Miller's use of "time" is a central device in the play. In many modern works (cf. "In the Lake of the Woods" by Tim O'Brien), there is an awareness that time is not just a succession of things happening; things that happen in the past don't remain "there" (is there really an external past?), but remain as part of our us for the rest of our lives. Since this time doesn't exist, we cannot refer directly to it, and as such it only exists in memory. (This reminds me of "1984" and what horrible things can be done by those who "control" the past.) Willie is haunted by dreams of his brother's success, but who know if these are real? We don't know much about Willie's past "successes" as a salesman, and the play suggests that these recollections, so real to him, are just the past tweaked to Willie's own needs. The same is true of Willie's recollections about his sons and his son's recollections of their past. You can only make believe so long before you admit that the actual reality was that you were a stockboy.
Coming to grips with the prevasive influence of the past is an interesting theme in all literature, but it seemes to be a particular fascination of modern literature and "Death of a Salesman."
Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” uses the literary device of flashback to relate Willy Loman’s memories of the past. This device is used through out the story as a way to show his longing for the papst. An example of this is when at one point in the story, Willy is having a conversation with his deaed brother while at the same time carryingon a card game with Charlie, reliving a past conversation in the present. Miller also uses