When I sat down to write this post, I knew I wanted to provide you with a handful of interesting choices for Death of a Salesman essay topics, but I admit that when it came time to get started, I was stumped.
Sure, I had one or two excellent topic ideas, but after that, I had to dig a little deeper to think of more creative and interesting options.
Why am I telling you this?
I want to remind you that even those of us who write about writing can struggle to get the creative juices flowing.
So if you’re frustrated because you can’t think of anything “good” to write about for your Death of a Salesman analysis essay, don’t let it get you down. It happens to the best of us.
The good news is that I’ve worked through my initial writer’s block and have included 10 Death of a Salesman essay topics to inspire your upcoming essay.
Don’t Pick a Topic Until You Know These Three Things
I know you’re eager to get rolling on your essay, but before you select a topic, make sure you know these three things:
Know your essay options
Know your limits
You will, of course, need to know your own limits regarding personal time constraints, but knowing your limits also refers to word limits.
If you’re writing a short essay, you’ll definitely need to make every word count because you have a limited space in which to create an effective analysis. A longer essay, on the other hand, will allow you space to develop a more complex analysis.
In other words, don’t write a detailed 3,000-word essay when the assignment calls for no more than 750 words.
Know whether you need to complete research
An essay that requires research can be a lot more time-consuming than an essay that requires only evidence from the book or play. Knowing whether you’ll need research sources will help you budget your time accordingly.
Once you know these three key points, you’re ready to select a topic for your Death of a Salesman essay.
10 Death of a Salesman Essay Topics for an Interesting Analysis
Topic #1: The American Dream
The American Dream is the most prominent of the Death of a Salesman themes. Willy Loman has hopes and dreams for his life, but he never seems to be able to make them come true. He fails to live his American Dream.
- Explain how the theme of the American Dream is carried throughout Death of a Salesman
- Compare the theme of the American Dream as it is portrayed in Death of a Salesman to how it is portrayed in another piece of literature, such as The Great Gatsby.
Check out this example essay in our database for inspiration: The Pursuit of the American Dream by Jay Gatsby and Willy Loman in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.
Topic #2: The tragic hero
Willy Loman fits the bill for a tragic hero because he possesses the flaw of ambition. He wants more out of life than he has and believes he should live a better life.
Topic #3: Character analysis
Many essays include elements of character analysis as part of a larger essay, but consider a character analysis as the entire focus of your essay.
Remember: It’s fine to analyze a major character like Willy Loman, but don’t overlook the importance of minor Death of a Salesman characters.
- Analyze Willy’s neighbor, Charley, and his role as a neighbor and friend to Willy. Consider Charley’s success and lifestyle. How do they compare to Willy’s?
Topic #4: Symbolism
Two key symbols in Death of a Salesman are seeds (representing both growth and failure) and diamonds (representing the material wealth Willy cannot seem to achieve).
- Explain how seeds symbolize Willy’s hopes for the future. (Take a look at this example essay to read one writer’s analysis of symbolism.)
Topic #5: Language and Tone
An author’s use of word choice and tone in a piece can speak volumes. This is particularly evident in the word choice and tone of individual characters. Consider how a character’s words shape his or her personality and contribute to the story.
Topic #6: Setting
Setting can affect a variety of elements in a story, including characters’ personalities, character interactions, mood, and plot. Here are a few ways you could approach analyzing a Death of a Salesman setting:
- Examine the contrasting locations in Death of a Salesman and the effect they have on the play.
- Death of a Salesman is set in Brooklyn. How might this play be different if Willy Loman and his family lived in the Midwest or Alaska?
Topic #7: Conflict
A story isn’t a story without some type of conflict.
In literature, the most common types of conflict are those listed below:
- character vs. character
- character vs. society
- character vs. nature
- character vs. technology
- character vs. supernatural
- character vs. self
- character vs. fate
Death of a Salesman is filled with conflicts of self (Willy Loman’s internal struggles), conflicts between characters (Willy’s conflict with his son, Biff), and conflicts with society (Willy’s inability to achieve his dreams).
- Examine Willy Loman’s internal struggles and how they affect his attitude, his ambitions, and his ultimate destiny.
Topic #8: The role of women
While some literature contains vibrant leading roles for women, Death of a Salesman is certainly not one of them. Willy Loman’s wife is nothing more than a stock character, seemingly included only to fulfill the role of dutiful wife.
- Analyze the role of women in Death of a Salesman and how their roles shape more prominent characters in the play.
Looking for essay examples that discuss what roles women play in Death of a Salesman? Check out these essays:
- Female Characters in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
- A Comparison of the Similarities and Differences in the Use and Representation of Women in Othello, Death of a Salesman, and The Taming of the Shrew
Topic #9: Family relationships
Willy Loman has his share of internal conflicts, but the play also revolves around an ongoing conflict with his son, Biff.
- Analyze the relationship between Willy and Biff, arguing that Wily’s own failed expectations of himself (and thus unrealistic expectations of his son) are a key cause of the strife between father and son.
Topic #10: The definition of self
Throughout the play, Willy Loman defines himself as a failure as a salesman, as a father, and as a husband. It is this attitude and definition of self that shapes his character and his decisions.
- Explain how Willy Loman’s definition of himself shapes his character and his fate.
- Consider how you might compare your definition of yourself to how Willy Loman defines his own character.
Shape Your Ideas Into an Essay
Once you’ve decided on a topic for your essay, whether it’s one of the 10 Death of a Salesman essay topics from above or something else, mold your ideas into a work of art.
Looking for a few extra bits of writing advice to make your essay amazing? Read 20 Ways to Improve Your Academic Writing.
If you have a first (or even fifth draft) of your paper but feel that it’s still a little rough around the edges, let a Kibin editor help smooth out the rough spots. We’ve edited tens of thousands of essays and can help you polish your piece to perfection.