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Teachers and professors: Get the most from your time in the classroom when you use this lesson plan for Arthur Miller's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Death of a Salesman. In addition to providing comprehensive character analyses, this lesson plan offers guidance through Miller's primary themes, including the definition of the American Dream. Examples of guided discussion and study questions from this lesson plan include the following:
- Identify Biff and Happy in Death of a Salesman. Biff and Happy are the Lomans' boys. Biff is the older of the two and is very unsettled. Happy has largely been ignored as the two were growing up, and, as his name suggests, is happy-go-lucky without being very responsible.
- In the first scene with Linda, Willy contradicted himself twice. About what did he contradict himself? First, Willy calls Biff lazy, but later he describes him as hard-working. Willy also contradicts himself about the windshield of the car.
- What seems to be the problem between Biff and Willy? They apparently never got along when Biff lived at home. Also, Biff is unsettled and hasn't made anything of himself yet, and this distresses Willy.
- Why doesn't Happy go west with Biff? He wants to "show some of those pompous, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade."
- Happy says, "I don't know what to do about him [Willy], it's getting embarrassing." To what is he referring, and what does the fact that Happy thinks this way tell you about his character? He is referring to Willy's mental lapses into a dream world, his forgetfulness. Happy doesn't express particular concern for Willy; rather, he is concerned about being embarrassed in public with Willy.
- Why does Willy talk so much about the car? Willy has had a bad experience in his car today, and the old car is a happy experience from the past. Being a traveling salesman, Willy's car would be very important to him. It is almost symbolic of his way of life -- now his deteriorating way of life in Death of a Salesman.
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