Death of a Salesman
Dangerous Selfishness and the collapse of the American dream: Death of a Salesman American Dream
American Dream in Death of a salesman has conveyed a deeper meaning of the American Dream by presenting Willy Lomans American dream to he be his ultimate goal in life in order to be liked and above all. Physiologically speaking Willy is seen as narcissistic because of how he was brought up in his childhood, his defensive self esteem, his need to be well liked by everyone, and most importantly the need to be successful falls into line. Willy has a strong Desire to be the provider of the family he’s carries so much wait on his shoulders that it can be understood why he is the way he is. In many ways he can be seen as narcissistic
One of the key characteristics found in the beginning is the ﬂute playing and its describing the images of the West by saying ‘telling of the grass, trees, and the horizon”.This is the start that hints to us The American Dream, which is Freedom, potential, and success, all of which correlate to the ideal landscape that the nineteenth century gave pride to. Willy dreamily imagines how beautiful it is in the West which indicate his desire to be the provider and to attain the freedom and success that he perceives the American Dream will give him. The American Dream is the ultimate Desire every man wants and uses it as a motivation and drive for the people of society. When interpreting the American Dream I interpret it as being a privilege to be able to come into this country and having the power to do whatever you want. You can even become whoever you want. This is where Willy falls into his depression because Willy was very capable of achieving his goals although he felt he couldn’t because every time he attempted he would fail. Willy would constantly compare himself to his brother Ben who has become successful. Let’s be honest here of course you can be happy for family but Willy being the younger brother would look up to Ben wanting to be like him. Which is why Willy has many insecurities like when Ben offered Willy a job after Howard doesn’t allow Willy to work with him, “I appreciate that, Willy, but there just is no spot here for you. If I had a spot I’d slam you right in, but I just don’t have a single solitary spot”. Willy didn’t take rejection lightly we can tell from the play how much Willy is begging even goes into his past trying to convince himself this is what he’s meant to do by saying “business is definitely business, but just listen for a minute. You don’t understand this. When I was a boy -eighteen, nineteen – I was already on the road. And there was a question in my mind as to whether selling had a future for me”. This was the true start of Willy depression which eventually leads to his death. From this we can configure how easy of a childhood Ben had in comparison to Willy who is constantly fighting to be better even as children Ben was seen as that favorite child which plays a crucial part in Willy’s personality and thoughts.
Throughout the play, Willy increasingly becomes more consumed with his identity and seeks refuge from this uncertainty through his sons. It started since Happy and Biff we’re children which they continue to be influenced. Biff and Happy have been influenced their whole lives by the outlook of the American Dream and the values and beliefs. Although Linda solemnly states that ‘we’re free,’ it is an ironic statement because even though Willy’s death freed his family physically in the sense that they are no longer bound to a mortgage, Willy was not able to achieve the freedom that he desired. However, throughout the play, Arthur Miller magnifies the need to acknowledge that the American Dream is identiﬁed by hard work, not the superﬁcial ideas of being well liked and that in order for an individual to attain virtue and happiness. Happy who is apparently successful is uncertain about himself stating to Biff that ‘Sometimes I sit in my apartment – all alone. And I think of the rent I’m paying. And it’s crazy. But then, it’s what I always wanted. My own apartment, a car, and plenty of women. And still, goddammit, I’m lonely, “as much as he is successful he doesn’t feel fully accomplished. This is because Happy still views the value of life similar to that of his father a life that focuses on the ideas of the American Dream such as being liked and being attractive. Happy and Willy both live under the false pretense of these ideas which ultimately leads them to an unhappy life and they both ﬁnd refuge from their discontentment in women who appraise them for being successful businessman. As for Happy’s name its known in this play to be ironic because his name literally means content and displaying positivity when in reality he is not happy at all. Happy is the embodiment of the superﬁcial ideas of the American Dream. On the other hand, Biff is compelled to seek the truth in himself and evolves away from the perceived ideals of his father. Biff is aware of the falseness of his father’s dreams and by the end of the play. Biff was able to reconcile the conﬂict between the falseness of his father’s dreams as well by understanding that the American Dream is one that identiﬁes hard work as success. Willy’s father and brother were lucky enough to find success in Alaska and Africa, which affects willy emotionally and metally by trapping himself in an unpleasant outlook on his life.Although willy believes, “He explicitly views himself in an idealmanner as a successful father and salesman, but his suicide attempts, which occur when he is in a semicon- scious dream-state, suggest the presence of deep-seated feelings of self-doubt,” which ultimetly leads himself down a deeper whole because he feels all theses emotions, even if it is his father and brother who bring theses emotions out on him.
When it comes down to Willy’s personality he continues to deceive himself as he boasts himself saying he’s “‘known up and down in New England,’ when in reality he has never met the mayor and is not known by everyone which are the qualiﬁes that he aimlessly attempts to achieve. The wire recorder that Howard plays is such an important symbol because of Willy’s perception of himself because is what draws Howard, Willy is unable to do the same. This further amplifies the imbalance in his mind which causes him to perceive himself falsely. From the scholarly article one point that is brought up that Willy never admitted but we can tell from reading is his shame by discussing “implicit negative self representation , Willy self aggrandised, and self promotes, striving desperation to attain success that promotes feeling of hubris” this amplifies his shame and rings out his true narcissistic side of himself.
Overall a big part of the American Dream has to do with modern times because it’s still such a major desire that everybody wants dating back from the nineteenth century till now till modern times. Willy was on the verge of trying to find his goals and achieve them as for his sons Biff finally realized his beliefs are far better of without the mindset of his father overcrowding his thoughts of needing popularity and needing to be the most successful. Happy was the fine example of this because he was successful and pulled girls and even than it wasn’t enough. As for Willy he never quite got what he wanted. Everyone interprets their American dream differently. Overall one should just be happy and be surrounded by family. In this case, Willy Loman is the ultimate definition of a man who will stop at nothing to be seen as a hero even if it means ending his life to be able to provide for his family through the insurance. Willy thinks he’s being a hero in his eyes but seen as a narcissistic person in others.
