Many symbols are incorporated into the play “Death of a Salesman” and they, in turn, relate to both character and theme. The hose, tape recorder, and seeds are some of these symbols.  The hose in Miller’s drama directly relates to the theme of death. The hose is a line attached to the gas main in Willy’s house which allows him to sniff the gas. This action can be seen as Willy’s suicide wish, and escape from the realities of life. As seen in the loss of his job and his failure to succeed.

The hose also represents grief and deception. For when Linda, Willy’s wife, finds the hose, she is distraught over its intended purpose. The deceptive nature of the hose is apparent when Willy is confronted about it by Biff his son and Willy denies its existence.

A similar denial is also evident when Willy is confronted with the tape recorder in Howard’s office.  The tape recorder signifies the change in Willy’s life through the advancement of technology. It also represents the end of Willy’s career.

This is brought about when Howard, Willy’s boss, and godson, shows the tape recorder to Willy and appears to be more interested in the sound and technology of the machine instead of Willy, who is fighting for his job. Howard no longer needs Willy’s services and without concern fires him. This, to Willy, was like, “eating the orange and throwing away the peel”.

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However, Willy is partly to blame, as he does not accept change and wants to remain in the past. This is foreshadowed in the scene where Willy is left alone with the tape recorder and is unable to shut it off. Willy believes in using his old techniques and style to succeed. Nevertheless, in his job, it is not what you know, but it is who you know.

Willy is not up to date with the business nor technology. Yet, Willy still has hope and wishes to leave some form of support behind for his family as illustrated in his planting of the seeds.

Willy feels that he must leave something behind something for Biff. In Willy’s imaginary world he wants Biff to be magnificent and he symbolically plants seeds in his garden. In spite of such an action, he is doomed to fail. Willy starts planting the seeds at night, but at night there is no sun shining and this seems very odd as seeds require light to grow.

What else is strange is the fact that Willy’s house is boxed in between large apartment buildings and is covered by the shadows cast by them. It is evident that no light will fall on Willy’s garden. Willy’s attempt to plant and grow seeds is futile, but he persists in his attempt to seek reconciliation and forgiveness.

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Thus the hose, tape recorder, and the seeds are all symbolic of Willy’s dreams gone sour, and his inability to live in the present. His death is inevitable and is mirrored by his life.

Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "Death of a Salesman: Symbols," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019, https://schoolworkhelper.net/death-of-a-salesman-symbols/.

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