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The Failure of American Dream in Death of a Salesman

‘Death of a salesman, written by Arthur Miller portrays the real life of a typical American middle-class man who dedicates most part of his life to a private company. The central character in the play, Willy Loman, and his wife fail to understand the real pulse of society. He is a total failure in his personal life and the same failure leads to his tragic death at the end of the play. Miller portrays the female character Linda Loman not as a strong character but as a measurement for checking the plight of subjugated life of contemporary American women. Even though Miller gives more emphasis on the male characters, the female characters play an inevitable role in the play. Analyzing Arthur Miller’s play ‘Death of a Salesman’ one can see that the female characters are significant ones and they raise questions against the subjugated life of middle-class American women. Arthur Miller portrays the character of Linda Loman as the most inscrutable and complex one in the play Death of a Salesman. Analyzing the whole play one can easily find, like Willy Loman, Linda plays a significant role and she also represents the emotional hub of the play Death of a Salesman. Linda plays the role of a lovable and responsible wife who tries to conceal the truth for the protection of her husband. It is easy to understand that the female characters are marginalized in Miller’s masterpiece ‘Death of a Salesman’. Linda embraces the family together by supporting her husband. She never tries criticizing her husband and her personality subjugates the shadows of Willy Loman’s character. Through the character of Linda, Miller characterizes the plight of the American middle-class women. In the new era of the capitalist economy, American women are forced to lead a submissive life and the character of Linda in Miller’s play becomes passive and earns the pathetic status of victim in the capitalist society which is covered with broken American success myth. Eric J. Sterling remarks; “Linda has been described as a flawed, even sinister, character in her own right.” (Sterling, 12).

Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’ reveals the failure of American success myth through the fall of the protagonist Willy Loman and his family. Unlike the character of Ann in Miller’s ‘All My Sons’, Linda is not so self-reliant and self-governed. Linda shows her willingness to be a devoted and hardworking wife who always tries to hold her family together through suffering and desire. After a detailed evaluation of the play, a reader can find that Miller presents female characters in two ways, one is the role of a dutiful and faithful servant and the other one is a prostitute. Willy Loman’s weaknesses and mistakes stop Linda as a mother and wife. There is little doubt that the female characters in Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’, including Linda, are contaminated by the same exposed value system that followed a patriarchal society. Linda and other female characters in the play become visible to acquire limited vision and they are sheltered in the domestic role of resourceful wife and faithful supporter of the male dominating culture. It is crystal clear that Miller marginalized his female characters and they express their faith and emotions in the American way which is bounded with modern consumer culture. The character of Linda always wishes for “American-type cheese.” (Sterling, 14) She is an exception of the modern American women who demand special financial advice and financial corner. Linda, in Death of a Salesman, has often been regarded as the spokesperson of Miller through whom the author expresses his own inner feelings. It is clear with the words of Linda when she asks “why must everyone conquer the world.” She has a clear view of the state of affairs which enables her to comment or analyzing the real incidents occurring around her. It is this ability that makes her capable of keeping the bond of familial relations, though she is well aware of the real issues haunting her husband and son. Though Linda is presented as a minor character, she plays a fundamental role and contributes much to the dramatic action of the play in different ways. It is through her character the plot of the play gets unfolded by significantly affecting Will, the protagonist of the play. A detailed analysis of the relationship between Linda and the protagonist Willy categorizes her as a loving wife and Willy in turn considers her as caring and wonderful. Willy acknowledges the world how he regards his wife when he says: ‘You’re my foundation and support Linda’. Linda selflessly subordinates herself to serve to assist her husband and sons in their problems and thus proves herself as a reconciliation factor in the familial tie-up. One can say that she is a panacea and great support for Willy and it is clear from her own words as she says: “you are the most handsome man in the world.” More often, she sheds a positive light on Willy’s accomplishment and proves herself as a great consoling factor; and the reader witnesses the real effect of her consolation on Willy on the occasion when he complains about having an empty, run-down house; Linda consoles him, telling that paying off the house is an accomplishment. Linda’s words like, “You are so sweet, and such a kidder” give evidence to show how she inflates his ego and consoles him. These motherly roles make Linda a prominent character in the play. As usual, Miller uses the female characters to disclose the real nature of the male characters in this play as well. It is through the character of Linda, the readers get a clear-cut picture of the real nature of the protagonist Willy. Though Linda’s role is very vital in this play, Miller presents her as a dependent on her husband in all the senses. It is evident that not only Linda, but almost all the women characters of the play also are only secondary to men, and in fact, they exist primarily for the development of the male characters. The various roles that are provided to women are for the purpose of rendering comfort, consolation, and sustaining them on the track of optimism. Sometimes they act as judges as they help the male characters to select the right path on a critical juncture into which they are trapped too. Moreover, they have much to do with the achievements of their male supporters, setting new goals and encouraging them physically and mentally to head on their channel. In short, they are a motivating factor and scoring aids. But, on the other hand, with her over-supporting nature, she proves herself as a destructive force in Willy Loman’s life. Although Linda knows that her husband is distressed, she persuades him to believe he is flourishing and admired. She conceals the truth in order to hold the family together and protect its master from heartbreak. But in fact, she is giving him a false notion that he is more successful than he really is. Thus, she plays a significant role in the downfall of her husband and ultimately leads him to his death. So, Linda’s character is minor but crucial. Thus, the study leads to the conclusion that the female characters in Death of a Salesman are significant and they raise questions against the subjugated life of middle-class American women.


Sterling, Eric J. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Sales man: Terry Otten. Rodopi. 2008.


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