The Meaning of the Title in The Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

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Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman criticizes the American Dream and the means some (i.e. Willy Loman) use to achieve the Dream through many different symbol and motifs; however, the title Miller selected for his play is an overlooked aspect of his criticism towards the Dream. He uses the title to build layers of understanding for his denunciation of the American Dream. On the base level, the title represents exactly what it sounds like—the death of a Willy, a salesman. Peculiarly, Miller never tells the readers what exactly Willy sells. Nonetheless, we can infer that Willy basically sells “himself”; after all, while part of being a salesman is having a dream, another aspect that is often neglected is the need for a salesman able to sell himself or herself. In that sense, the title becomes “Death of ‘Himself’,” the literal death of Willy. If we go a layer deeper, we can use this idea to contrast the sense of real versus ideal outcomes. We know that Willy “realized that selling was the greatest career” (Miller 81) when he met Dave Singleman. In spite of wanting to be a salesman for ...
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