Similarities Of American Beauty And Death of a Salesman Novels
Critical Essay for English Individual Study
“The characters in the texts deal with a shallow concept of success”
Discuss in relation to Sam Mendes’ American Beauty and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.
“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” (Oscar Wilde)
While the American Dream is much more attainable for the average person in America today, it still fails to fulfill and satisfy the deeper needs of a people trapped in a material culture. The study of Sam Mendes’ American Beauty alongside Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman exposes various similarities inherent in the values possessed by the central protagonists of the texts. Both Mendes and Miller explore the notion of the American Dream: While Mendes presents it as a shallow and un-fulfilling goal, Miller shows how such a dream in unattainable for the American Everyman in the late 1940s. One can follow the progression of this Everyman from the post-depression era to America in the present and come to the realisation that, following Freud’s teachings, what has been repressed of the individual, has not been fulfilled. Both Mendes and Miller explore a similar sense of success but in the comparison of the texts, it is evident that the American Dream has left people empty and in denial of reality reflected in the characters Lester Burnham and Willy Loman.
The American Dream is shallow success. It is a cycle of tragedy that has revolved in families and society for over fifty years. Mendes examines success when there is a ‘happy family’, a large house and a ‘normal’ job. American Beauty is an ambiguous title for a film that delves deeply into the ugliness of American suburbia. Mendes presents beauty, American beauty, as success. Angela is successful because she is beautiful, Lester is successful because he is ordinary. His wife Carol is successful because she has a mowed green lawn and beautifully pruned roses. Lester Burnham is a man who has been failed by monetary goods. The film documents his ‘mid-life crisis’ when his desires are focused on the sexuality of his own daughter’s best friend. America has become a country where money can buy everything, even, Lester believes, happiness. Lester uses Angela as a tool to recover his youth, using her like a prostitute.
There’s beauty in ordinary things, in everyday life. Ricky sees beauty in a plastic bag, “dancing with him,” in a homeless woman and a dead bird. Mendes contrasts Ricky to Lester who sees beauty in Angela who reflects a typical image of an American Beauty. Ricky says to Angela, “you’re boring. And you’re totally ordinary. And you know it.”
The American Dream promotes ordinariness that is comforting. Lester tires, however, of being driven by society’s ideals and in trying to create an individualism, he turns to find American conformity in another form.
Carol thinks that beauty is the roses in her garden. Lester thinks that Angela is beautiful. Mendes shows that beauty is neither, beauty is truth and real love, all of the things that are discarded when trying to obtain monetary success.
In Freudian fashion, American Beauty is about sexuality and the desire people have to be associated with youth. Angela is used by Mendes as a symbol of how love and happiness is mistaken for sex and sexuality. Lester is attracted to this false happiness and is disillusioned to discover that Angela is a virgin. He assumed that
While the film has a satirical nature, its comedy is dark. It is a reflection, a truth of everyday tragedy that is not death in the literal understanding but the death of something much deeper.
Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman attacks the American Dream at a time when such an ambition was unrealistic. Miller’s play differs from American Beauty in that it explores a Marxist approach to American success. The death of the Salesman refers to the death of the sales that Capitalism promotes. Miller explores the death of the American Dream for society, the state of death it causes for an individual like Willy Loman.
Miller, influenced by Marxism, promoting the self-emancipation of the working class, shows that for every worker life is hard, and that everything in life that is worthwhile has to be worked and struggled for. Willy expects that if he is well liked he will not have to try. He relies upon the promise of the American Dream and aspires to his brother Ben, “That man was success incarnateWalked into a jungle, and comes out, the age of twenty-one, and he’s rich.”
We become aware that Willy is self-conscious and insecure. It concerns and upset him that he can’t achieve the success that he imagines. He is an ordinary man but he lives an illusion that he is well liked and ‘successful’ in the American sense of the word. Willy masks his ordinariness as Angela masks hers, failing to believe that he is what his son Biff tells him he is, “A dime a dozen.” Happy, Willy’s son, reflects the cyclical nature of the American Dream in American society passed from generation to generation. Defending his father he argues, “He had a good dream. Its the only dream you can have.” Biff, Miller’s symbol of truth and reality, realises that his father died in vain, “He had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong.” Willy, like Lester, fought and died repressed by social conformity.
The American Dream is a repression of one’s self for the sake of conformity, a repression that is not compensated by money. The allure of such ‘success’ satisfies only the shallow exterior. Ricky says, “There is this life behind things.” Mendes and Miller show how there is life behind people that are suppressed by a pursuit of money, of success. Mendes tells us, through Ricky, that Angela is not beautiful and Lester not successful. He tells us to open our eyes to the realm natural beauty in the world, to see what Lester does not see, that the further he tries to access ‘success,’ the further he strays from it. It is in comparing American Beauty to Death of a Salesman that one sees the similarities in the characters of Lester and Willy. Both of these men have families and the potential to be happy, but in attempting to find money, they push their families aside and lose the more stable chance of being fulfilled.
Willy tried to fulfil himself through promoting his masculinity while Lester tried to fulfil himself through trying to re-establish a sense of youth. Both of these men failed because they relied on the American Dream of which Death of a Salesman is a Marxist critique and American Beauty a Freudian one.
In the similarities of the texts, there existed an underling and universal longing for success as characterised by the American Dream: A longing that linked inextricably to the tragedy that befell both Lester and Willy. Ultimately both Lester and Willy’s desire for success ends in tragedy likened somewhat to the ambition of Macbeth or the downfall of King Oedipus. Only in being able to see who we are and acknowledging the flaws in our characters are we able to seek and find true beauty and success. In comparing and Contrasting American Beauty to Death of a Salesman, it is apparent that American society is trapped in a cycle of false hopes and unattainable happiness.
A Key to a Successful Life in Death of a Salesman American Dream
Is popularity truly the key to a successful life? Throughout Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the desire to be well liked becomes an obsession for the main character, Willy Loman. Willy is a sixty-three year old salesman who constantly strives for success in order to provide for his wife, Linda, and his two sons, Biff and Happy. However, his idea of success comes from a flawed vision of the American Dream that focuses on being popular and attractive. The confused father is so determined to create the perfect family of the American Dream that he becomes incapable of accepting the difference between the Dream and his own life. Consequently, Willy Loman’s need to be well liked leads him to develop a misunderstanding of reality regarding his career, the care of his sons, and the love that his family offers him.
