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Death of a Salesman Essay Topics

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson includes possible essay prompts for Arthur Miller's award-winning play, Death of a Salesman. These questions are organized by topic to assist teachers in developing lessons, or exams, for their students.

Background

Much like his other popular plays, Arthur Miller's Pulitzer prize winning Death of a Salesman deals with the issues of illusions, dreams and ideals, and gender, among other themes and topics. Such themes and topics carry much weight and remain relevant to this day, which is why we are going to take a look at some essay prompts concerning those topics, taken from the play.

Essay Topics on the American Dream

  • Death of a Salesman is perhaps the quintessential text about the American Dream. However, Miller does not seem too fond of it as an ideal. Examine how Miller's version compares to the more traditional version of the American Dream, such as that popularized by Horatio Algers. Discuss whether or not Miller is overtly pessimistic on the subject.
  • Examine the role of modern technology in Death of a Salesman, and how it changes what the American Dream means. Take that idea further, and discuss how today's technology alters that dream, and whether or not it makes it easier to achieve.
  • Compare and contrast Willy Loman to Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby. Examine each of their visions of the American Dream, and how their pursuit of that ideal leads to both their downfalls.

Essay Topics on Illusions and Allusions

  • Arthur Miller has famously denied the fact that the name Loman is supposed to signify the ''Low Man'' in regards to society. However, his choice of first names still remain significant. Examine the names Happy, Ben, and Willy, and discuss their significance in the play.
  • Consider Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire. Compare her with Willy Loman, and discuss how they deal with their respective failures as the plays progress, and how it impacts and changes their lives and relationships with those around them?

Essay Topics on Gender

  • Examine the relationships between male and female characters in Death of a Salesman. Discuss whether or not any of them can be considered harmonious, and if Arthur Miller finds that idea plausible?
  • Discuss the significance of the women's stockings in Death of a Salesman. Compare and contrast how the male and female characters react to the stockings, and examine what their reactions says about them.

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