Essay on truth

Towards the end of Death of a Salesman, Biff says ‘We never told the truth for 10 minutes in this house.’  Looking at the whole play, consider the dramatic ways that Miller presents the theme of truth and lies, and discuss what you think might have been his intentions.


 Essay guidance: here are some key points:


  • Willy does not wish to admit failure but it is ever present e.g. job, Biff, relationship with Linda, being liked etc
  • Willy does not want to admit his hopes and dreams were unobtainable
  • Does not see the loss of integrity and honesty
  • Does not admit the flaws in the system of capitalism
  • The fallacy that everyone can be successful by hard work and determination
  • Commits suicide to maintain false hopes about Biff
  • Betrays Linda through his infidelity
  • The small man is a pawn in a system that makes the rich richer and the ruthless wealthy.


  • Willy and Happy contrasted with Biff
  • Juxtapositioning
  • use of contrast
  • Sounds and words echoing
  • Present and past intermingled
  • Separate flashbacks
  • repetition of words and phrases (e.g. ‘practically’)
  • Actions and attitudes on stage (as shown by stage directions)
  • Willy’s gradual degradation contrasted with Charley
  • Dramatic irony
  • Use of Linda to reveal some truths – and also bemusement

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