Death of a Salesman pdf, Summary, Characters by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman pdf Book Overview

Death of a Salesman pdf by American playwright Arthur Miller is a 1949 play. Death of a Salesman was the recipient of the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. The play premiered on Broadway in February 1949, running for 742 performances, and has been revived on Broadway four times, winning three Tony Awards for Best Revival.

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Death of a Salesman pdf Book Summary

Willy Loman returns home exhausted after a botched business trip. Worried over Willy’s state of mind and recent car accident, his wife Linda suggests that he ask his boss Howard Wagner to allow him to work in his home city so he will not have to travel. Willy complains to Linda that their son, Biff, has yet to do something with his life. Despite Biff’s potential as a high school football star, he failed in mathematics and was therefore unable to enter a university.

Death of a Salesman pdf summary and analysis

Biff and his younger brother, Happy, who is temporarily staying with Willy and Linda after Biff’s unexpected return from the West, reminisce about their childhood together. They discuss their father’s mental degeneration, which they have witnessed in the form of his constant indecisiveness and daydreaming about the boys’ high school years. Eventually, Willy walks in, angry that the two boys have never amounted to anything. In an effort to pacify their father, Biff and Happy tell him that Biff plans to make an extraordinary business proposition the next day.

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The next day, Willy goes to ask Howard for a job in town while Biff goes to make a business proposition, but they both fail. Howard boldly refuses to give Willy a New York job, despite Willy’s desperate pleas. Willy then loses his temper and ends up getting fired when Howard tells him he needs a long rest and is now no longer allowed to represent the Wagner Company, while Biff waits hours to see a former employer who does not remember him and turns him down. Biff impulsively steals a fountain pen. Willy then goes to the office of his neighbor Charley, where he runs into Charley’s son Bernard, who is now a successful lawyer. Bernard tells him that Biff originally wanted to go to summer school to make up for failing math, but something happened in Boston when Biff went to visit his father that changed his mind. Charley then offers Willy a do-nothing job, but Willy repeatedly refuses. Charley then reluctantly gives the now-unemployed Willy money to pay off his life-insurance premium, and Willy shocks Charley by remarking that ultimately, a man is “worth more dead than alive.”

Happy, Biff, and Willy meet for dinner at a restaurant, but Willy refuses to hear the bad news from Biff. Happy tries to get Biff to lie to their father. Biff tries to tell him what happened as Willy gets angry and slips into a flashback of what happened in Boston the day Biff came to see him: Willy had been in Boston for work, and Biff went to visit him to ask Willy to convince his teacher to curve Biff’s failing math grade. Willy was in the middle of an extramarital affair with a receptionist, when Biff arrived unexpectedly at the hotel room, and saw the woman, who was half-dressed. Biff did not accept his father’s cover-up story, and angrily dismissed him as a liar and a fake before storming out. From that moment, Biff’s views of his father changed and set him adrift.

Biff leaves the restaurant in frustration, followed by Happy and two girls that Happy picked up, leaving a confused and upset Willy behind. When they later return home, Linda angrily confronts them for abandoning their father while Willy remains outside, talking to himself. Biff tries to reconcile with Willy, but the discussion quickly escalates into another argument. Biff conveys plainly to his father that he is not meant for anything great, insisting that both of them are simply ordinary men meant to lead ordinary lives. The argument reaches an apparent climax as Biff hugs Willy and begins to cry as he tries to get Willy to let go of his unrealistic expectations. Rather than listen to what Biff actually says, Willy appears to believe his son has forgiven him and will follow in his footsteps, and after Linda goes upstairs to bed, lapses one final time into a hallucination, thinking he is talking to his long-dead brother Ben. In Willy’s mind, Ben “approves” of the scheme Willy has dreamed up to take his own life in order to give Biff his life insurance money to help him start a business. Willy exits the house, and Biff and Linda cry out in despair as the sound of Willy’s car blares up and fades out.

The final scene takes place at Willy’s funeral, which is attended only by his family, Charley and Bernard (who does not speak during the scene). The ambiguities of mixed and unaddressed emotions persist, particularly over whether Willy’s choices or circumstances were obsolete. At the funeral, Biff retains his belief that he does not want to become a businessman like his father. Happy, on the other hand, chooses to follow in his father’s footsteps, while Linda laments her husband’s decision just before her final payment on the house.

