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Death of a Salesman: A Close Reading

            Arthur Miller incorporates several literary techniques throughout this dramatic monologue in Death of a Salesman to convey Biff Loman's culminating frustration towards his father, Willy Loman. At the beginning of the monologue, Miller's choice of punctuation illuminates Biff's personal weakness and unhappiness. The constant repetition of exclamation points helps the reader to personally feel and hear Biff's feverish tone. For example, he exclaims to Willy, "And I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air I could never stand taking orders from nobody! That's whose fault it is! It's goddamn time you heard this!" The use of exclamation points in this monologue reminds the reader that Biff is shouting at his father, rather than sharing his feelings in a composed manner. This technique allows the reader to gain a better understanding of the severity of the situation. Similarly, Biff asks simple questions during his monologue to emphasize his point for not only Willy, but for the reader. For example, when Biff asks "do you hear me?" and "do you hear this?" he is ensuring that both audiences comprehend the significance of the moment in the office building. Miller also includes a few rhetorical questions throughout the speech in order to subtly influence the audiences' opinion about Biff. Biff asks these questions, such as "Why am I trying to become what I don't want to be?" not for the answer, but to heighten the effectiveness of his monologue. These rhetorical questions reveal how Willy's overbearing antics have truly affected Biff throughout his life and thus persuade the audience to sympathize with him. .
             At the beginning of the passage, Biff admits to stealing a suit in Kansas City. Arthur Miller then incorporates a flashback into the speech in order to portray how Biff has transformed since being arrested. This literary device allows the reader to gain insight into Biff's motivation to confront his father.

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