Suggested Essay Topics
Act I, Part 1
1. In this opening section we meet Willy Loman. Examine his personality and character. What influences have shaped his view of his job, his family, and the world in general? What is responsible for his tendency to change temperament quickly? What contradictions in behavior does he exhibit?
2. How does the playwright communicate Willy’s outlook and emotions to the reader or audience not only through Willy’s words but through his appearance, Linda’s reactions, the set design, and other means?
Act I, Part 2
1. Examine how Biff and Hap’s adult lives show the influence of their childhood as seen in the flashback.
2. Write an essay that discusses the way in which Willy equates “success” and conventional notions of masculinity. Has that equation proved valid for Biff and Hap?
Act I, Part 3
1. In this part of the play, we see several sides of Willy, some sympathetic and some rather unlikable. Write an essay that describes how it is possible for Willy to switch from anxious self-doubt at the beginning of the section to brash confidence at the end of it. Show how the starting and stopping of the flashbacks and imaginary conversations contribute to this change.
2. Describe how Willy has taken Ben’s life and his philosophy of the “jungle” as models for success. How has Willy shaped that philosophy to encompass life as a salesman?
(The entire section is 1270 words.)
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