Can you explain dramatic structure of Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller ?(exposition,rising action,climax,falling action and resolution)

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the exposition of the play, the Loman family and their problems are presented to the audience. Willy's stressful job as a failing salesman is illustrated, as well as Biff and Happy's stagnant lives. Miller presents the characters' current situations, and gives insight into why Biff and Happy are not successful through Willy's flashback hallucinations. Also, the conflict between Willy and Biff is developed in the opening scenes as Willy voices his displeasure concerning Biff's lack of success. Willy's affair with "The Woman" and his brother's successful business venture are also displayed through his hallucinations.

The rising action includes Willy's meeting with his boss and his visit to Charley's office. Miller portrays Willy's dire financial situation, which includes him getting fired, as well as Bernard's subsequent success when he runs into Willy before leaving to present a case in front of the Supreme Court. Biff's meeting with his old boss is also presented in the rising action. Biff fails to get a loan from Oliver and ends up stealing the man's pen before leaving his office. Biff then meets with Happy at a restaurant as they wait for Willy to show up.

The climax takes place at the restaurant when Biff realizes that he has been a failure his entire life. Biff tells Happy that he has been living a lie and attempts to confront his father about their illusions. However, Willy begins to hallucinate, and Miller depicts Willy's past affair, which is the exact moment that Biff lost all respect for his father. While Biff has the fortitude to accept reality, Willy does not and believes that Biff has not become successful out of spite.

The falling action begins as Biff attempts to reconcile with his father by agreeing to leave. Willy seems to find happiness after realizing that Biff actually cares about him, and decides to commit suicide after having an imagined conversation with Ben.

The resolution includes the Requiem, where the family and Charley attend Willy's funeral. Charley's speech about Willy's dreams as a salesman serves as a sort of respectful eulogy for Willy.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The exposition of the play lays the groundwork for the various conflicts that face Willy (and the rest of the Loman family). In the early portion of the play, Biff's return is discussed as well as Willy's difficulties continuing to work on the road. The conflict between Willy and Biff is central to the play and Willy's professional failure is central to his character and to his internal conflict (which anchors the play). Included in the exposition portion, Willy speaks with a hallucination of his brother Ben and has a discussion with Charley.

The rising action begins when these conflicts are directly explored and engaged. Biff and Willy argue. Their animosity toward one another and their attempts to normalize their relationship are each clearly and painfully displayed. Linda's attempts to support Willy and to keep him from going over an emotional precipice are also examined in the rising action of the play.

Willy's termination at work, Biff's agreement to talk to his former boss, and Willy's discussions with Bernard and Charley are also part of the rising action. The flashback to Willy's affair is also an important part of the rising action, immediately preceding the play's climax.

The dinner scene begins the climax of the play. The conflicts begin to be resolved here. Biff comes to an important realization. His own internal conflicts become resolved when he admits that was never a salesman in the sporting goods store. He tries to convey his new humility to Willy, but instead brings on a violent (and psychotic) episode from his father. Willy has a mental break from which he does not recover. The climax continues through the next scenes, wherein Biff once again attempts to confront Willy after being chastised by Linda. 

The falling action includes Willy's final discussion with his brother Ben and the play's resolution is presented in the funeral/requiem scene. 

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Death of a Salesman

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