Death of a Salesman


Arthur Miller

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Themes and Colors
The American Dream Theme Icon
Fathers and Sons Theme Icon
Nature vs. City Theme Icon
Abandonment and Betrayal Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Death of a Salesman, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Nature vs. City Theme Icon

The towering apartment buildings that surround Willy's house, which make it difficult for him to see the stars and block the sunlight that would allow him to grow a garden in his back yard, represent the artificial world of the city—with all its commercialism and superficiality—encroaching on his little spot of self-determination. He yearns to follow the rugged trail his brother Ben has blazed, by going into the wildernesses of Africa and Alaska in search of diamonds, or even building wooden flutes and selling them on the rural frontier of America as his father did. But Willy is both too timid and too late. He does not have the courage to head out into nature and try his fortune, and, anyway, that world of a wild frontier waiting to be explored no longer exists. Instead, the urban world has replaced the rural, and Willy chooses to throw his lot in with the world of sales, which does not involve making things but rather selling oneself.

Biff and Happy embody these two sides of Willy's personality: the individualist dreamer and the eager-to-please salesman. Biff works with his hands on farms, helping horses give birth, while Happy schemes within the stifling atmosphere of a department store. While Willy collects household appliances and cars, as the American Dream has taught him to do, these things do not ultimately leave him satisfied, and he thinks of his own death in terms of finally venturing into nature, the dark jungle that the limits of his life have never allowed him to enter.

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Nature vs. City ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Nature vs. City appears in each act of Death of a Salesman. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Nature vs. City Quotes in Death of a Salesman

Below you will find the important quotes in Death of a Salesman related to the theme of Nature vs. City.
Act 1 Quotes
It's a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer... To suffer fifty weeks a year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still - that's how you build a future.
Related Characters: Biff Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 10-11
Explanation and Analysis:
The man knew what he wanted and went out and got it! Walked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he's rich! The world is an oyster, but you don't crack it open on a mattress!
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker), Ben Loman
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:
Gotta break your neck to see a star in this yard.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes
Funny, y'know? After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
I've got to get some seeds, right away. Nothing's planted. I don't have a thing in the ground.
Related Characters: Willy Loman (speaker)
Related Symbols: Seeds
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:
The jungle is dark but full of diamonds, Willy.
Related Characters: Ben Loman (speaker), Willy Loman
Page Number: 107
Explanation and Analysis: