What is "Death of a Salesman" about? I need to know what the whole play is about for a project I am doing for theatre.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Death of a Salesman is a play about Willy Loman, a none too successful salesman,  his wife, Linda, and their adult sons, Biff and Happy and the difficulties within their family.  Willy and Biff do not get along at all.  Most of the action in the play occurs in the form of flashbacks with Willy displaying some emotional instability, having tried on several occasions to commit suicide. 

In Act II Willy loses his job; he is offered a job by his brother Charley, which he is too proud to accept; however, he continues to accept loans from him. In a flashback we learn that Biff had caught his father in a hotel with another woman and become so disillusioned with Willy and life’s possibilities that he gave up an athletic scholarship and a college education.  While his sons are home, Willy becomes more and more unstable, and in the end, speeds off in his car.  The audience next sees the family at Willy’s poorly attended funeral.  A more though explanation and summary of the play can be found at the link  below.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are a number of lesser themes woven into Miller's fine play, but the core theme is what happens when a dream—especially the American dream—dies. Willie Loman wants greatness as intensely as anyone who's ever made it big in America ever did. However, he simply doesn't make it, and all the other themes of the play—the meaning of aging, the nature of family love, etc.—have to be made sense of in relation to this core theme. What does it mean in a land where anyone can be great…to be nobody?


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial