Arthur Miller is one of the leading American playwrights of the twentieth century. He was born in October of 1915 in New York City, the son of a ladies-wear manufacturer who was ruined during the economic collapse of the 1930s. As a young man during the Great Depression, Miller was shaped by the poverty that surrounded him, which demonstrated to him the insecurity of modern existence. After graduation from high school he worked in a warehouse so that he could earn enough money to attend the University of Michigan, where he began to write plays.
Miller\'s first public success was Focus (1945), a novel about anti-Semitism, but it was with All My Sons two years later that Miller emerged as an important playwright. With Death of a Salesman in 1949, Miller secured his reputation as one of the nation\'s famoust playwrights. Death of a Salesman mixes the tradition of social realism that informs most of Miller\'s work with a more experimental structure that includes fluid leaps in time as the protagonist, Willy Loman, drifts into memories of his sons as teenagers. Loman stands as an American archetype, a victim of his own delusions of grandeur and obsession with success that haunts him in his failure. Miller won a Tony Award for Death of a Salesman as well as a Pulitzer Prize.
Miller also wrote the plays A Memory of Two Mondays and the short A View from the Bridge, which were both staged in 1955. His other works include After the Fall (1964), a thinly veiled account of his marriage to Monroe, as well as The Price (1967), The Archbishop\'s Ceiling (1977) and The American Clock (1980). His most recent works include the plays The Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991), The Last Yankee (1993) and Broken Glass (1993), which won the Olivier Award for Best Play.
Willy Loman has been a salesman for the Wagner Company for thirty-four years. And he likes to think of himself as being vital to the New England territory. A long time ago, Willy met a salesman named Dave Singleton who would go into a town and pick up a phone and would be able to place many orders without ever leaving his hotel room. When this man died, people from all over the country came to his funeral.
But as the play opens, Willy has just come back home after having left for New England that morning. He tells his wife, Linda, that he just can\'t seem to keep his mind on driving anymore. He asks about his son, Biff, who has just come home for a visit after being away for a long time. Willy thinks about Biff when Biff was a senior in high school some fourteen years ago. Biff was playing in a great football game and people were coming from all over the country to offer him scholarships. But then something happened after that year, because Biff has never found himself. Later we find out that Biff had flunked math and had gone up to Boston to find his father and explain the failure to him. When he reached Willy\'s hotel room in Boston, Biff found his father having an affair with a strange woman. After this episode, Biff seemed to hold a grudge against his father and could never again bring himself to trust Willy.
Now after some fourteen years, Biff returns home. He and his brother Happy try to think of some job that Biff could get and settle down in New York. They think about a man that Biff used to work
for named Bill Oliver. Biff thinks that he will ask Mr. Oliver for a loan of ten thousand dollars to begin a business of his own. They tell Willy about their plans, and Willy thinks that together the two boys could absolutely conquer the world. Willy explains that the important thing in life is to be well-liked and to have personal attractiveness. He tells Biff that Mr. Oliver always thought highly of him, and he reminds Biff of how much personal attractiveness Biff has.
The next day, Willy is to meet the boys for dinner in a restaurant. He is so pleased to have his boys with him that he decides to ask young Howard Wagner, the present owner of the firm for which Willy works, for a job in New York City. But Howard tells him there is no room for him in New York, and then explains to Willy that he cannot represent the firm in New England anymore because he has been doing harm for the firm. Thus, suddenly Willy\'s day has reversed. He is now without a job and has to go to and old friend, Charley, to borrow enough money to pay his insurance premium. We then find out that Willy has been borrowing fifty dollars a week from Charley for quite some time, and then pretending that this amount is his salary. Even though Charley offers Willy a good job in New York, Willy refuses because he says he can\'t work for Charley. Willy leaves to meet the boys in a restaurant.
Biff and happy meet in the restaurant and Biff explains that he has been living an illusion. He tells Happy that he has stolen himself out of every job that he has ever had, and he wants to make everyone(especially Willy) understand that he is no longer bringing home any prizes. But when Willy arrives, he tells the boys that he has been fired and he refuses to listen to Biff\'s story. Willy simply pretends that Biff has another appointment the following day. Willy gets furious and is about to make a scene. Suddenly when Willy goes to the bathroom, Biff, out of frustration, leaves the restaurant. Happy, who has picked up two girls, follows him and leaves Willy alone.
