Sympathy for Willy Loman - Death of a Salesman

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Death Of a Salesman

Arthur Miller does manage to engage our sympathies with Willy in the first act of the play to a certain extent. He does this in many ways such as using Willy’s speech, his troubled mind, the way other characters treat him and by using themes like the past. To begin with, Willy Loman seems like a normal, yet exhausted businessman. This is until he starts to contradict himself by saying of Biff that he’s “a lazy bum!” A few seconds later in the scene, his line is “There’s one thing about Biff - he’s not lazy”. This is where we begin to question Willy’s sanity. Arthur Miller uses this dialogue to cleverly hint that Willy’s mind is not entirely stable. This encourages our sympathies because we know he is confused. Another point about the following dialogue in this scene is that Willy’s thoughts appear to be disjointed. He leaps from one topic of converstation to the next with no warning. He doesn’t even appear to acknowledge things that he does either. He asks, “when the hell did I lose my temper?” as if he didn’t at all. At times, our sympathies can grow to pity, for Willy and for his sons. There is a scene where he is talking about being “liked” and “well-liked”. He boasts to his sons, in their young form, about meeting the Mayor of Providence. He is only trying to impress them but apparently these stories are not true. He gives his sons a false hope of going on a trip to New England. We could sympathise with him on this account, that because he has no real trip for them, he gets them to think that they are going on one. On the other hand this could be seen as giving his children a hope that cannot be fulfilled. Arthur Miller does this to heighten the relationship between Willy and his sons but at the same time it could be seen as cruel lies. Another account that we can sympathise with Willy on is the matter of Biff. Unfortunately, Willy had very high expectations of him – almost unreasonably high. It was unlikely that Biff would...
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