Death of a Salesman pdf Book Characters

  • William “Willy” Loman: The titular salesman. He is 63 years old and unstable, insecure, and self-deluded. He vacillates between different eras of his life throughout the play, and re-imagines them as if they were real. Willy’s age and degrading mental state has him appear childlike and reliant on others for support, coupled with his recurring flashbacks to various moments of his life. His first name, Willy, reflects this childlike aspect as well as sounding like the question “Will he?” His last name gives the feel of Willy’s being a “low man”, someone who will not succeed; however, this popular interpretation of his last name was dismissed by Miller.
  • Linda Loman: Willy’s loyal and loving wife. Linda is passively supportive and docile when Willy talks unrealistically about hopes for the future, although she seems to have a good knowledge of what is really going on. She chides her sons, particularly Biff, for not helping their father anymore, and supports Willy lovingly even though Willy sometimes treats her poorly, ignoring her opinions over those of others. She is the first to realize that Willy is contemplating suicide at the beginning of the play, and urges Biff to make something of himself, while expecting Willy to help Biff do so.
  • Biff Loman: Willy’s elder son. Biff was a football star with a lot of potential in high school, but failed math his senior year and dropped out of summer school when he saw Willy with another woman while visiting him in Boston. He wavers between going home to try to fulfill Willy’s dream for him as a businessman or ignoring his father by going out West to be a farmhand where he feels happy. He likes being outdoors and working with his hands, yet wants to do something worthwhile so Willy will be proud of him. Biff steals because he wants evidence of success, even if it is false evidence, but overall Biff remains a realist and informs Willy that he is just a normal person and will not become a great man.
  • Harold “Happy” Loman: Willy’s younger son. He has lived in the shadow of his older brother Biff most of his life and seems to be almost ignored, but he still tries to be supportive toward his family. He has a restless lifestyle as a womanizer and dreams of moving beyond his current job as an assistant to the assistant buyer at the local store, but he is willing to cheat a little in order to do so, by taking bribes. He is always looking for approval from his parents, but he rarely gets any, and he even goes as far as to make things up just for attention, such as telling his parents he is going to get married. He tries often to keep his family’s perceptions of each other positive or “happy” by defending each of them during their many arguments, but still has the most turbulent relationship with Linda, who looks down on him for his lifestyle and apparent cheapness, despite his giving them money.
  • Charley: Willy’s somewhat wisecracking yet kind and understanding neighbor. He pities Willy and frequently lends him money and comes over to play cards with him, although Willy often treats him poorly. Willy is envious of him because his son is more successful than Willy’s. Charley offers Willy a job many times during visits to his office, yet Willy declines every time, even after he loses his job as a salesman.
  • Bernard: Charley’s son. In Willy’s flashbacks, he is a nerd, and Willy forces him to give Biff test answers. He worships Biff and does anything for him. Later, he is a very successful lawyer, married, and expecting a second son – the same successes that Willy wants for his sons, in particular Biff. Bernard makes Willy contemplate where he has gone wrong as a father.
  • Ben: Willy’s older brother who became a diamond tycoon after a detour to Africa. Though long dead, Willy frequently speaks to him in his hallucinations of the past. He is Willy’s role model, although he is much older and has no real relationship with Willy, preferring to assert his superiority over his younger brother. He represents Willy’s idea of the American Dream success story, and is shown coming by the Lomans’ house while on business trips to share stories.
  • The Woman: A woman, whom Willy calls “Miss Francis”, with whom Willy cheated on Linda.
  • Howard Wagner: Willy’s boss. Willy worked originally for Howard’s father Frank and claims to have suggested the name Howard for his newborn son. However, he sees Willy as a liability for the company and fires him, ignoring all the years that Willy has given to the company. Howard is extremely proud of his wealth, which is manifested in his new wire recorder, and of his family.
  • Jenny: Charley’s secretary.
  • Stanley: A waiter at the restaurant who seems to be friends or acquainted with Happy.
  • Miss Forsythe: A girl whom Happy picks up at the restaurant. She is very pretty and claims she was on several magazine covers. Happy lies to her, making himself and Biff look like they are important and successful. (Happy claims that he attended West Point and that Biff is a star NFL player.)
  • Letta: Miss Forsythe’s friend.

Death of a Salesman Themes

Reality and illusion

Death of a Salesman pdf book uses flashbacks to present Willy’s memory during the reality. The illusion not only “suggests the past, but also presents the lost pastoral life.” Willy has dreamed of success his whole life and makes up lies about his and Biff’s success. The more he indulges in the illusion, the harder it is for him to face reality. Biff is the only one who realizes that the whole family lived in the lies and tries to face the truth.


