Perceptions of Self Worth and Prominence: Spaces and Settings in Death of a Salesman Lorin Veigas

A sensible and potentially extremely negative man once stated “Absolutely nothing stops working like success.” Even if one is not acquainted with Gerald Nachman, or the other rebel comics of his time, we can all appreciate the smart irony in this quote. In the complex and typically extremely materialistic world we reside in the question of how to measure success, prominence, and self worth is certainly a relevant one. This is the very question Authur Miller addresses in his 1949 play, Death of a Salesperson. In the process of relating the events of Willy Loman’s tragic life, Miller uses concepts such as area and location to give his readers insight into his characters, their successes or failures, and their ideas of self worth. Willy Loman’s Brooklyn house, Africa, Alaska, and the American West all assistance explain why Willy Loman fails while others prosper and can assist expose what characters such as Biff, Willy, and Ben value and how they identify success.

Act one of the play opens in Willy Loman’s Brooklyn home. The phase instructions notes, “We are aware of towering, angular shapes behind [your home], surrounding it on all sides. Only the blue light of the sky falls upon your home and forestage; the surrounding area shows an upset circulation of orange. As more light appears, we see a strong vault of apartment building around the small, fragile-seeming home. An air of the dream holds on to the place, a dream rising out of truth” (Miller, 2111). Willy and Linda first acquired the house years ago and when there was room to spread out and even a good garden to grow vegetables. Ever since, however, the house has been encased in a “solid vault of apartment building” and Willy’s grand goals of wealth, prosperity, and popularity have been locked up, obstructed off, and cast in an upset orange light by the surrounding buildings (Miller, 2111). Willy grumbles, “The street is lined with cars. There’s not a breath of fresh air in the community. The grass do not grow anymore, you can’t raise a carrot in the backyard. They ought to’ve had a law versus apartment houses” (Miller, 2115). His efforts to grow veggies represent his efforts to attend to his household and his desire to reap some reward for his efforts. As it is, Willy has stayed in the exact same position in his job for many years and he can barely afford to put food on the table. An air of Willy’s American dream still clings to the place, but it is surrounded by the unpleasant reality that has been built up over the years.

Unlike the comfy rural setting in which the Loman’s very first settled, Willy’s father and sibling Ben invested most of their lives in remote, exotic areas like Alaska and Africa. These wild, untamed areas resemble the capitalist jungle that is the American economy. It is here that a person should compete if they are to achieve prominence and wealth in the financial world. This jungle is plainly not fit for everyone. Describing Willy’s sibling Ben, Irving Jacobson keeps in mind, “In the world of financing he was as much a pioneer, a ‘terrific and wild-hearted man,’ as his father” (Jacobson, 250). He could travel to Alaska, South Dakota, Africa, and back to New york city and make his method just fine in each location since he was indifferent to human heat, social relationships, or household ties. “His spheres of action related to things and amounts rather than individuals; even his 7 kids seemed more like products than members of a family” (Jacobson, 250). Willy Loman is not the very same type of wild, callous, and smart business person that his brother is and is either unwilling to take the very same drastic procedures or fails to understand the rules of the jungle. In Willy Loman’s deformed perception of truth he believes that a person’s personal appearance and other’s understanding of them are the keys to success. He continually refers to Dave Singleman, a salesman who was so well liked that consumers and buddies came from all over the nation for his funeral service. Willy asks, “‘Cause what could be more gratifying than to be able to go, at the age of eight-four, into twenty or thirty various cities, and get a phone, and be remembered and enjoyed and assisted by numerous various people?” (Miller, 2146). It sought fulfilling Singleman that Willy decided not to go Alaska with his bro and became a salesman rather. This decision in lots of methods seals his monetary fate for the rest of his profession.

While Ben voluntarily endeavors into the heart of the jungle and Willy is beaten down as the jungle grows up around him, a 3rd character, Biff, seems to wish to remove himself from the jungle completely. As Jacobson writes, “Unlike his dad and bro, Biff does not emulate the images of prominent guys however declines the years he has spent riding subways, keeping stock, buying and selling, feeling it ludicrous to spend a year in suffering for the sake of a two-week holiday” (253 ). For years Biff stayed lost and confused about his future. Feeling connected to his daddy, however likewise betrayed by his dad’s adultery to his mom, and his consistent distortions of the truth. Biff says, “I do not know … I simply can’t take hold, Mama. I can’t grab some kind of life (Miller, 2134). Regardless of his daddy’s severe rebuke, Biff finds happiness ranching on his own in the rural West. “Screw business world,” he says, “I don’t care what they believe! They’ve made fun of Father for years, and you know why? Because we do not belong in this nuthouse of a city! We need to be blending cement on some open plain, or – or carpenters” (Miller, 2137). Jacobson keeps in mind that “Due to the fact that [Willy] habitually deflects awareness of his own failure by focusing attention on his kids, Loman can decline Biff’s way of life in the West by itself terms however attempts to reabsorb him into a business-oriented culture” (254 ).

In an effort to jeopardize between their own desires and their daddy’s expectations, the Loman brothers consider a joint endeavor in the West. Their temporary imagine a Loman ranch is an attempt to manufacture the rural and the urban; the serious and the satisfying. Here Biff wants to have the opportunity to do the sort of work he takes pleasure in while acquiring the prominence to as soon as again win his dad’s approval. The plan ultimately dies with the awareness that they can not come up with the cash necessary to launch the cattle ranch. Biff understands that such compromise is not constantly possible. Choosing to live a life of simpleness and fulfillment typically means sacrificing prominence and wealth.

Every one of these characters has different value systems and different requirements for examining success and prominence. For Willy Loman, success is defined by individual look and personal relationships; therefore he is drawn in to the American suburb with close households, 2 vehicle garages, and backyard barbeques. His fixation with material wealth has actually drawn him near to the industrial world of the city, however being unable to compete and endure in the urban jungle, Loman lives out his life caught in his own severe reality. Unlike his brother, Ben is strong, aggressive, callous, and conniving enough to blaze a course in the jungle. Dealing with everyone and every relationship in his life like an amount or a product, Ben’s whole value system is based upon little bit more than dollars and cents. Of all the characters in the play, Biff seems to be the most likely protagonist. Trapped by his dad’s expectations and confused about his future, Biff is labeled an underachiever. A discovery in Expense Oliver’s office, nevertheless, could prove to be the key to complimentary Biff from his dad’s lies and warped sense of reality. There is expect Biff at the end of the play. He appears intent on following his imagine a basic and simple life out west. It is unclear, nevertheless, whether Biff’s journey west will truly set him on the road to lifelong happiness and satisfaction, or if it is just an impulsive effort to escape his father’s pressure. If there were to be a follow up to Death of a Salesman written it would likely entail Biff traveling west and arriving at the realization that true joy and self worth is accomplished not through individual looks or perceptions, nor through material posessions, however through hard work and determination.


Baym, Nina. ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton and Business, 2003.

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesperson. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York City: W.W. Norton and Business, 2003. 2111-2176.

Jacobson, Irving. “Household Dreams in Death of a Salesperson.” American Literature Vol. 47, No. 2. Duke University Press, 1975. 247-258.

You Might Also Like