Death of a Salesman

Symbolism Portrayed Through Common Objects

In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller uses common objects as symbols of the evolving relationship between the main characters in his play. Women’s stockings and their holes symbolize the failing relationship between Willy Loman and his wife, Linda. Seeds in a garden symbolize Willy’s declining sense of self-worth and his need to leave something significant behind after his death. Finally, the fountain pen is a symbol of the burden Willy’s son Biff carries as he tries to live up to his father’s image despite never truly wishing to inhabit that role.

First, Linda is always darning her old stockings to fix their holes. The holes resemble the things in her life that are broken. Willy gets frustrated with Linda when she tries to fix the old stockings; he feels she should throw them out. He says: “Will you stop mending stockings? At least while I am in the house. It gets me nervous. I can’t tell you. Please” (75). Willy’s reaction to the darning suggests the guilt he feels for having an affair – he gave a pair of Linda’s stockings to his mistress. To Biff, who witnessed that transaction, stockings represent betrayal and deep hurt. With “You-you gave her mama’s stockings” (121), Biff becomes aware that he and his mother have a...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 725 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4210 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in