Death of a Salesman: Setting & Genre

Death of a Salesman: Setting & Genre
Coming up next: Death of a Salesman & The American Dream: Analysis & Criticism

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is the Genre?
  • 0:53 What Is the Setting?
  • 1:15 Significance of the Setting?
  • 3:03 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

This lesson identifies the genre of Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman'. It also discusses the significance of the setting in Miller's tragic play about Willy Loman, a traveling salesman.

What Is the Genre?

Death of a Salesman is a play, or drama, by Arthur Miller. This genre, or type of literature, works well for the story of Willy Loman, a dramatic character driven to distraction by his desire to be well liked. The play focuses on the Loman family's tragic story of inflated dreams and thwarted desires.

The play also includes several dream sequences, no doubt a challenge for set designers. Fortunately, the play contains stage directions, Miller's ideas to help the theatre audience distinguish between past and present. 'Whenever the action is in the present the actors observe the imaginary wall-lines, entering the house only through its door at the left. But in the scenes of the past, these boundaries are broken, and characters enter or leave a room by stepping through a wall on to the forestage,' Miller suggests.

What Is the Setting?

Death of a Salesman is set in the late 1940s. The Lomans live in Brooklyn, and most of the play's action occurs at Willy Loman's house. In addition, Willy experiences some dream sequences in which the time and place of the action are not established. He also recollects a life-changing encounter with Biff in Boston, and this scene is presented as a flashback in the play.

Significance of the Setting?

After Willy buys the house, apartment buildings are constructed all around Willy's property. Willy's house is literally walled in by the apartments that encroach from every direction. He speaks longingly of the days before the apartments were built. ''Remember those two beautiful elm trees out there? When I and Biff hung the swing between them?'' Willy asks. Linda remarks that it was almost like being in the country until the neighbor cut the elm trees.

Willy's lot is so overshadowed by the looming apartment buildings that his backyard does not get enough sun to support a vegetable garden. Ever the optimist, Willy attempts to defy the odds by planting seeds shortly before he commits suicide.

Willy's dreams have walled him in just as the apartment buildings wall in his house. Willy is committed to his dream of success, which he defines as being well-liked. Now that he is aging and facing financial difficulties, his dreams close in on him.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support