May 21st, 2012
Unit Essay: Death of a Salesman
Edmund Spencer once said: “It is the mind that maketh good or ill.” Imagination can lead to ultimate success, yet unfortunately, it can also lead to complete turmoil. We make sense of our world and move on in life by telling stories. We dream “a little something to get by on,” as Robert Stone once said. We dream a story for ourselves and mold our lives around the requirements of our dreams. We also use imagination as a coping mechanism to deal with our past and present. One can choose to ignore reality and use his imagination as a “time machine,” so to speak, in an effort to find the life that satisfies oneself (Robert Holdstock). We use story to “create our sense of ourselves,” which can indeed be very dangerous if we choose to ignore reality (Arthur Miller). There is immense danger in living one's life according to a personal story that is not anchored in some sort of reality. One can see how dangerous story telling can be by analyzing the character of Willy Loman, in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
Arthur Miller defines a tragic hero as one who attempts to “gain his 'rightful' position in his society” and in doing so, struggles for his dignity. Thus, according to Miller’s standards, Willy Loman is the epitome of what a tragic hero is. Willy Loman believes that if a person is popular and “well liked” he is guaranteed to become successful (23). Unfortunately, he has it all wrong. Linda tells Willy that he “is the best looking man in the whole world (23). However, looks don't make the man, or in our case, the salesman. Willy's whole life is about being a salesman, but his mistake comes when he tries to sell himself rather than his products. Because Willy Loman imagined himself as a rich, good looking, successful businessman, he subconsciously forced himself to lie to his children—lying to his family, friends, and most importantly, himself.
Willy Loman is an...