Death of a Salesman

By Matthew Grimes, Katherine Stockless & Miranda Martin

The Relevance of Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman remains one of America's most popularly produced plays, even to this today. This is because it continues to remain relevant, even to this day, as shown in the cases below.

Being Well Liked

On Page 18, Willy remarks, “Someday I’ll have my own business, and I’ll never have to leave home any more. [I’ll be] Bigger than Uncle Charley. Because Charley is not -- liked. He’s liked but he’s not -- well liked”. Willy places a large emphasis on the concept of being attractive and well-liked, as this, to him, is what makes a person successful. He believes he is bigger than other people if he is more attractive. Unfortunately, this is shown in our society, in the way that people rely heavily upon the likes on their posts in order to feel better about themselves.
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The Hot New Stuff

As a society, we place a lot of value on having "things". We see others as being successful based on the material items that one has. This is why when a new product is coming out, we see lines like the one pictured above happening outside of stores. Everyone wants the "new thing", and to prove that they are successful enough to have the new thing, similarly to how Willy wanted to get a recorder after Howard raved about his. “I’m definitely going to get one. Because lots of time I’m on the road, and I think to myself, what I must be missing on the radio!” (58). The second he hears of it, he believes it to be absolutely necessary to have, thinking instantly of all the times he could potentially use it.

John Steinbeck once wrote, "We spend our lives in motor cars, yet most of us -- a great many of us at least-- do not know enough about a car to look in the gas tank when the motor fails” (Steinbeck 3). This shows in Willy's insistence upon buying the recorder when he doesn't know anything about it, and, in one scene, appears frightened about it.

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Student Debt and A Scary Future

The play is relevant, in part, due to the way it relates to college students. Students across the globe find themselves in more debt than ever and find it harder than ever to find job opportunities. This is a situation similar to Biff's in "Death of a Salesman". "Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying to work myself up. Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it’s a measly manner of existence.” (pg. 10), says Biff, referring to how upsetting his life has become. "Work a lifetime to pay off a house. You finally own it, and there's nobody to live in it." (pg. 15), he continues. This is a reality that many Americans find themselves relating to.
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Working Poor

Fun fact! The minimum wage is now approximately 40 percent below the federal poverty line. Part of the reason Death of a Salesman continues to remain relevant is due to the fact that it speaks to the working class so personally. “What goes through a man’s mind, driving seven hundred miles home without having earned a cent?... When he has to go to Charley and borrow fifty dollars a week and pretend to me that it’s his pay?” (41), Linda says. This quote speaks many volumes to those nationwide, as proven by the minimum wage rates displayed above.