Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman Theme of Betrayal
Death of a Salesman is full of betrayal. Willy betrays Linda’s love and Biff’s trust with his affair. As the chief betrayer himself, Willy is preoccupied by the fear of betrayal. His frequent accusations that Biff is spiteful reflect his understanding that Biff’s failure in business is a rejection of Willy’s own dreams of success, and that Biff’s inability to keep a job is related to Willy’s love affair. Even outside of his family, Willy feels that his boss is betraying him by firing him, but Howard says that there’s no room for feelings of betrayal in the business world.
Questions About Betrayal
- Why does Willy perceive Biff’s failure in business as an act of betrayal? How does this differ from Biff’s own understanding of his difficulties in business?
- What does Willy’s response to seeing Linda mend her stockings say about his own betrayal and his fears of betrayal?
Chew on This
Happy's and Linda’s blindness to Willy’s betrayal distorts their perception of Biff’s relationship with his father. Because of their ignorance, they can never understand why Biff feels as he does.