Importance of Time Lapses in Death of a Salesman

Satisfactory Essays
Why does Arthur Miller use time lapses in his play “Death of a Salesman”?

What was the playwright trying to tell us about Willy Loman?

In this essay I will be exploring and analysing “Death of a Salesman”

by Arthur Miller. I will be looking the use of flash backs in the play

that aim to emphasise that the past is always with us. Looking at the

flashbacks will also help understand the character of Willy Loman. The

action takes place in Willy Loman’s house and yard also in various

places he visits in New York and Boston of 1949.

The play was set in post war America. This is after the great

Depression, when people had a different point of view and wanted to

achieve the “American Dream”. The American Dream is the longings of

people who wanted to develop the country, to amass money and enjoy a

comfortable, not to be at the beck and call of the employer. The

figure of a salesman was at the cutting edge of the American Dream, a

self made person that did not sell his products but his personality.

The play shows a series of chronological events which take place

during one evening and the next day. At intervals throughout the play

we see scenes from Willy’s past enacted on the same stage at the same

time. On first impression this would seem more likely to confuse the

audience rather than reveal, but Miller had strong reasons for staging

the play in this way.

It is my belief that playwright tells us the past is not something

which is now behind us. The past is always with us informing and

influencing our actions. To understand the character of Willy Loman,

we must be aware of the emotional burdens he carries with him from the


To show an example of these recollections I have selected a scene in

Act Two. Willy is sitting in a restaurant where he has been invited by

the boys, in anticipation of the fact that Biff will be able to secure

a loan from Bill Oliver. Willy has just been laid off from his old

job, and is hoping that Biff has some good news for him so that Linda

can be happy as he knows she has always been loyal to him and made

many sacrifices. Willy said “she has waited and she has suffered”.

This shows how loyal and hard working Linda has been to the family,

sacrificing to save money. Evidence of this is shown by the stockings

that she sits down with and mends so money can be saved.
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