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Gender Roles in Death of a Salesman

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The roles played in Arthur Miller’s, Death of a Salesman can be considered stereotypical at best. The characters have this problem of only looking at what their lives should be or how they messed them up. Their outlook on life is completely based on society’s definition of a good life. Women were expected to just be housewives and to stand by their husbands no matter what, while the husbands were the primary money makers. Early in “Death of a Salesmen” we get this idea that a man’s only purpose in life is to get a job and support their family, and if this doesn’t happen then he is a failure in society’s eyes.

Traditional gender roles can be seen throughout the play. The first time we see this is at the beginning of the play when Willy comes home from work to his wife and children. Willy “the father” goes to work every day to provide for his family while Linda stays at home to care for the family and home. Linda “the mother “has no thoughts of her own. Her main role is to go along with whatever her willy wanted to do. When the two boys were born, she raised them according to her husband’s wishes. The two sons growing up were held to the societal standards of a man. This was the way of life during this time.

The first example of the female gender role is when Linda offers to make willy a sandwich when he gets home from work. Throughout the play Linda is set on re kindling the bond between her husband and her sons, selflessly giving up her emotions or ideas to help them in their problems. This can also be seen in the arguments that happen between Willy and Linda. It can be seen when they speak to one another about cheese. Willy says, “Why do you get American when I like Swiss?” Miller.

Throughout the play, Biff is shown as particularly distraught and overwhelmed by the fact that he is unable to find a steady, well-paying job. He feels that his sole purpose is to settle down, find a wife, support her and have a family. I think that most of this pressure is coming from his father. During the time this play was set in, it was the sole purpose in life for a man his age. The male gender role that Biff assumes for himself is what has him stressed and worried about his future. Biff was very different from his brother. While Happy could keep a job, he was unhappy at it. Biff was unable to keep a job. He was unsuccessful in all of his business endeavors thus far.

Willy followed in his father’s footsteps and got into the business world, but he isn’t happy. Willy stays in business despite this feeling because he thinks it is the right thing too do. He says “I gotta show some of those pompous, self-important executives over there that Hap Loman can make the grade” Miller “1268”. We can see that his blind desire to succeed is leading him down the same path of destruction that his father is on.

While all of the main characters have their positive attributes, it is the position that they allow themselves to stay in that causes most of the issues throughout that play. The gender roles throughout the play are obvious. The men were to be seen as the dictator of the house. The women were to be seen but not heard. The male was responsible for being the breadwinner of the family. He was to make enough money that he could (at that time) keep his wife in stockings. When it came to the time to have children, the children were raised in the same manner. Willy, Biff, and Happy all enforce the male stereotype throughout the play in the way that they speak to each other and other people. Linda enforces the female stereotype by not standing up for herself when being treated like a servant too the family. 

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Gender Roles In Death Of A Salesman. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
“Gender Roles In Death Of A Salesman.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
Gender Roles In Death Of A Salesman. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2022].
Gender Roles In Death Of A Salesman [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Feb 10 [cited 2022 Dec 8]. Available from:
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