Explain how Arthur Miller criticizes the corporate system in "Death of a Salesman".

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kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With his tragic character, Willy Loman, and his dysfunctional family, Miller criticizes the corporate system in the way that Willy is never able to succeed and is never able to truly support his family, despite his devotion to being a salesman and his loyalty to his company. He lives in a world where trust and security have been replaced by greed and the quest for the new.

Willy wanted to be like Dave Singleman; respected and loved even as he reached old age. Dave Singleman was allowed to get old, but still managed to make a living and keep the respect of his colleagues. Willy has never been able to do this. In his flashbacks he tells Linda he is “foolish to look at” and he is mocked by the buyers. The audiance can see that Willy's aspirations are futile, that, as Biff says,

he had the wrong dreams.

Part of the intensity of this message is that it involves a familiar scenario which encompasses all of us to some degree, and which is therefore more uncomfortable in its immediacy.

The tragedy of Willy’s life is that he commits suicide as he and Linda are finally “free” of their mortgage payments. He sees that by killing himself, he gets to release the insurance money to set Biff up in business, and he believes that he will get the recognition he has striven for from his son:

 I am known, Ben, and he’ll see it with his eyes once and for all.

Willy constantly scrapes to pay the bills – the car, the refrigerator: a never-ending list of consumer products purchased on credit that the Lomans are constantly battling to keep up with-

There’s nine-sixty for the washing-machine. And for the vacuum cleaner there’s three and a half due on the fifteenth. Then the roof…


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Death of a Salesman

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