A Family's Influence in "Death of a Salesman"

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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller depicts the life of a salesman named Willy Loman and his family in 1950’s New York. Willy Loman reflects on his life in his old age with dissatisfaction, and at the close of the play ends up taking his own life. A family can emotionally hurt each member of it’s content more than any other person because of their closeness and similar thinking, as is shown throughout the play through the Loman family. Arthur Miller uses vividly portrayed flashbacks from Willy’s life to explain how one’s family can influence a person to feel like a failure.

One way the author portrays Willy’s regrets is by introducing his older brother, Ben Loman. Ben ventured to Alaska to seek out a fortune and have an adventure, and although he invited Willy, he declined to stay in New York and become a salesman. Willy tells his Boss “I was almost decided to go when... I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want.” (p. 1859) He then goes on to say that although it was once a great business, the times have changed and instead of personality and friendship in the job, the people do not know him anymore. Willy also complains to his son, Happy, that he should have gone with Ben and made a fortune, rather than staying behind. “Why didn’t I go to Alaska with my brother Ben that time! That man was a genius, that man was success incarnate! What a mistake!” (p. 1839). Miller is telling through these passages that older siblings are able to make one feel inferior, when comparing your own successes to theirs. Ben overshadowed Willy with his accomplishments, feeling like he did not live up to expectations from his family. Older siblings create a standard for younger siblings to live up to, and if one does not live up to these standards just like Willy Loman, there is a sense of inferiority and failure.

Willy Loman once had a strong relationship with his boys. Miller contrasts Willy’s past relationship with his two sons, Happy and Biff, with...
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