Trent Beebe Beebe 1 Mr. Arena 4th hour AP Lang & Comp 12/17/09 Death of a Salesman Essay The story, Death of a Salesman, is a story that has many literary devices that help to make it the deep and riveting story that has become an American classic. The use of symbols in the story adds to the overall effect and theme and also creates a different mood that the reader must infer from it. The symbols not only represent something in the story as literally a symbol, but of much importance because of the numerous times they appear in the work.
There are countless symbols in the story that help to give the reader a different feeling for it but there are a select few that really represent the most important themes and ideas from the book. The use of seeds in the story as a metaphor for Willy Loman’s life gives the reader a short and simple thought of Willy’s thought on life. Willy believed that if he worked hard and set a good example for his kids that he would in turn be successful and they would eventually be successful. His thought was the same as that for the seeds; you plant them, put some effort into trying to grow them, and they will grow to be big and strong.
His boys would be like the plants in a way that they would grow to be big and strong and successful and provide for the family but that never ended up happening and Willy was disappointed about this. Willy was mainly disappointed because he felt like a failure as a father to Biff. Biff had everything going for him, All-American football player, ladies man, anything he wanted he could get. Willy thought the highest of Biff and eventually Biff never really made anything of himself and was basically a bum. All of what had happened to Biff reflected back onto Willy and Willy felt that it was his fault and felt he failed as a father.
Another use of symbols is almost a minor one because of its little insignificance to the play, but its broad idea can be easily understood when fully examined. For all of Willy’s life, his son Biff, was the ultimate athlete. He was college bound to play football and had everything going for him. He was missing just one thing; His academics. He flunked math and was not able to graduate, meaning he could not play college football unless he passed. Biff’s friend and “study buddy”, Bernard, assured Biff that if he didn’t study he would flunk math and not graduate.
Biff ignored this idea and instead went to practice to become a better football player. This event comes full circle when Biff eventually becomes a bum all due to the fact that he never passed math and Bernard is a big successful lawyer. A decade after this whole ordeal went down, Willy goes to visit his neighbor Charley, at his office. Willy is surprised to see Bernard there and has a quick chat with him about how he became so successful. Through this process, Willy noticed that Bernard had a tennis racket, and asked Bernard what he needed it for to go on this trip.
Bernard eventually told him that it was to play tennis at one of his friend’s house in Washington D. C. Willy is surprised by this and feels happy for Bernard. The whole point to that part of the story was to use the tennis racket as a symbol showing the significance that hard work has on people. The old saying goes, “you work hard, you play hard”, and Bernard worked hard and is now getting to play hard and Biff never worked hard and now his life is dull, boring, and he has become a bum mooching off of his parents.
A third symbol used in the story as a literary device was the thought of getting rich and making it to the top, and that meant going to Africa with Willy’s brother Ben to find diamonds, the main source of becoming rich. Years back, Willy’s brother Ben, asked Willy if he would want to travel to Alaska during the gold rush to try and hit it big. Willy refused because he wanted to make it big by way of the American Dream. Willy did not know it then, but he was making a huge mistake. Ben went the wrong way to Alaska and ended up in Africa, only to become very rich by hitting it big with diamonds that he found in a mine there.
The diamonds he find make him rich and he one day comes back to Willy to tell him off his intangible wealth. Willy is quite surprised and ponders at the decision he made. The diamond and the thought of being rich were Willy’s ambitions in life and what he strived for to achieve for his family. Towards the end of the story, Willy thinks about his way to find the diamonds and realizes the only way he could get it would to be by killing himself and having his life insurancego to his family so they could finally have what Willy worked for all those years.
Willy did follow through in his plan and he felt that killing himself was meaningful toward the betterment toward the family and he found his diamond that he had been searching for his whole life. The story, Death of a Salesman, used these and other symbols to add the theme of the book and allowed for the story to be a literature dream. The symbols not only represented broad topics of it, but also the significance of minor details that add to the story and make it that much better for the reader. Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.