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How is the symbol of "Seeds" and "Growing Vegetables" help contribute to or define a...

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moocow554 | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted November 8, 2013 at 4:01 AM via web

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How is the symbol of "Seeds" and "Growing Vegetables" help contribute to or define a theme of the play? 

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caledon | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted November 8, 2013 at 5:14 AM (Answer #1)

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Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" is a tragedy rife with symbolism and allegories for American life and society. The conflicts throughout the play are numerous, but many center upon salesman and patriarch Willy Loman's frustration with his life and achievements, or rather, his lack of them. He is no longer good at his job, to the point that his boss informs him he is no longer a suitable representative of the company. Both of his sons have failed to live up to his expectations. The strain of his busy life traveling and working has led to visible changes in his persona, including talking to himself.


Seeds are often used as a symbol of growth, new life, and investment in the future. As Willy struggles with the feeling that his life has amounted to nothing, his wandering mind searches for ways to address his worries. Willy's sudden desire to plant a garden, which seems like a harmless fantasy to those around him, is in fact a symbolic attempt at rebirth. Willy wants to "start over", to show that he is worth something, he can grow something impressive and useful.

This quote reveals Willy's sense of urgency to get something done, as well as the pressure he feels to do so;

STANLEY: Well, there’s hardware stores on Sixth Avenue, but it may be too late now.
WILLY (anxiously): Oh, I’d better hurry. I’ve got to get some seeds.
(He starts off to the right.)
I’ve got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing’s planted. I don’t have a thing in the ground.
 
Stanley's comment that "it may be too late now" is both an indication that the store may be closed, and also that it may be too late for Willy to "start over". Willy's concern that he "hasn't got a thing in the ground" implies his sense of destitution and the urgency of his action; another common phrase that applies here would be "irons in the fire"; he has no plans in motion, no actions bearing fruit.

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