Portrayal of Women in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Essay

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Portrayal of Women in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


Although Death of a Salesman is mainly about a salesman named Willy Loman, the almost hidden presence of the women in the novel goes all too often unnoticed. Linda Loman seems to be the glue that holds the Loman clan together, as Willy, Biff, and Happy are all deluded in one way or another. Arthur Miller depicts Willy's wife in a very specific way, and this is a very crucial part of the story. He depicts the other women in the story in ways that complement Linda's distinct nature. Although Linda's role as a woman in society is extremely limited, she is a heroic character, both wife and mother to some very sad and twisted characters.

Linda is technically the female lead
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Here is the dialogue that tells us about her- and her relation to her husband.

HOWARD'S VOICE. "Go on, say something." (Pause.) "Well, you gonna talk?"

HIS WIFE. "I can't think of anything."

HOWARD'S VOICE. "Well, talk--it's turning.~

HIS WIFE (shyly, beaten). "Hello." (Silence.) "Oh Howard I can't talk into this . . ."

HOWARD (snapping the machine off). That was my wife. (1199)

There is, in fact, a third woman in Howard's life, maid. Howard says that if he can't be at home when the Jack Benny program comes on, he uses the wire recorder. He tells "the maid to turn the radio on when Jack Benny comes on, and this automatically goes on with the radio...." (1199). In short, the women in Howard's world exist to serve (and to worship) him.

Another woman who seems to have existed only to serve men is Willy Loman's mother. On one occasion, in speaking with Ben, Willy remembers being on her lap, and Ben, on learning that his mother is dead, utters a platitudinous description of her, "Fine specimen of a lady, Mother" (1183), but that's as much as we learn of her. Willy is chiefly interested in learning about his father, who left the family and went to Alaska. Ben characterizes the father as "a very great and a very wild-hearted man" (1185), but the fact that the father left his…