Death of a Salesman Final Paper Prompt


The final essay requires you to do a character study.  You will write not only about the internal conflicts of  the characters’, but also the external influences from the era in which it is set. This will require research.

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I want you to go outside the literary world here and look up articles on history, psychology and sociology.  Use at least sources on the subject matter along with quotations from the play itself.

I am giving you an option for the first half of your thesis!

In order to understand the complex characters here, one must do deeper into ______ 

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Remember this paper counts more than the others! 

Topics to cover in your final essay:

1. How reliable is the narrative in Death of a Salesman?

Consider the following in your answer: Are Willy’s words to be trusted? Biff’s? How does the rotation of time affect the reliability? Is Willy suffering from a psychological breakdown? If so, what is it and what are the symptoms he is exhibiting. can any character be trusted here?

2. What does this play reveal about the American Dream? How does the reader view it through the lens of this “old man”?

Consider the following in your answer: Miller’s view of the concept of the American Dream with other traditional definitions. Is Miller subverting the American Dream or exploring the way it affects one’s expectations? Is it overly cynical (negative) or realistic? Finally, is this subject and tone still relevant today?

3. Discuss one of the many motifs in the play (i.e. stockings, diamonds, garden, jungle/woods, stealing).

Consider the following in your answer: What are the various attitudes about stockings/selected motif? Is the motif selected a symbol in the play as well? If so, how. How does the motif further the plot and overall meaning of the story? Example, the stockings are a symbol that measure Willy’s success, Biff’s recognition of his father’s betrayal, and Willy’s guilt.

4. What is the author’s view on modernity/progress? What is his purpose in including the tape recorder, new car, etc.?

5. Finally, what are the internal and external conflicts between Willy and Biff that set up this climax of the story?

Consider the following in your answer: Have new gas heaters, tape recorders, cars changed the American Dream? Relate how Willy is left behind (hint: title connotations) and is overly reliant on these innovations. Is the little guy able to survive with the advent of progress and sophistication?

8 to 10 page minimum.

MLA style – you must use at least 3 outside sources (i.e. history, psychology or critical analysis texts) and QUOTES FROM THE PLAY ITSELF.

Drama Essay Evaluation

Required elements:

Thesis statement

Introduction paragraph                                

Supporting paragraphs                  

Conclusion paragraph                   

Citations and references

Ideas, organization, support:

Does your essay present a clear thesis?   

Do you support your analysis with examples from the play?            

Do you discuss specific passages from the play that reveal important information?

Do you integrate material from the play to support your ideas and analysis?            

Do you explain your ideas enough?           

Do you have enough evidence to support all your interpretive claims?