Later that night, Biff comes home and finds Willy out in the back yard planting seeds and talking to his brother Ben. But this is only in Willy\'s illusions because he has not seen his brother for many years, and Ben has actually been dead for some nine months. Biff explains to Willy that it would be best if they break with each other and never see one another again. He tries once again to explain that he is no longer a leader of men and that he is a common person who has no outstanding qualities. But Willy refuses to believe him and tells Biff once again how great Biff could be. Biff becomes frustrated because Willy refuses to see the truth. He finally breaks down and sobs to Willy to forget him. Then, Willy thinks that Biff is still a child who still needs him. He commits suicide by crashing the car which would give his family 20,000 dollars in life insurance. No one but his family and Charley go to his funeral.
From the beginning till the end of the story, we can easily see that kind of person Willy was. There are many examples of that. In the beginning of the story, we can see that he doesn\'t know himself quiet well. For example, he always complained that Biff didn\'t know himself, and he couldn\'t find his own way. But actually, we have already known who was the real one that didn\'t know him well. Willy always thought that what he planned for his children were the best one. However, after his children grown up, they knew what was good for them. Of course, Happy and Biff knew what they should do. What they needed was only \"time.\" However, Willy wanted to see their achievements.
So that he kept continuing press them. In this way, Biff and Happy don\'t want to be close to him. In short, Willy can\'t find his own way, and he had a kind of \"uncertain\" feeling toward himself.
Biff Loman, a victim under his father\'s self-complacence imagination. He\'s the only one, who was surrounded for 34 years by lies. Everyone lives among this kingdom of lies, but Biff dares to break down the castle and start a new one. He\'s a practical man who cannot be fed up with unrealistic fancies of life. Biff Loman is not only a victim under Willy\'s imagination, he\'s also a victim being Willy\'s son. As a child he steals, and this repeated act was but encouraged by his father! He could have been a good son to Willy, but Willy ruined him. He set up sort of standards to Biff, he sees Biff with his idealized vision, and not taking what Biff is actually. Therefore when Biff feels tormented toward him and tried to find his own way (which obviously strikes against Willy\'s dream), Willy disapproves him the more.
She is the model of a loving, devoted, patient wife. When she married Willy, his dreams must have seemed like all she ever wanted in life. Those dreams have turned into a lifetime of frustrations. Disappointed and worried, Willy treats Linda cruelly or insensitively lots of time, which we can easily see in the play. But Linda understands the pain and fear behind his behavior, and forgives him those moments. Maybe of this admiration, she is kind of blind. Even if she knew that Willy is doing or thinking something wrong, she forgives him or even supports him. So in this case, she ignores her own opinion, which maybe would be better to Willy and maybe would even change the whole ending. In other words, we can say that she is kind of a traditional woman who obeys her husband all the time. She knows clearly what Willy is doing, but she dare not to stop him, like when she found the tubing. Linda, which we can see, is trying to protect her husband, but actually she is just pushing him to death.
Charley is a large, unimpressive man about Willy\'s age. He is Willy\'s next-door neighbor and lifetime friend. He is also the father of Biff\'s schoolmate, Bernard. Charley stands in contradiction to everything Willy believes in. Charley is more down-to-earth and isn\'t obsessed about the business world. Charley is a humorous realist; even though he knows that Willy doesn\'t much like or respect him, it doesn\'t keep him from caring about Willy and seeing his good qualities.
Ben, Willy\'s older brother, whom Willy knew little about, is completely an imagined figure in this play. Willy tells Charley, his neighbor, that he recently learned that Ben has died. Because of this, we know when Ben walks into the scene with Charley, he is an apparition.
From the first time we see Ben, he is presented as a highly idealized figure for Willy, whose memory turns him into a god-like figure. He has an air of always thinking about secret and important things. For Willy, Ben, who is a man with all the luck, is exactly the kind of person he wants to become.