Why is there such a lot of play with light and music? Why is the contrast between city life and nature made so starkly in this play?

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cybil eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miller uses light, music, and the contrast between nature and city life to underscore Willy's memories. When the flute music is played, the audience is alerted to an oncoming memory for Willy; the stage lighting is sometimes overlaid with leaves, which tie in nature. Willy feels suffocated in his house now that the apartment buildings have sprung up around it; the two elm trees are gone. "You can't grow a carrot in the backyard," he says. Clearly he longs for times past when nature was bountiful, when the scent of flowers such as wisteria and lilac filled the air. The flute music is also tied to the past because Willy's father, whom he hardly remembers, made flutes by hand.

Now Willy is surrounded by buildings, cut off from nature. Depressed by his lack of success as a salesman and disappointed in his son Biff, he relives good times in the flashbacks Miller provides as windows to Willy's mind. The original title of the play was The Inside of His Head, so we must keep that focus in mind.

Read the study guide:
Death of a Salesman

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