Symbolizing the Death of a Dream

Published: 2021-06-29 07:03:34
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Category: English

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"Death of a Salesman" is a timeless theatrical work in which Arthur Miller allows no word or action to be made in casual passing and subsequently they, along with most every item mentioned from seeds to diamonds, can be viewed as symbolic.
A person's car can say a lot about them. Traditionally a car is a symbol of social status, mobility and independence. But in "Death of a Salesman" Willy's car, along with his driving, are symbolic of his life. Miller opens with Willy arriving home exhausted from driving. "I'm tired to the death. I couldn't make it. I just couldn't make it, Linda." (1373) His exhaustion and inability to continue on symbolizes his exhaustion with life. "An then all of a sudden I'm goin' off the road! I'm tellin' ya, I absolutely forgot I was driving." (Miller 1374) The path he was traveling to reach the American Dream is not clear to him anymore and he's forgotten momentarily his purpose and dream for his life. "I suddenly couldn't drive any more. The car kept going off onto the shoulder, y'know?" (Miller 1374) Not only is Willy tired and beaten, he feels like he is losing control of his life. This particular piece of symbolism is seen again at the climax of the play when Willy jumps into his car, symbolically taking control of his life for a final time, and drives off into the night in an altruistic attempt to secure through his death what he could not in life - Biff's attainment of the American Dream.
The seeds that Willy is determined to buy and plant are, on one hand, symbolic of his efforts to bring to fruition the hopes and dreams he has for his sons. When he says, "Nothing's planted. I don't have a thing in the ground." he's really talking about Biff and Happy and the seeming barren fields of their future. (Miller 1428) The seeds and their bounty are symbolic in a second aspect in that Willy has sown efforts all his life in order to reap the success of being well known and well-liked and therefore a success in the eyes of his sons, most especially Biff, but the frantic seed planting lets us know that Willy does not consider his efforts to have been fruitful. This desire to attain his version of success is something mentioned several times throughout the text but none so clearly as when he's speaking to Ben after his sons abandoned him at Frank's Chop House. "Ben, that funeral will be massive! They'll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the old-timers with the strange license plates - that boy will be thunder-struck, Ben, because he never realized - I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey - I am known, Ben, and he'll see it with his eyes once and for all. He'll see what I am, Ben!" (Miller 1430) Willy desperately wants grow something that will thrive, foremost Biff and Happy's future, which he believes will prompt their respect and love for him that will in turn become his legacy of providing for others, being respected and well-liked and a success - things he believes are necessary to live on and not be forgotten after his death. His desires, feelings of failure and even his hope that things can and will change are all manifested through planting seeds. (Shmoop Editorial Team)
Willy's brother Ben symbolizes several things. First he

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