Death of a Salesman

Topics: Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller, Literary criticism Pages: 5 (1714 words) Published: June 18, 2002
Darren Ben-Ari
Mrs. Rowe
English III
March 24, 1998

Death of a salesman

Death of a salesman

The Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller is a controversial play of a typical American family and their desire to live the American dream "Rather than a tragedy or failure as the play is often described. Death of a Salesman dramatizes a failure of [that] dream" (Cohn 51). The story is told through the delusional eyes and mind of Willy Loman, a traveling salesman of 34 years, whose fantasy world of lies eventually causes him to suffer an emotional breakdown. Willy's wife, Linda, loves and supports Willy despite all his problems, and continually believes in his success and that of their no good lazy sons, Biff and Happy. The play takes place in 1942, in Willy and Linda's home, a dilapidated shack on the outskirts of a slum. Willy has spent his whole life teaching and believing that you can achieve success by your appearance and by making yourself as amiable as possible. Eventually Willy begins to fabricate stories at himself to be able to live with himself because he can't meet his own expectations. He falls deeper into his lies, making himself and his family suffer for it. (Thesis). In the play Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller proves he is America's social critic when he criticizes Willy's relationship concerning his family, his lack of success in achieving his goals and his dreams along with his inner turmoil and personal collapse which result in suicide. In the onset of the play, Willy told Linda that you "work a lifetime to pay of a house. You finally own it, and there is nobody to live in it" (Cohn 56). This quote shows how Willy strives his whole life to make a home for his family and by the time he sees the realization of that one dream, his family has drifted apart and he is alone with his haunting thoughts and his ghosts. Willy has such high expectations for himself and his sons, and when they all failed to accomplish their dreams, they were unable to accept each other for what they truly were. Willy raised Biff with the idea that success depends on whether or not a person can sell himself and not how smart a person is. Biff's tragic flaw is his acceptance of Willy's values and not creating any of his own. When Biff realizes his father is a fake, he becomes a lost individual and he does not speak to his father for 14 years. In Willy's family it is always Biff who receives recognition, however, Happy strives for attention too. He is constantly heard saying, "I'm losing weight, have you noticed pop?" The key words to emphasize in this quote are "…have you noticed pop?" not that Happy is losing weight, but that Happy exists too and requires the same love and devotion which Biff receives. Although Happy's character can be empathized, he can not be sympathized with because in the rejection of his father, Happy sadly expresses a reaction he felt. Happy and Biff's disappointment do not derive from themselves, but rather their uncertainty in their father's capability of holding a successful job. It is Willy's lack of success in achieving his goals which hurt and destroy the Loman Family. Willy always wishes he could be rich like his brother Ben, however, false hopes harbor Willy's fantasy instead of displaying a reality. Willy discusses the salesman Dave Singleman and how popular he was. It was when Willy saw Dave put on his green velvet slippers and sell merchandise from a telephone in a hotel room, that he realized he wanted to be a salesman. Willy liked the idea of being popular, well liked and having a lot of friends. In 1928, he promises his boys that one day he'll have his own business and he will not have to travel anymore. Even this plan fails him and Willy still must endeavor on road trips to support his family and compensate for his lost goals. Willy proves himself a failure when he boasts to Linda how he made "$1200.00 dollars gross!" however, when Willy and Linda...

Bibliography: Bloom, Harold. Major Literary Characters: Willy Loman. New York: Chelsea
House, 1991.
Detroit: James Brown Associates. 1970.
New York: Salem Press. Inc, 1991.
Detroit: Gak Research, 1987.
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