By believing that popularity leads to success, Willy becomes delusional as to how the business world actually works. Instead of working hard and earning success, the aging salesman relies on his likability. When their bills begin to pile up, Willy states to his wife, “I’ll knock ‘em dead next week. I’ll go to Hartford. I’m very well liked in Hartford” (23). This attitude causes Mr. Loman to lose sight of the need for hard work in business. Also, when trying to figure out why he is not making many sales and earning more money, Willy blames it on his weight and that he may not be “dressing to advantage” (24). He avoids the fact that he does mediocre work and even feels worthy enough to ask his boss, Howard, for an easier, non-traveling job. While asking for the job, Willy mentions his friendship with Howard’s father in the hopes that their close relationship gives him an advantage. Even after Howard responds, “It’s a business, kid, and everybody’s gotta pull his own weight,” (60), Willy fights for the job. He believes that he deserves it but his lack of hard work leads his boss to fire him. Confused, the newly unemployed man questions the decision and explains, “I always felt that if a man was impressive, and well liked that nothing—” (75). The salesman constantly depends on his popularity and physical appearance to get ahead at work but, in the end, his warped idea of the business world leads him to lose his job.
In addition to his troubles with work, Willy’s flawed way of life makes him become a misguided father. Despite what is actually right, he teaches his sons, Biff and Happy, that popularity is essential for success and grades do not matter. When Biff’s intelligent classmate, Bernard, pushes Biff to study, Willy assures his sons that they will do much better in the business world than Bernard because “the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want” (21). The disoriented father even says that Biff’s football coach would not be mad about Biff stealing a ball “because he likes you” (18). Willy never yells at Biff for stealing or earning poor grades because he wants his sons to like him and have faith in the lessons they are taught. At times, Biff and Happy’s father even encourages their thefts by declaring, “I got a couple of fearless characters there” (35). Also, he often tells them the story of how his brother, Ben, gains his riches “on the basis of being well liked” (65-6). Willy teaches Biff and Happy these lessons in order for them to be successful but, ironically, his teachings lead them to fail just like him. He remains so warped by his beliefs that they shield him from thinking logically as a good father.
Above all, Willy Loman’s desire to be well liked becomes so crucial that he is unable to accept love from his family. Despite the fact that Willy yells at his wife, Linda, and orders her around frequently, she shows a deep love for him. Linda regularly encourages her husband by proclaiming, “Well, next week you’ll do better,” (23) and, “Darling, you’re the handsomest man in the world” (24). She understands the difference between Willy as a provider and Willy as her husband, something that he is never able to recognize in his warped reality. He lives in a world where he needs to be well liked, not well loved. Therefore, he disregards Linda’s love and looks at his reality with her as him simply being “the salesman” with a wife and two sons. For this reason, Willy cheats on Linda with the woman, who is nothing more than a tool for him to feel well liked. Finally, at a very momentous part of the play, the father discovers, “Biff—he likes me” (106) but is soon corrected by Linda who claims, “He loves you, Willy” (106). This inability to understand Biff’s love truly shows how delusional Willy has become. Therefore, the salesman’s obsession with being liked makes him have a difficult time understanding love.
Due to his flawed idea of the key to success, Willy Loman develops a warped reality of his work, fatherhood and love in general. He becomes a failure in the business world because he puts no effort into his job. The salesman also disappoints as a father by raising his sons with the same foolish morals that he lives by. Eventually, Willy is even unable to accept the love from his own family. He has taught himself to live in a world where he must be liked by everyone to triumph, but, in reality, this leads him to fail as a businessman, a father, and a husband. By believing that popularity is essential in accomplishing the American Dream, Willy and many others lose sight of the true key to success. The need to be well liked gets in the way of hard work for the salesman and keeps him from becoming someone better. In this way, Death of a Salesman teaches a valuable lesson that popularity can only get a person so far in life. He or she must earn the rest through their dedication, commitment and overall hard work.
Interpersonal Conflict in a Streetcar Named Desire And Death Of a Salesman
Dramatic conflicts arise when dominant individuals or groups regard themselves as the norm against which others are to be measured. With reference to specific scenes from at least two plays you have studied, discuss the significance of such conflicts and how they are explored.
Both Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, illustrate a shift in social norms to the current post-war, industrialized, patriarchy-dominated 1950s America; while in Streetcar, the norm transforms from the Old, Southern aristocracy to the working-class achieving the American Dream, in Salesman, Miller illustrates a shift in what the American Dream represents and how it can be achieved, from Willy’s ‘well-liked’ philosophy to a capitalist-driven mindset. Because of both protagonists’ inability to adapt to this norm, dramatic conflicts between other characters arise; in Streetcar, Blanche’s incongruity to the new world drives her clash with Stanley, the main antagonist, while in Salesman, Willy’s stubborn belief in the merits of being ‘well-liked’ instead of working hard creates conflict with Howard. The discordance between past and current cultures, evident in the antagonistic relationships, is central to the dramatic conflicts in both plays; the protagonists’ inability to adapt to the dominant paradigm shift is their ultimate downfall.
