Death of a Salesman

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

A wise and possibly very cynical man once said "Nothing fails like success." Even if one is not familiar with Gerald Nachman, or the other rebel comedians of his time, we can all appreciate the clever irony in this quotation. In the complex and often very materialistic world we live 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 Salesman. In the process of relating the events of Willy Loman's tragic life, Miller uses motifs such as space and location to give his readers insight into his characters, their successes or failures, and their ideas of self worth. Willy Loman's Brooklyn home, Africa, Alaska, and the American West all help explain why Willy Loman fails while others prosper and can help reveal what characters such as Biff, Willy, and Ben value and how they determine success.

Act one of the play opens in Willy Loman's Brooklyn home. The stage direction notes, "We are aware of towering, angular shapes behind [the house], surrounding it on all sides. Only the blue light of the sky falls upon the house and forestage; the surrounding area shows an angry flow of orange....

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