Study Guide

Death of a Salesman Freedom and Confinement

By Arthur Miller

Freedom and Confinement

(Click the themes infographic to download.)

The theme of freedom and confinement is closely tied to economic security in Death of a Salesman. Linda and Willy long to escape both the physical confinement of their home and the economic confinement of their limited income, home mortgage, and bills. They idolize faraway lands such as Alaska and Africa as places of literal and figurative escape. Similarly, Biff finds New York to utterly confine him and can only imagine happiness and freedom working with his hands in the wide open West. Ultimately, the play seems to paint America's incredibly competitive version of capitalism as something that traps its citizens. This depiction is pretty ironic since America is supposed to be "the land of the free"a place where if you work hard, you're free to make your dreams come true.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. What’s up with Linda’s repetition of "we’re free" at the end of the play? Who is "we"? What are these mysterious "we" people free from? What light does this shed on the play as a whole?
  2. How do the physical limits of the Lomans’ home and neighborhood serve as a metaphor for the Lomans’ figurative confinement? What if you figure in the physical vastness of the American West, Africa, and all those other places that start with "A"?
  3. Does anyone achieve freedom or escape in Death of a Salesman? Who? How?

Chew on This

Willy perceives his suicide as a means of achieving freedom.

While he knows suicide renders his own escape impossible, Willy hopes it will achieve freedom for his son Biff.

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