In Streetcar, Williams immediately establishes Blanche’s incongruity with her surroundings (and thus New America) in the opening, foreshadowing possible conflicts that would arise from this. Both Blanche’s origin – ‘Belle Reve’, which translates to a beautiful dream in French, and destination – ‘Elysian Fields’, a place for the dead in Greek mythology, suggest that the Aristocratic South she represents is no longer the norm. It is evident in the stage directions that ‘her appearance is incongruous to the surroundings’ – she wears showy, white clothes, which is contrasted against the ‘atmosphere of decay’ of New Orleans. Though Williams’ use of “white” connotes purity, the showy nature of the clothes suggests this may merely be a veneer. Because showy items are also fragile and white is prone to dirt, Williams implies this façade of innocence will be broken at some point of the play, hinting at possible dramatic conflict. Blanche is introduced to be in ‘shocked disbelief’ (through the stage directions) at the conditions Stella lives in, suggesting a culture shock. Her hysterical attitude towards these, emphasized by the stage direction ‘sat stiffly’, accentuate her discomfort and her incongruity with these conditions. It is only after she furtively ‘tosses down’ a glass of whisky that she starts to relax in this new environment, as alcohol is used to forget. The use of tossing back, a fast-paced action, suggests she is addicted, while her furtive manner implies that she wishes to keep this addiction hidden. Yet her choice to escape from the harsh reality by furtively drinking rather than adjusting to the conditions foreshadows future conflict – she cannot escape this reality forever. It is evident that Blanche’s disparity with and inability to adapt to her surroundings, which represent post-war America, will contribute to dramatic conflict through interactions with Stanley, the embodiment of the new social norm.
Similarly, the opening of Miller’s Salesman also illustrates Willy’s incompatibility with the capitalist environment, hinting at conflicts later on in the play. The house is initially described to be ‘surrounded at all sides’ by ‘towering, angular shapes.’ Miller illustrates an ominous image of tall buildings, which represent the capitalist world, looming over the small house, suffocating the Lomans. The use of “angular” accentuates this ominous image – it is unfriendly. This implies that the house and its residents are incongruous to the setting, and may be replaced soon by another building – the Lomans don’t coexist with the New America. This is further developed by Willy’s claim that they were boxed in by ‘bricks and windows, windows and bricks,’ which also generates a trapped feeling, further emphasized by the repetition and use of “bricks”, which has connotations of (). Through the inferiority and suffocating atmosphere surrounding the Lomans’ home, Miller hints that this discordance with the capitalist world may cause conflict throughout the play and become Willy’s ultimate downfall. Moreover, the stage directions also state that ‘an air of dream clings to the place.’ Miller generates a fantasy-like atmosphere to the Lomans’ home, implying that it may not be long-lasting, foreshadowing Willy’s end. Lastly, the opening scene also establishes Willy’s mental state. When he arrives home, through Miller’s use of stage directions and dialogue, it is immediately evident that Linda is overly concerned for Willy – she ‘treads carefully, delicately’ and talks with ‘some trepidation.’ This is juxtaposed against Willy’s repeated, vehement denial of any occurrences, exasperatedly claiming ‘nothing happened.’ This exchange – Linda’s gentleness and worry contrasted with Willy’s denials — generates unease within the audience and creates conflict between the couple as Miller hints at Willy’s mental state. Lastly, Miller reveals the root of Linda’s worries as she asks ‘you didn’t smash the car did you?’ By referencing the car, aside from accentuating Willy’s instability, Miller employs Chekov’s gun and foreshadows Willy’s eventual suicide. Through Willy’s disparity with his surroundings, which represent capitalist America, and the opening lines, which provide a glimpse at his mental state, Miller implies that these will contribute to dramatic conflict.
Furthermore, Blanche’s conflicts with Stanley in Streetcar, which exemplify Stanley’s aggression, highlight the current social norm’s dominance over the old culture, thus leading to Blanche’s downfall. The discordance between cultures is evident in Stanley’s poker night. When Blanche enters and tells the men ‘please don’t get up’, Stanley counters with ‘nobody’s going to get up.’ Stanley’s rude, brusque reply illustrates his annoyance at Blanche’s expectations highlighting the contrast in ideals between Blanche and Stanley and generating dramatic tension and conflict. Moreover, Williams’ depiction of Stanley’s vehement disapproval of Blanche using the radio during their poker night despite the other men enjoying it creates conflict. After Blanche turns the radio on the second time, rather than switching it off again, Stanley shouts then ‘tosses the radio out of the window.’ Through his forceful, brute, rash behavior, implied by ‘tosses out the window’ Stanley exhibits his superiority, excessively reacting when Blanche challenges his authority: by destroying the radio, Stanley ensures it cannot be played again. Aside from creating dramatic conflict and tension, this action allows Stanley to assert his dominance over Blanche. Moreover, through Miller’s choice of romantic music playing on the radio, throwing it away may also represent Stanley’s hatred for the Aristocratic South and the old society’s death, despite Blanche attempting to revive it. Lastly, these conflicts culminate in the rape scene where Stanley ultimately dominates. ‘We’ve had this date from the beginning’ illustrates the inevitability of Stanley dominating Blanche, and thus the New America overpowering the Old. This is further emphasized by Blanche’s helplessness when Stanley ‘grabs her wrist’ as she hits him with the broken bottle. ‘Grabbing’ is a violent action that renders her attempt to defend herself useless. Also, Blanche’s reliance on a broken bottle contrasted with Stanley’s grabbing highlights the disparity in strength between Blanche and Stanley. Moreover, the reference to Stanley as ‘tiger, tiger’ further accentuates his physical, brute strength – tigers are powerful animals. Blanche’s naïve belief that she can shape the harsh reality to meet her fantasies and relive the Aristocratic society is dissolved. The result of the conflicts is represented by the tearing down of Blanche’s paper lantern, used to dim the light (a symbol of truth), in the last scene, signifying the prevalence of the new social norm against the old South she represents; her inability to adjust to the new society is her downfall.
