Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Tragedy
Everyone is unsatisfied with their lives or frustrated in some way.
Each of the central characters is troubled and wants his or her life circumstances to change. Willy can’t drive for his traveling job, and is disappointed in his son’s inability to get real, serious work. Linda is worried about the family’s financial stability and about her husband’s mental health. Biff is feeling insecure and unsatisfied with life. He wants to be settled, help out his parents, and get on good terms with his father. Happy, despite having a good job and unlimited girlfriends, is also feeling lonely and dissatisfied with his life. What everyone is anticipating here is change, or something better.
Willy expects to get a job transfer and Biff plans to get a loan to start a business.
The "dream stage" has been going on for basically Willy’s entire life, but it’s still possible to pinpoint the moment within the play when everyone’s aspirations seem like they really will come to fruition. For a time, the future is full of promise. Willy plans to stop traveling and get a New York-based job, and Biff’s going to ask for a loan to start a business.
Willy is fired and Biff doesn’t get any money from Oliver.
Well that certainly didn’t work. Willy and Biff’s aspirations are totally shot down. Initially hopeful, Biff is scared and lost. Willy is increasingly absorbed in his delusions as a means of denial.
Willy and Biff have a massive fight and Biff tries to force his dad to see reality.
Willy just doesn’t want to face the fact that his son didn’t get a loan from Oliver and isn’t going to be a successful businessman. Biff can’t handle his father’s expectations and freaks out.
Destruction or Death Wish Stage
Willy commits suicide; Biff rejects his father’s dream.
Willy kills himself in order to get life insurance payout money for Biff to start a business with. The second death is a metaphorical one, as Biff essentially kills what is left of his father’s dream.