The Roles of Women in Death of a Salesman

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In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, women serve a variety of functions, and assume many roles. Linda, "The Woman" at the hotel in Boston, Miss Forsythe and her friend, and other women not physically present yet alluded to, influence various aspects of the play. In a previous essay, I showed the different roles Linda, "The Woman" and Miss Forsythe assumed. In my conclusion, I postulated that one unifying aspect between them is that they are all dependant on men. In this essay the aforementioned conclusion is expanded further, showing that the women in Death of a Salesman are secondary to men; specifically, they exist primarily for the male Lomans' character development. This is shown through the women's various roles as providing comfort and succor for the men, judgment for the men, a means of keeping score, and a means by which the men can reveal their natures.

The women provide the Lomans with comfort and shelter. Linda, specifically, is a panacea for Willy, like when she tells him he is the "handsomest man in the world." She sheds a positive light on his accomplishments, making mountains out of molehills; when he complains about having an empty, run-down house; Linda consoles him, telling him that paying off the house is "an accomplishment." Willy's mistress in Boston provides succor for Willy from his humdrum existence. She inflates his ego, consoling him with lines like "You're so sweet, and such a kidder." Although it could be argued that these motherly roles make the women prominent characters in their own right, it also reinforces my thesis by showing that the Loman men like to hide from reality. This shows that the women exist primarily for the Lomans' character development.

The women provide a means of judgment for the Loman men. Linda, in particular, acts as judge for Biff and Happy, bringing their failures as sons to light. In act one, Linda calls Happy a "philandering bum," and tells Biff, "You're such a boy." These judgments serve a...
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