Moreover, Willy’s interaction Howard, which highlights his discordance with the social norm, contributes to dramatic conflict. When Willy initially enters his office, rather than starting with Willy’s reasons for entering, Howard shows off his ‘wire recorder’ and his children’s recordings. The contrast between the advanced ‘wire recorder’ and Willy’s suitcase highlight the change in social norms; it is evident that Willy has been left behind. Willy’s obsequiousness is clearly illustrated as he urges Howard on and excessively fawns over it: ‘that is lifelike, isn’t it?’, ‘you’re very good!’. Miller suggests that Willy is using his sycophantic nature and ‘well-liked’ philosophy to soften Howard before asking to be relocated to New York. His failure to do so (even losing his job) represents the lack of success of this ‘well-liked’ belief Willy so stubbornly clings onto. This is also evident with the juxtaposition between Willy repeating “your father” 6 times throughout his interaction with Howard, reminding him of the length of his service, and Howard referring to Willy as “kid” 6 times, despite Willy’s obvious seniority (in terms of age). Howard’s patronizing, which creates conflict, highlights the rise of the capitalist society and Willy’s inability to adapt to it, leading to his firing; loyalties and being “well-liked”, which Willy clings upon, no longer matter with Howard as the new boss. Howard’s condescension is further evident in stage directions and dialogue: Miller illustrates him to be ‘barely interested’, he repeats ‘I got to see some people’ as if Willy wasn’t worth his time, claims that ‘business is business’, and leaves his office as Willy tries to beg for his job. Howard’s uncaring attitude, coupled with his matter-of-fact tone, depicts Willy’s failures as a salesman and his inability to command respect in this new social norm, leading to his downfall and generating conflict between the two. Throughout the argument, the audience pities Willy and resents Howard, but Willy’s failure – losing his job – is inevitable due to his failure to adjust to the capitalist norm.
In conclusion, the protagonists’ stubbornness to cling onto the past social norm – while in Streetcar it is the Aristocratic South, in Salesman it is the ‘well-liked’ philosophy – and their inability to adapt to the present social norm fuels the dramatic conflict of the play as they struggle with the dominant groups, ultimately leading to their downfall.
Self-Destruction in Death of a Salesman and The Stone Angel
Though often unintentional, individuals can be responsible for their own devastating turn of events. This is best exemplified in Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller and The Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence. Death of a Salesman follows the life of Willy Loman, a failing salesman who is obsessed with living the “American dream”. Similarly, The Stone Angel follows Hagar Shipley, a pessimistic 90-year-old woman who constantly reflects on her difficult past. Both Hagar Shipley and Willy Loman possess undesirable qualities that ultimately lead to their self-destruction in life. Both characters have a toxic sense of pride, live in the past, and make poor decisions.
First, both characters have excessive pride. Willy Loman’s pride distorts his self-image – he convinces himself that he is a well-liked and successful salesman. For instance, Willy says, “I’m the New England man. I’m vital in New England’ (Miller 4). Willy, obviously delusional, makes himself believe that he is powerful in the sales world, while others know this is not true. For example, his wife Linda says, “Willie Loman never made a lot of money (…) He’s not the finest character that ever lived” (Miller 40). Willy’s false perception of himself ultimately destroys his reputation – the people around him are unable to take him seriously, because they know he is not as successful as he proclaims to be. Similarly, Willy’s pride is displayed when his neighbour, Charley, offers him a job. Too arrogant to acknowledge he is a failing salesman, Willy decides to keep his unpaying job, and continues to borrow money from Charley to pay for his insurance. This also contributes to Willy’s self-destruction; incapable of accepting help from the people around him, he ends up in debt from borrowing money. Similarly, Hagar in The Stone Angel believes that showing her emotions will make herself look weak. Her pride makes her bottle her true feelings, regardless of how painful the circumstances are. This is demonstrated when Hagar says, ‘The night my son died I was transformed to stone and never wept at all’ (Laurence 243). Like the stone angel, Hagar is unmoved after her son’s death, so she never gets closure. Consequently, she still thinks about him in her old age, which contributes to her destruction because she inflicts sadness upon herself. Hagar’s pride also makes her extremely stubborn. Since her father believes Bram Shipley is as, “Common as dirt” (Laurence 51), she decides to marry him out of spite which makes her miserable. Later realizing that Bram is an embarrassing drunk, Hagar is driven to leave him, forcing her to support herself and her son, John, independently. Evidently, Willy and Hagar are responsible for negatively impacting their own lives. They fail to realize when they are being too stubborn, which ultimately leads to their sorrow.
Second, both characters choose to live in the past. For example, Willy constantly daydreams about his past, and this contributes to his self-destruction. He begins to reflect on the times with his son, Biff, when he says, “God.. remember that Ebbets Field game? (…) When that team came out – he was the tallest, remember?” (Miller 54). Willy remembers when he was proud of his athletic son, and consequently, his resentment towards Biff builds up in the present because he fails to live up to his high expectations. Willy daydreams to escape from the realities of his current life, which makes him miserable because he remembers when he was happy. Willy’s flashbacks also deteriorate his mental wellbeing. For example, Biff says, “God Almighty, Mom, how long has he been doing this? (…) What the hell is the matter with him?” (Miller 38). As Willy’s past and present begin to intertwine, others see him talking to himself, clearly proving that Willy lacks emotional stability. Comparatively, Hagar in The Stone Angel destroys her own life because she spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about her distressing, vivid past. For instance, Hagar says, ‘How long have I been standing here with lowered head, twiddling with the silken stuff that covers me? Now I am mortified, apologetic (…)” (Laurence 57). As Hagar is consumed in her daydreams, she loses awareness of her surroundings and she is often disoriented when she reconnects in the present. Furthermore, reminiscing the past distracts her from appreciating and sustaining the only relationships she has. While her son, Marvin, and his wife, Doris, consider moving Hagar to an old-age home, Hagar says, “If it were John, he’d not consign his mother to the poorhouse” (Laurence 81). Constantly thinking about her deceased son makes her unappreciative of those that are only trying to help her. Since Hagar has an uncooperative and bitter attitude, she is entirely responsible for the dysfunctional and stressful relationship she has with her family. Overall, since Willy and Hagar constantly think about the past, they destroy their emotional and mental wellbeing, thus proving they are accountable for their personal destruction.
