Death of a Salesman is set in New York, though there are flashbacks to Boston. The settings are Eastern and urban, but the characters in the play, particularly Willy and Biff, long for the wide, rural vistas of the West. This wanderlust is reflected in the flute music, "telling...
Death of a Salesman is set in New York, though there are flashbacks to Boston. The settings are Eastern and urban, but the characters in the play, particularly Willy and Biff, long for the wide, rural vistas of the West. This wanderlust is reflected in the flute music, "telling of grass and trees and the horizon." This mood is set before the curtain rises.
The audience is then confronted with Willy Loman's house. There are "towering, angular shapes behind it, surrounding it on all sides . . . a solid vault of apartment houses around the small, fragile-seeming home." Loman's home is a physical manifestation of the protagonist's state of being: fragile, small, and overwhelmed by the forces around him. The world around him is "towering"; the angularity is emblematic of the postwar, postmodern architecture that characterizes New York. Loman is not a part of this new world. He clings to a distant past, "an air of the dream [that] clings to the place."
The kitchen is placed at the center of the stage, which "seems actual enough." There is a kitchen table "with three chairs, and a refrigerator." The choice of three chairs is interesting because there are four members of this family. There is foreshadowing, in the stage directions, of loss or the absence of someone in this family.
The forward area of the stage "serves as the backyard," where Willy experiences his "imaginings." This is the only "open space" offered to Willy. The play has "imaginary wall-lines" which are observed by the actors. The only instances in which these boundaries are broken is during flashbacks. During these moments, the characters "enter or leave a room by stepping 'through' the wall onto the forestage." This indicates that the characters experience a sort of mental freedom in memory that they cannot realize in the present.
The flute music, which Willy cannot hear, plays on when he enters the stage. This non-diegetic music, music that is unrelated to the direct action of the play, maintains this mood of longing. It is "turbulent" longing that causes both Willy and his wife, Linda, so much pain and which defines their bond.