To What Extent Do You Believe That Willy Loman Is Responsible for His Own Downfall?

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‘A man is worth more dead than alive’ (Willy Loman, Act II). Willy Loman is a man on the verge of mental breakdown which will culminate in his eventual suicide. His ultimate destruction can be blamed on a number of factors, social pressure, family and friend influences, and his psychological and emotional state of mind. However, we are all subjected to the aforementioned issues to some degree throughout our lives and most of us take responsibility for our actions and by doing so endeavour to create reasonable happy, contented lives for ourselves and our families. So, some questions must be asked. Where and how did Willy Loman lose track and focus? To what extent is he responsible for his own downfall? To enable us to understand Willy Loman’s eventual ruin and demise we must look closer into the mind of the character and the society and influences in his life.

Throughout the play it is evident to the audience that Willy Loman is a delusional individual who has built his life on self-deceit and lies. He is tortured with hallucinations and they intrude on Willy at any time. They wreak havoc in his real life, even to a point that he cannot have a simple conversation, for example when playing cards with Charley. His mood swings and contradictory remarks ‘Biff is lazy, Biff is not lazy’ throughout the play coupled with the disturbing hallucinations leaves the audience in no doubt that Willy is a very fragile and mentally ill person.

Willy’s own father and his brother Ben are characters who seem to have much influence on Willy’s life, yet they do not seem to have much substance. We know that Willy’s father left him when he was a very young child and Ben became an idol for Willy because of his business acumen. However, even though these two characters visit the play only as figments of Willy’s mind, the fact that their presence is acknowledged is indicative of the importance of their role in the construction of Willy’s life. Notably, the portrayal of Willy’s...
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