Lastly, both characters make faulty decisions throughout their lives. For instance, as Willy enters a daydream, he remembers a time where his rich brother, Ben, encouraged him to work with him in Alaska to earn a great living. Ben tells him,“There’s a new continent at your doorstep, William. You could walk out rich” (Miller 66). Foolishly, Willy declines his offer to pursue being a salesman, eventually leading to his failed career and debt. Moreover, Willy is still regretful because he had the opportunity to become very successful. Another major decision Willy makes is deciding to kill himself. Even though Willy has some deep-rooted issues, his suicide is mainly driven by the fact that his insurance money can provide Biff with money needed to obtain the “American dream”. When Happy tells Biff to continue being business partners at Willy’s funeral, Biff declines, saying, “I know who I am, kid” (Miller 138). Ultimately, Willy’s suicide is unnecessary, because Biff still avoids pursuing business after Willy sacrifces his life. Similarly, a major decision Hagar makes is leaving her husband, Bram, to escape her horrible marriage. Although this was an act of her independence, she ultimately decides to isolate her son, John, from his father. This leads to Hagar’s self-destruction, because when John decides to take care of Bram when he is ill, she feels betrayed and tries to deter him from leaving. For instance, Hagar says to John, “He never showed much interest in you before. If he wants you back now it’s to get even with me” (Laurence 180). Hagar’s pain is inflicted on herself because it was never her place to assume that John did not want a relationship with Bram as he grew older. Likewise, to avoid staying at an old-age home, Hagar decides to run away from her family to stay at a cottage in Shadow Point. Isolated, she becomes very sick and weak. For example, Hagar says, “I hurt all over, but the worst is that I’m helpless. I grow enraged” (Laurence 207). Since her poor decision making motivates her to run away from her family, she is ultimately responsible for her own pain. Ultimately, instead of living in a nice senior home, Hagar spends her last valuable moments of life alone before she is taken to a hospital. To conclude, Willy and Hagar’s questionable life decisions lead to their regret and misfortune, proving they are responsible for their self-destruction.
Since Willy Loman and Hagar Shipley are flawed in their own ways, they are both responsible for destroying their lives. Undoubtedly, their toxic sense of pride influences the way they view themselves and contributes to their stubborn personality. Similarly, constantly thinking about the past keeps them from appreciating what they have in the present, leading to failed relationships and sadness. Though Willy and Hagar have good intentions, they often fail to recognize their poor decision making, which ultimately leads them to their misery. A person’s flaws do not determine the outcome of their life, though, their inability to accept and fix their imperfections certainly does.
The Misguided American Dream: Criticism of ‘the American Dream’ in ‘Death of a Salesman’
The American dream is something every American strives to achieve. “Most American believe that everyone has the right to pursue success but that only some deserve to win, based on their talent, effort, or ambition. The American dream is egalitarian at the starting point in the ‘race of life,’ but not at the end”. The American dream is a happy way of living where a hard-working person becomes very successful in their own way: having a well-paying job, a loving spouse, a gorgeous home, fancy car, beautiful children and a stable income. “the materialism of American society has led to the development of a problematically selfish, materialistic and success-oriented ethics”. Families push too hard to get to the place where they feel that they have to achieve this dream when they do not realize that they are living the American dream becoming materialistic, greedy, and power hungry; this case in the life of the Loman Family.
Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,’ tells the story of a man, Willy Loman where his American dream is different from the true definition of the American dream, but most of us relate to Willy’s dream of triumph. We are all partners of the American dream where sometimes failures must outnumber successes. The Loman’s are the stereotypical American family in the 1940s. Linda and Willy are a middle-class family with two sons named Biff and Happy. “Willy’s own career as a salesman begins in the early part of the twentieth century, when it was, as Willy tells his sons, ‘personality’ that was considered the salesman’s greatest asset. His job was to make friends with the buyers and merchants, so they would buy what he was selling was selling. The product itself was not all that important. With the growth of mass production, however, the pressure increased on the salesman to move merchandise in order to keep up the volume of prod Willy’s generation came into its maturity, married, and raised children during the 1920s, there was a good deal of pressure to sell merchandise, but it was relatively easy to do since the American business economy was enjoying one of the greatest periods of prosperity”. Willy is a traveling salesman who is the breadwinner in the family while Linda, a housewife who cooks, cleans, and takes care of her full-grown children, sounds like a happy normal family, but Willy is disappointed in his sons especially Biff because they do not meet their father’s specifications of his American dream. “Biff Loman is lost. in the greatest country in the world a young man with such-personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hard worker. There is one thing about Biff-he is not lazy”. In Willy’s eyes, Biff is a bum because he is living with his parents at the age of thirty-four not finding himself. “How can he find himself? Is that a life? A farmhand? In the beginning, when he was young, I thought, well, a young man, it is good for him to tramp around, take a lot of different jobs. But it is more than ten years now and he has yet to make thirty-five dollars a week. Biff’s dream is to work on the farm because he is very good working with his hands. Willy considers him a failure in his eyes and Biff is betraying him because he will not follow his father’s expectations being well-liked by others in order to be successful in life. “You and Hap and I, and I will show you all the towns. America is full of beautiful towns and fine, understanding people. And they know me, boys, they know me up and down New England. The finest people. And when I bring you fellas up, there will be sesame for all of us, ‘cause one thing boys: I have friends”. In Willy’s perspective to obtain the American dream is that any man who is appealing, valiant and well-liked deserves success and will obtain it. “Willy believes that life’s problems can be solved by looking ‘Well-liked.’ But he does not realize the fact that the age in which he is living, the good looks does not matter, what matters is the wealth you have. By wealth you can buy anything. All relations are useless before almighty dollar”.
Willy also focused on getting his sons to follow his American dream ideas, he raises them to believe that they will be very successful in life and school is the least important, it is very important to liked by everyone. “Buff Loman when, as an athlete, he evoked affection and admiration from the people around him. His life seemed full of promises, with a choice of three college scholarships to signify the abundance of future success life can offer the already successful”. Being well-liked is not the key to the American dream, Willy did not believe that school was important to obtain success, however, school plays a major role to obtain the American dream, being highly educated, with scholarship opportunities and people who admire you are key factors to obtain the American dream. Biff was following the right path to the American dream but it contradicts Willy’s perspective of the American dream.
