The play is divided into three main parts, Act I, Act II, and the Requiem. Each section takes place on a different day in present-day. Within Act I and Act II, the story is presented through the use of Willy's flashbacks. This use of flashback is fundamental to the structure and understanding of the play.

The story starts at present-day and Willy then lapses in and out of the past. Each flashback is somehow related the present. Very often, the contents of the flashback offer essential background knowledge for understanding why the present-day problems in the Loman family are occurring. For example, when Willy is thinking about Biff and Biff's problems, Willy is transported to the summer of Biff's senior year. The events that took place in the past expose for the reader the situations that have led up to the present-day boiling point in the Loman household.