Students read Arthur Miller's classic play Death of a Salesman, which offers a scathing critique of the American Dream and of the competitive, materialistic American culture of the 1940s.
Students will read their first play of seventh grade, Death of a Salesman, a tragedy about the differences between the Loman Family’s dreams and the reality of their lives. Willy Loman stars as the protagonist—an ordinary white middle-class man who tries to hide his averageness behind his hallucinations as he pretends to be a “success.” The play is a critique of the American Dream and of the materialistic American culture of the 1940s. This unit is a continuation of the seventh-grade analysis of what it means to succeed in the United States.
Students will practice skills and habits including vocabulary/idiom building, annotating text, collaborative conversation, and evidence-based writing. As students read, discuss, and write about the texts, they will also examine how an author makes deliberate decisions to control the tension between the characters, the shifts between past and present times, and the ultimate downfall of the protagonist.
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Book: Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (Penguin Books, 1976)
This assessment accompanies Unit 14 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
In this third unit of the year, students will focus on organizing their work when comparing two texts. They will continue to dissect the prompt to ensure they fully understand the task at hand. Then, they will concentrate on the writing process of brainstorming, outlining, and drafting for on-demand prompts (test-taking style prompts). Students will not be given graphic organizers but will be instructed on creating their own outlines from a blank piece of paper. They will ultimately be assessed on whether they addressed the prompt itself, made a structured and accurate claim, provided strong reasons backed by relevant evidence, and grouped information into meaningful paragraphs.
Focus Correction Area #1 - Overall
Focus Correction Area #2 - Elaboration
Focus Correction Area #3 - Organization
dialogue, apron, stage directions, act, scene, cast of characters, playwright, thespian, tragic hero, tragic flaw, foreshadowing, monologue, allusion
im, in, il = not
sub = under
re = again
mor = death
trepidation (2), iron repression (2), vital (4) (ROOT ALERT “vit-“ life; vitamin, vitality, vital signs), crestfallen (5), reminisce (6), caliber (49–50), spite (88), ominous(ly) (97), in vain (111) self-deception, coping mechanism
Tone words: ornery, irritable (review from When I Was Puerto Rican), delusional
“To make mountains out of molehills” (p.7); “Open sesame” (p. 19 Ali Baba); “The world is an oyster” (p. 28); “To take blood from a stone” (p. 61); “To blow full of hot air” (p. 105); “You’re a dime a dozen” (p. 105)
Arthur Miller Biography
Explain Arthur Miller’s motive for writing Death of a Salesman, based on his biography.
Death of a Salesman pp. 23 – 33
Explain Miller’s repeated symbolism of nature in Act I.
Death of a Salesman pp. 34 – 41
Analyze how Miller uses juxtaposition of the stockings to symbolize his inability to provide for his family.
Death of a Salesman pp. 42 – 57
Analyze how Linda’s dialogue contributes to the playwright’s critique of American culture (of capitalism).
Death of a Salesman pp. 58 – 69
Analyze how Biff and Happy’s dialogue contributes to the mood.
Death of a Salesman pp. 70 – 84
Explain how Arthur Miller’s belief about American culture (capitalism) seeps into this scene between worker and boss.
Death of a Salesman pp. 84 – 94
“Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Opening Monologue”
Explain how the author uses monologue to develop the theme of popularity and reputation.
Death of a Salesman pp. 95 – 103
Explain how Miller juxtaposes Charley and Willy in order to reveal Willy’s tendency for self-destruction and false pride.
Death of a Salesman pp. 105 – 116
Analyze how self-deception functions as a coping mechanism for Willy Loman.
Death of a Salesman pp. 128 – 139 — and Requiem
Analyze how Willy’s self-deception leads to his suicide.
Death of a Salesman — Entire text
Debate whether or not Willy’s suicide resolved any of his problems.