Happy Loman, Willy’s youngest son Happy resembled him in many ways. “Happy is still deluded into thinking that the only important dream is to come out number one man”. He believed his father’s theory that success comes from being wee-liked by others. Willy always bragged and boasted about Happy having all the women. Being a womanizer was a part of Willy’s dream, which is not what the American dream is. “I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have- to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him”. “Happy is essentially the embodiment of his father’s views, thus further emphasizes the narcissism caused by it. This is evident by their shared traits that could be regarded as narcissistic. Consequently, he displays many similar traits of narcissism seen in Willy”. This shows that Happy is following his father’s footsteps. He will try to succeed but will eventually fail. Willy did die in vain and there is nothing he can do to change that.
Willy Loman is living a lie. He pretends that he has all the things he needs to complete his American dream, “struggling to be at one with society”. Willy struggles to be happy, he is always depressed. He tries to make himself feel better by lying to himself. In his world of concoction, Willy is a very successful salesman, “I was sellin’ thousands and thousands”, “The consequences of failing to attain prominence and to transform society into a home are loneliness, frustration, and ultimately despair. Because Loman deeps gratification to take social form, his life is crushed by indifference, criticisms, rejection, and abandonment”. “Willy’s self-esteem is unstable, ranging from extreme arrogance too, at times, desperate self-pity”. He is very arrogant telling everyone he has two sons who are also very rich and successful in life, but in reality, Willy is not popular, or well-liked and he never will be. “I don’t say he’s a great man. Willy Loman never made of money. His name was never in the paper. He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog”. Willy’s failure was caused by poorly chosen life goals. He begins to believe that the American dream and the promise that anyone appealing, well-liked and valiant is nothing but a tall tale. “Willy is unsuccessful to the extent that he cannot make a living and has to be supported by others, and eventually loses his job; he is unpopular to the extent that almost nobody attends his funeral; and as a father he witnesses his young sons turn into dropouts, good-for-nothings, who are full of hostility against him”. “The two failures that Willy experiences – the metal and the economic – are staged by Miller as intrinsically related to each other on the ideological and psychological level: it is partly due to his economic breakdown that Willy becomes increasingly irrational, and partly due to irrationally that he fails in business. Both failures make his life worthless, painful, and unjustifiable in his own eyes”. In a war with himself, he refuses to accept what he truly is a normal, old middle-class man, so his inner and outer conflicts destroy him.
Linda Loman had beliefs in the American dream. She believes that anyone can achieve it. She always criticizes her sons for not living up to their father’s potential and not being more attentive and understanding.”You’re doing well enough, Willy”! “Linda remained loyal, but her constancy cannot help Loman. She can play no significant role in her husband’s dreams; and although she proves occasionally capable of dramatic outbursts, she lacks the imagination and strength to hold her family together or help Loman define a new life without grandiose hopes of Biff”. Linda loves her husband very much, she always have her husband’s back, however, Willy is having an affair with another woman. Having many women was another part of his American dream which is unacceptable. Will becomes more erratic and his dementia becomes worse than ever and begins to talk to himself; creating an imaginary world where his sons are living his America dream. “He’s the dearest man in the world to me, and I won’t have anyone making him feel unwanted and low and blue. You’ve got to make up your mind now, darling, there’s no leeway anymore. Either he’s your father and you pay him that respect or, else you’re not to come here. I know he’s not easy to get along with – nobody knows that better than me”. Linda believes if her sons follow their dad’s path and become successful, Willy’s psychological problem will heal itself. She does not believe Willy’s meaning of the American dream, but she believes her sons are the only hope for Willy’s mental health.
Willy’s Chevrolet was very superior to him. In the 1490s, Chevrolet made the best-selling cars in America; they symbolized suburbia and the American dream. “Chevrolet, Linda, is the greatest car ever built”. Even though cars that Willy’s is a dream come true; however, cars begin to break down as the age. “That goddam Chevrolet, they ought to prohibit the manufacture of that car”. Once again nothing was good as it as what Willy dreamed, everything does not last forever and that is something Willy has trouble realizing it. Willy uses the car to draw attention to his condition. “He explicitly views himself in an idealized manner as a successful father and salesman, but his suicide attempts, which occur when he is in a semiconscious dream-state, suggest the presence of deep-seated feelings of self-doubt. throughout the story, Willy had multiple accidents in the car which were failed suicide attempts. The car symbolizes power and mobility which are symbols in Willy’s desperate, unmeaningful, crumbling life.
Throughout Willy’s life, he tried to obtain the American dream but failed numerous times. His life became nothing but a heap of futility. He realized that his life was filled with loneliness and darkness. The loneliness and bitter darkness destroyed his happiness. To redeem himself from the pain and failures, he commits suicide by crashing the car. Willy spent his life trying to obtain the American dream but fails because in this his American dream is being good-looking, valiant, and being well-liked by others is not the American dream. Willy was not liked by many people. No one even showed up to his funeral except his family. “in 1928 I had a big year. I averaged a hundred and seventy dollars a week in commission’. Willy’s mind was getting the best of him, In his man he was living his American dream but in reality, he was willing an ordinary life that filled with deceit and darkness.
Willy Loman was an average American who wanted to pursue the American dream, where a person has a well-paying job, family, car, and children. Willy did not see the true meaning of an American dream. In his mind, being successful is being well-known by many people but in reality being wealthy is the American dream. Willy was not wealthy, he has been living a lie throughout his life pretending to be a successful salesman with successful sons who also did not find their American dream which made him crazy and delusional. Will push too hard to get to the place where they feel that they have to achieve this dream when they do not realize that they are living the American dream. Willy would have had a better life living the American dream if he did was not so self-centered and letting his children live their own lives instead of living through theirs.
Nostalgy in a Play Death Of a Dream
In the play, Death of a Salesman by Author Miller, the play focuses on the nostalgic dreams of the main character. The Lomans, especially Willy, pay particular attention to these dreams while fearing that these goals are unreachable. Yet this fear is necessary to the hope; Willy would much rather dream than succeed. It is the destruction of his dream that destroys him, not its failure. Willy Loman, the central character of the play, dreams of achieving the American Dream, wealth. He dreams of success in business. He wants to be liked by all, the quality which he believes is a major token to success. He also wants his sons to follow in his footsteps and be popular and well-liked.
