Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version
Affirmation of human life is the first major theme of the novel. The novel shows that the 'salesman' need not go to his death, need not live a life given to him by others, and follow a masochistic strategy to preserve his childish self. By "seizing the day" - living each moment to the fullest - life can be rewarding and meaningful.
Another major theme of the novel is the meaningless of life when it is ruled by the love of money. The world's business, by its very nature, is centered upon the buying and selling of goods and services with money supplying the purchasing power. But the world's business is very different from the business of life, which involves being connected to humanity. Throughout the novel, Tommy Wilhelm struggles to understand the difference between the two kinds of business and to know how he relates to both.
Among the minor Themes of the novel is the theme of deceit. Maurice Venice gives Wilhelm false hopes. He is deceived in marriage too. Dr. Tamkin, who encourages him to speculate in the stock market, later deceives him.
Another minor theme in the novel is the conflict between father and son as exemplified in the relationship between Wilhelm and Dr. Adler.
A third minor theme in the novel is the conflict between husband and wife as illustrated in the estrangement between Wilhelm and his wife Margaret.
The prevailing mood throughout the novel is that of somber tragedy. Wilhelm tries hard to achieve something in life, but he tragically fails at every step. Maurice Venice, Dr. Tamkin, and Margaret, his wife, exploit him. He unsuccessfully tries to gain money through some fair means. When he fails, he unsuccessfully pleads with his father for help. He is miserable and feels throughout the novel that he is suffocating, that life is being choked out of him by his troubles. It is only at the very end of the novel that one small note of hope is given.