Remember: These are student notes based on class discussion.
Death of a Salesman” Response Questions
1. Why cast a small (in stature) Willy Loman? What characters seem to purposefully be larger than Willy?
Larger: Biff, Hap, Charlie, Ben, the Boss, even Linda
Smaller to show his insignificance, lack of power, misunderstood position in society.
2. What do you notice about the lighting choices during the flashbacks versus the present day scenes? Why would the director make that choice?
Brighter in the "Glory Days." Darker in the present. This shows that Willy is glorifying his past and Biff's success while remaining blind to the present situation.
3. Why does Linda cover for Willy? What is her goal?
She believes that he has worked hard and deserves dignity and respect--above all his humanity demands that his sons respect him. She is honorable and doesn't want to take away his facade of dignity.
4. Give evidence that Biff is still childish.
Biff acts childish by still sleeping in the same room with his brother and wearing matching kiddie pajamas. He still blamed his father for his faults; he sounds as though he is 12 years old.
5. Why is Willy behaved worst when Biff is around?
Willy behaved worst when Biff is around because Biff reminders him of all his unsuccessful attempts.
Push Biff so hard only for Willy's pleasure
6. List the elements against Willy (people, situations, concrete and abstract). Are these his fault? Consider Linda’s statement: “He’s not a great man, but he’s a man.”
Willy's job is against him because he wasn't a great salesman; he felts although his loyalty is enough
Time was against him
His mind is against him; he's having delusions
The lack of respect that he earns
MOST OF ALL:HE IS AGAINST HIMSELF
His wife, Linda, his against him because she is hindering him because she won't tell him the "ugly truth."
Although he is not a good man, he should still have his dignity
Irony: Hap wants to prove Willy's legacy but there is nothing to prove.
"American Dream":Willy's sickness is symbolic of the "American Dream." People who believe in the "American Dream" are delusional and need to snap back to reality.
Miller is saying:If you see the "dream" without the struggles and obstacles, you are being naive. Hard work will take you far but if you just sit back and "wait" for it success will not come.
Make short-term goals and be realistic.
American Dream made him sick. Humans deserves dignity.
1. What does Willy's garden symbolize? Consider his American Dream and these lines he speaks: 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.
Willy's garden symbolizes his desire; he needs to grow something. Miller is telling the readers that he wants the garden but doesn't have the seeds yet. Digging in the garden represents appreciation for the Earth and basic human needs. Willy didn't know who he was or what he wanted.
2. Hap tries to give Linda flowers. She throws them to the ground. The director (Volker Schlöndorff) chose to have Willy pick them up and put them in a vase of water. Why do you suppose Schlöndorff makes this choice?
3. How does Biff begin to represent "truth" in this play? Consider this line he speaks: I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been.
Biff know that he couldn't live his father's dream. He realized that his father's dream was a lie. He left to go West to start something new.
4. Why doesn't Willy want Biff to tell him the truth about the job he never had, or about being in jail?
Biff went to jail for petty theft. Biff tries to come clean but Willy doesn't believe him because it's going to bring him back to reality;he is hiding from the truth. He had invested so much into Biff he's afraid to believe anything else.
5. Consider the following lines: Biff: Pop! I'm a dime a dozen, and so are you!
Willy: I am not a dime a dozen! I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman! What does Biff mean? What does Willy mean? What is Arthur Miller (playwright) tell the audience literally and figuratively?
Dime a dozen is something that can be obtained easily.
Biff means- The family is regular, nothing special
Willy means- Values his family and family name as something special
6. Who changes in this play? Who does not change? What is Miller's point?
Biff grows through out the play. He matures and starts to understand the truth.
Hap and Linda doesn't change. Willy continues to get worse. His illusions become more intense. He changes for the worse.
Biff shows that there will be change for the next generation
Hap shows that it's too late.
7. Why does Willy die at the end? Does he commit suicide?
Willy dies at the end because he has a car accident.
Does he commit suicide? Answer: Up for debate, Your own response with evidence...