need sunlight in order to grow. Furthermore, large apartment buildings started to rise around their home suggesting a sense of confinement (Bigsby 117). As stressed earlier, Willy’s planting of the seeds is a futile act. Nonetheless, the protagonist is persistent on his efforts to seek pardon and reconciliation.
The aforementioned symbols represent the protagonist’s failed dreams as well as his reluctance to change, thus his inability to live his life in the now. The story is filled with symbols which when carefully scrutinized allows the audience to decipher the messages that the author seeks to convey. The symbols also help the audience to better understand the characters portrayed. The story repeatedly stresses the failure of the man who is not exactly as successful as he claims to be. Willy misspends his meager salary by purchasing a new pair of stockings for his mistress.
Such action develops into further disappointments including his inability to support his family. The protagonist attempts to raise his eldest son in resemblance of him. He wanted Biff to be hard working and ambitious like him. However, when his eldest son grew to become otherwise, Willy takes on the blame. After interpreting the hidden meanings behind identified symbols in the story, the audience can find it easer to understand the personality of the characters portrayed. The protagonist, Willy Loman, is an ambitious man.
However, he is a failure in two of his most important roles in life – that of a husband to Linda and a father to Biff and Happy. The symbolism throughout the story is presented on contrasts (Murphy 7). It is built on the everyday and the ordinary contrasted against the distant and the impossible. It is likewise built on the blissful camaraderie of the days gone by with the lonely, disturbing present. Similarly, the symbolism in the story is built on fantasy with reality as well as on the selfish law of the jungle with love. Recollections of the Loman residence prior to the development in their neighborhood are that of a happy past.
At present, with apartment buildings closing in, it is not possible to plant anything in the yard. Nonetheless, the protagonist still attempts to do so on his last day. The image of Willy carrying a flashlight in the evening, planting lettuce, beet, and carrot seeds in the barren land, encapsulates the senselessness of the life he lived as well as the heritage he leaves behind as his “seed. ” The jungle, diamonds, timberlands, and frontiers represent the things beyond your reach. On the other hand, the refrigerator and the car among other things signify Willy’s daily struggles and frustrations in life.
The picture of the life-giving water in the tank is placed in contrast to the symbol of suicide which his wife discovers, the black rubber pipe with an attachment that fits the gas pipe of the heater. The characters in the story act and sound like normal people, dealing with common domestic as well as social concerns. Still, the flashback dream sequences of the protagonist as well as the ever more apparent symbolism in the story’s clever objection to accepted social expectations also meet the requirements of an expressionistic work, which does not portray real life so much as subjective representation of life.
The story presents a portrait of a man who managed to strike an emotional chord which continues to resound. Willy Loman is a man of his time. However, to a certain extent, he is also timeless. He has fascinated audiences the world over and continues to fascinate them until now.
Abbotson, Susan C. W. Student Companion to Arthur Miller. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. Bigsby, C. W. E. Arthur Miller: A Critical Study. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.