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The Stereotype of a Salesman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

A research paper on the stereotype of a salesman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman can be custom written to focus on any aspect of the play. Paper Masters chooses the stereotype of a salesman due to the fact that the role of being a salesman plays a strong role in the theme of the play.

Although it may appear as a generalization or an explicit example of stereotyping, the use of the profit-making trade of salesman to highlight the issue of ascribing to false values in Miller’s play Death of a Salesman is not surprising. In Death of a Salesman, the characteristics of the fictional Willy Loman are not unlike those of many real individuals in the sales trade where it is essential to present a confident front, even if it is derived of pretense or the application of values that are not exactly true.  Murphy echoes Bloom’s assertion by suggesting that Miller’s play is “the development of subjective realism. Similarly, Ewen suggests that the use of a salesman and the plight of Biff in the play are essential to demonstrating the common or real problem of not getting any “sort of hold on life”.

The Stereotype of a Salesman in Arthur Miller's Death of a SalesmanThe charge of realism is not difficult to understand.  For example, it is fair to suggest that many people know or a familiar with people who have similar characteristics as Willy Loman, especially in regard to abiding by false values that have been misrepresented as true or honest values by society.  At the same time, it is just as fair to assume that personal introspection would reveal that many individuals have the same misconceptions themselves.  According to Bloom, this is especially true in a commercialized society.

What may be surprising is that Miller appears to emphasize the qualities of sympathy and ingratiation as inherent attributes of salesmen like Loman.  The concept works to draw some degree of empathy for Willy however it barely lasts until the salesman’s ultimate demise at his own discretion.

Willy Loman is a monumental liar. There are very few situations in which he is not throwing up one outright lie after another. Willy’s lying can be viewed in two ways. 

  1. On the one hand it is simply a psychological symptom of his deficient adaptation to an overwhelming world: he is a chronic inadequate trying to paper over the fact of his failure to the people around him. 
  2. Willy’s habit of lying is also a symbol; as such it stands for a type of dishonesty that is more fundamental than is lying as a form of social activity. 
  3. Willy’s refusal to face the realm of the real—something which makes him helpless to cope with the real—is central to his dilemma and his lying is not merely a symptom of this, but also symbolizes it.
In a social sense people lie for a variety of reasons, and most lying is essentially other directed: we deceive to impress another, to manipulate another, to gain advantage over another. Willy does all of that.  But two facts about his habit of lying are extremely noteworthy and indicate that Willy’s lies stand for something much more important than merely trying to impress other people.  The first thing that is noteworthy about Willy’s lying is that it is reflexive.  Willy’s normal response to the presence of other people is to tell them lies; with respect to his characteristic modes of activity, lying is the rule not the exception—it is automatic.  Secondly, Willy is not an effective liar.  The untruths that he tells don’t fool anyone and, even if they could, he himself often reverses himself and lets his listener know that what he just said is untrue. For example, when he is talking to Bernard, now a lawyer who will soon be arguing a case before the Supreme Court, he tells him that Biff has been “doing very big things in the West.  But he decided to establish himself here.  Very big.”  Thereafter he breaks down and gives himself the lie, asking, with reference to Biff’s sad condition, “Why didn’t he ever catch on.”  Another example, which illustrates the utterly routine nature of his lying, his lies’ transparency, and his tendency to expose them himself, can be seen in the part of the play where the younger Willy returns from New England and tells Linda that he had done five hundred gross in Providence and seven hundred gross in Boston.  Several lines later he abjectly confesses that he did about two hundred gross for the whole trip.

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