Death of a Salesman — Research Essay

You are researching and writing an essay on Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman (1949).


There are a few different ways you could approach the writing of this essay:

The thematic approach: You will choose a theme or idea that you see in the play and then make an assertion about how and/or why that theme is being used. Consider the themes discussed in Unit 2:

The American Dream/Nightmare
The Quest for Identity/Coming of Age
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Perform a character study. Discuss what motivates this character to do what he or she does or perhaps discuss how and why the character deals with the conflicts within the play. You could also choose to compare and contrast two characters.
Compare and contrast the play—or some element of the play—with another literary work. Please contact your instructor if you are planning to use a literary work for comparison that has not been covered in this class.
In addition to or in place of the approaches described above, you might want to employ a formalist’s approach to analyze and interpret the literary work you have chosen. You might consider the following questions and considerations:

How do paradox, irony, ambiguity, and tension work in the play?
Is there a central or focal passage that can be said to sum up the entirety of the work?
What are the key symbols in the play?

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