Miller creates his own version of a traditional tragedy by including aspects like comparing characters to Greek icons and centering the focus of the play on the life of a common man in Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman was a common salesman who was image driven and appearance was everything to him. He noted how appearance was a leading factor in sales, so Willy felt his sons were destined to have great success. In Terry Thompson’s academic journal, he explained how Willy Loman compared his sons to Hercules and that they were “built like Adonises” (Miller 33). This equalization to higher beings tied in the one of the traditional aspects of tragedies. In typical tragedies, the story was focused on royal beings with Oedipus and Orestes complexes. Arthur Miller wanted to show that the common man and those with status were more equal than people usually thought. They had the same mental processes and emotions to similar situations. Mankind cherishes tragedies so Miller felt that he should create a tragedy that resonates with his audiences to allow them to feel pity and fear for the characters since the audience may be feeling the same feelings in their own lives. A tragedy captivates the audience and should evoke feelings similar to those that are felt by the characters of the story.

Death of a Salesman Book Author – Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller Author of death of a salesman
Arthur Miller Author of death of a salesman

Arthur Miller (1915-2005) was born in New York City in 1915 and studied at the University of Michigan. During his lifetime he was celebrated as the pre-eminent playwright of his generation and won numerous awards for his work including two New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, two Emmy awards and three Tony Awards for his plays, as well as a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. His 1949 play Death of a Salesman was the first play to scoop all three major US awards: the New York Critics Circle Award, a Tony Award for Best Author and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His many plays include All My Sons, Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, A Memory of Two Mondays, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, The Price, The Creation of the World and Other Business, and The American Clock; later plays include Broken Glass, Resurrection Blues and the aptly-titled Finishing the Picture. His other published work includes the novel Focus, The Misfits which was filmed in 1960, two collections of short stories, the memoir Timebends and various volumes of non-fiction including three books in collaboration with his wife, photographer Inge Morath.

Death of a Salesman pdf Book Information

Death of a salesman pdf
Death of a salesman pdf
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B001BHK286
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Dramatists Play Service Inc.; Reprint edition (January 1, 1980)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 3.2 ounces
  • Best Sellers Rank: #643,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • #18,412 in Classic Literature & Fiction
  • Customer Reviews: 4.5 out of 5 stars    3,281 ratings

Death of a Salesman pdf Book Reviews


5.0 out of 5 stars Death of a Salesman pdf
(micro-review)Reviewed in the United States on January 7, 2017

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When Willy Loman says, “Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there’s nobody to live in it.” he’s laying bare the hollowness of American capitalism. Work a job you don’t like, to buy stuff you don’t need, and end up “a hard-working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them!” Arthur Miller’s masterpiece Death of Salesman was first performed in 1949, but it feels vital to me today, as I grapple to redefine my definition of success in 2017 and beyond.

Denis Benchimol Minev

Reviewed in the United States on April 19, 2005

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Arthur Miller wrote an outstanding play on the human condition as it pursues the traditional American dream. Willy Loman is a man of high self-esteem and expectations, who always waited for the big hit to occur, yet it never did. He then gets to late in life and looks around to find all those whom he admired and didn’t had made something of themselves, while he was still in the same salesman position he was in as a young man.

The book switches between his memories and reality, which reflects his true state of mind, being linked to what is perceived as a glorious past in many different ways:

– He was an extremely well liked person, had great connections, which was the basis of his self-esteem.

– His sons were outstanding and capable of taking on the world.

That glorious past was pitted against the crude reality:

– The world changed and he knows no one anymore, which coupled with his old age, makes him unproductive and leads his to be fired from his long time job. He is fired by the son of the company founder, who had made him many promisses and kept his hopes up, hopes which were not fulfilled.

– His son is a poorly adjusted man, never being able to focus on anything, preferring to go west for long stretches without accomplishing anything meaningful in Willy’s eyes.

Willy gets trapped in an imaginary world, switching from the reality of his and his family’s shortcomings and the potential that layed before them as young men (his and his sons’). This is a short but densely written story, one of those few that will open a small window into a failed man’s heart and let you peek inside.

Richard C.

5.0 out of 5 stars Theater as Literature
Reviewed in the United States on September 18, 2020

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An impressive immersion into a dramatical masterpiece. The dialogue and scene directions resonate. My theater group read the play privately, and then in a Zoom class, before watching the film of the stage production. A good production challenged by the playwright’s mastery.

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