Symbolism Used In Arthur Miller's Death Of A Salesman. In Particular, The Three Main Uses Of Symbolism Mentioned Include Machines, Diamonds, And Garden Seeds

1052 words - 4 pages

In Arthur Miller's Death of A Salesman, the shallow ideals of the American Dream are explored and come to a ruinous close. Willy Loman is a salesman who believes that personal attractiveness and likeability will ultimately lead to the dream of financial success. He searches metaphorically for the dream, wandering the open roads as a salesman but he has little idea that hard work is the true foundation of the American Dream. The glittering façade of this dream is explored in the play with the use of three symbols: machines, garden seeds, and diamonds.Miller uses diamonds to illustrate how brittle Willy's formula for achieving the American Dream really is. Diamonds are tangible proof of success in the eyes of Willy Loman. They represent a verification of triumph in achieving the American Dream for both himself and his family. Willy often seeks advice about success in imagined conversations with his dead brother Ben and even from his pesky neighbor Bernard, asking, "How did you do it? What's the secret, what's the answer?" He is always looking for a quick to his lack of success, not realizing that once must work to succeed. In Act I, Willy's delusions advance his misconception that success happens instantly, by luck or some form of great skill, and he frequently recalls Ben's line, "When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by God I was rich." At the end of Act II Ben gives Willy some different and foreboding advice saying, "The jungle is dark but full of diamonds," and "A diamond is rough and hard to the touch." Ultimately, a diamond is like Willy's approach to life, fixed and unchanging. Willy refuses to change and adapt with time, and therefore becomes unsuccessful and cannot survive in the ever-changing world. His idea of success is wrapped up in material goods, which are cold and hard, and ultimately distant and unsatisfying. Ben encourages Willy to enter the "jungle" and retrieve the intangible diamond - that is, to kill himself for insurance money to make his life meaningful. Willy feels guilty and responsible for the financial security his family. Losing his job is the last blow for Willy, and he saw suicide as the easiest way out.Garden seeds are used to explore Willy's hope for his own change, as well as his failure with the "seeds" he has planted in the past. He wants to plant a new dream and a new life for himself but he had no idea how to do it. In his frantic confusion, he focuses on basic seeds for an equally basic dream, but his impulsive efforts to try to plant seeds at night signify his fear and shame about scarcely being able to support and feed his family. "Oh, I'd better hurry. I've got to get some seeds. I've got to get some seeds right away." Willy correlates seeds as another chance in life, another chance to have physical proof of success. His children are the seeds he has planted in the past, and he sees them as failures as well as himself. Additionally, his guilt about...

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