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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller  |  Grades 11-12

The Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy of a salesman who at the age of sixty-three is faced with what he cannot face; defeat and disillusionment.

Willy Loman, the protagonist of "Death of a Salesman," has spent his life following the American way, living out his belief in salesmanship as a way to reinvent himself. But somehow the riches and respect he covets have eluded him. At age 63, he searches for the moment his life took a wrong turn, the moment of betrayal that undermined his relationship with his wife and destroyed his relationship with Biff, the son in whom he invested his faith. Willy lives in a fragile world of elaborate excuses and daydreams, conflating past and present in a desperate attempt to make sense of himself and of a world that once promised so much.

Ever since it was first performed in 1949, Death of a Salesman has been recognized as a milestone of the American theater. In the person of Willy Loman, the aging, failing salesman who makes his living riding on a smile and a shoeshine, Arthur Miller redefined the tragic hero as a man whose dreams are at once insupportably vast and dangerously insubstantial. He has given us a figure whose name has become a symbol for a kind of majestic grandiosity--and a play that compresses epic extremes of humor and anguish, promise and loss, between the four walls of an American living room. 

Available Teacher Guides, Lesson Plans, Novel Units, and Activities for Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller: