Death of a Salesman Quotes

A melody is heard, played upon a flute. It is small and fine, telling of grass and trees and the horizon. The curtain rises. Before us is the Salesman’s house. We are aware of towering, angular shapes behind it, surrounding it on all sides. Only the blue light of the sky falls upon the house and forestage; the surrounding area shows an angry glow of orange.

– Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman, Act 1. Even before a character enters or speaks, we are introduced to some of the important themes and figures of speech in these stage directions, the first words of the play. Music is heard and flute is personified, as it tells of a pastoral and idyllic scene of grass and trees. This sets a peaceful tone. When the curtain rises, the house of salesman Willy Loman is revealed. Having a home of one’s own is one of the most frequently cited examples of having attained the American Dream. But the Loman dream and home appear to be under threat. The city has encroached on the house, now surrounded on all sides by towering skyscrapers, suggesting that Willy is trapped in his big dreams. The "angry glow of orange" contrasts with the image of the blue sky, creating an unsettling atmosphere and foreshadowing future events. The color orange is personified here. The passage’s theme of nature vs city symbolizes the conflict within Willy. His love of the great outdoors competes with his salesman’s dream of finding prosperity and building success in the artificial and materialistic world of the city.

I was driving along, you understand? And I was fine. I was even observing the scenery. You can imagine, me looking at scenery, on the road every week of my life. But it’s so beautiful up there, Linda, the trees are so thick, and the sun is warm. I opened the windshield and just let the warm air bathe over me. And then all of a sudden I’m goin’ off the road! I’m tellin’ya, I absolutely forgot I was driving. If I’d’ve gone the other way over the white line I might’ve killed somebody. So I went on again – and five minutes later I’m dreamin’ again.

– Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman, Act 1. Having been on the road as a traveling salesman for 34 years, Willy Loman is showing signs of mental instability. In this conversation with his wife Linda, he describes how he lapses in and out of a dream state while driving on his sales trip to New England, almost careering off the road. Willy’s difficulty in distinguishing between reality and illusion is shown here, as his mind constantly oscillates between one state and the other. This speech also deals with the theme of nature vs city. Willy rhapsodizes about the heavenly scenery of rural America that he encounters on his trip – "so beautiful up there…the trees are so thick, and the sun is warm." With his passion for nature, Willy should have taken a job ourdoors, instead of an office job. His decision to opt for a life in New York city clearly seems to be the wrong one. He is a man more in tune with the natural world who in this passage is yearning to escape and be free. Willy’s suicide is foreshadowed here.