During the actual time of the play, however, Willy’s dreams have obviously failed. He is a sixty-year-old salesman whose friends have all died. He later gets fired halfway through the play. One of his sons is a farmhand, the other is in the business world as assistant to an assistant. Willy spends the play thinking back on his better days and often believing that they are reality. His obsession with dreams prevents him from seeing the wreck of his life. Willy does not want to acknowledge the turn his life has taken, and uses his daydreams to escape the knowledge. He even acts on them, refusing to salvage the present if it means breaking from his goal. He desperately entreats Howard, his boss, to give him a job, and is willing to accept absurdly low wages to continue being a salesman, even a salesman who does not sell anything.
After Howard refuses, the unemployed Willy will not accept a gift of fifty dollars a week from his pragmatic friend Charley. To take this salary would be to concede defeat, even though it would save his family. Charley repeatedly asks Willy, ‘When are you going to grow up?’ and Charley’s son Bernard, a practical, studious teenager who becomes a high-placed lawyer, advises Willy that sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away from failure. Yet Willy will not walk away from his dreams. Yet sometimes he wonders if he was right to dream in the first place. His doubts take the form of his dead brother Ben, who made a fortune in African diamonds and Alaskan lumber. Ben urges Willy to seek the real, the practical, that which can be felt, inviting him to go to Alaska to work with real lumber. Still, Ben is nothing more than a phantasm, a shape who is himself unreal. He is the only one of Willy’s imaginings who addresses him in the present world, noticing his surroundings and having conversations that are clearly not memories. He may be a symbol of Willy’s distress, but he is no more substantial than that: he is Willy’s model for an imaginary success and his very presence emphasizes the impossibility of Willy’s goal.
Men who walk into the jungle at seventeen and come out rich at twenty-one do not exist; the only truly successful people in the play are the solidly pragmatic Howard, Charley, and Bernard. This does not keep Willy from trying to push off his hopes onto his family, and to wreck it by doing so. His wife Linda, is constantly trying to protect Willy from reality, encouraging her sons to lie about their own fortunes to him. Her entire existence seems to be tied soley around her husband even after his infidelity. Happy is more than happy to participate in his mother’s lie. Happy follows his father’s dream even though he recognizes that he does not enjoy the fruits of his labor, suggesting that the reason is his ‘competitive nature.’ This early realization hints at why Willy pursues the dream: because it is a dream, and because he needs something to pursue. After Willy’s death, Charley verifies this, saying, ‘A salesman…[has] got to dream,’ because what a salesman does is so insubstantial. The supreme salesmanly virtue of being ‘well-liked’ is very vague and a mere fantasy. Biff, Willy’s other son, also realizes this, although somewhat less expressively than Charley does. Biff announces that his father hates him because he knows Willy ‘is a fake.’ Biff wants to concentrate on farming and physical labor, things that are real and perceptible. He has no desire to follow in his father’s footsteps. Instead he chooses a life of satisfaction over success and attempts to convince Happy to do the same. He only agrees to Happy and Linda’s scheme when he is convinced that it is the only way to save his father’s life. Even then he keeps trying to intrude with the truth, attempting to tell Willy that his plan to open a sporting-goods chain failed, partly due to Biff stealing a pen from Bill Oliver, his prospective backer. Throughout the play Biff reveals history of theft which in a way shows his need for real items. His need for realness n turn destroys Willy’s hopes. He continuously invades his father’s dreams of fortune with truth and reality. Biff chooses not to dream because he has seen the truth behind his dad’s impractical fantasies.
When Biff was young, he was a football star who dreamt more than Happy did and was the focus of Willy’s hopes. He wanted to get an athletic scholarship, but he refused to take a remedial math class in high school that he needed to graduate. This decision came about after he accidentally caught Willy’s mistress in a hotel room. Biff was struck with the reality that even though is father’s dreams seemed at their height, he was still a fake and not the man he took him to be after all. Biff’s presence is the main cause of Willy’s suicide. Biff is the visible sign that his Willy’s own ambitions destroyed his family. Willy clearly feels guilty over betraying his family. He is reminded in several ways of his betrayal and failure to his family. Willy worries that it is his fault that Biff did not attend summer school in order to graduate high school. He also constantly rages at Linda for darning stockings in his presence. The stockings represent his infidelity by reminding him of his mistress whom he bought stockings when his very own wife went without. Even in all this Linda still tries to bring Willie peace. But where Linda tries to comfort him, Biff insists on telling Willy that his ambitions are failed. Willy not only desires to earn something real, the twenty thousand dollar life insurance policy, but also to earn it for Biff. In Willy’s suicide is the final destruction of the dream. He thinks that he will have a salesman’s funeral that everyone will attend, and that the insurance money will put Biff ahead of Bernard. He kills himself by driving the car that was the subject of his nostalgia, or, more appropriately, by crashing it.
Even in his death his dreams are still nothing more than just that. His funeral is the just the opposite of what he wanted. The only people who attend his funeral is his family and two friends. In the moment when he does get something real, he kills his dream and himself. Willy’s dream fuel the entire play making it evident he lives his life off expectancy and hope. Ironically, having what he works for kills him, as it may well have Ben. The insurance money never appears in the play and Biff’s future never resolved. Willy is dead leaving no one surprised. It does not come as a surprise to the audience, who know the play’s title before ever walking into the theater, nor to the major characters, who have all known about Willy’s designs since at least halfway through the play. Once Willy and his dreams, which controlled the entire play, are dead, the powerful reality of their deaths is all that remains.
Death Of a Salesman -Tragedy Play
Death of a Salesman is a tragedy play that focuses on the difference between the dreams of the New York family and the realities of their lives. The play was featured in the 1940s with the aim of mocking the American dreams and of the competitions and the materialistic American society. The story centers on an average person named Willy Loman (Miller, 67). This man tries to hide his failures behind misunderstanding of splendor to focus and be successful. The play starts with a short story by Martin. His uncle, who was a salesman, later renewed his interests. Death of a Salesman depicts how the American power tendencies are destructive.
These are things like equating their wealth with their virtues and possessions. The same scene can also be said to be a story of a family that is communicating over their father’s suicide act. Willy seems not to achieve the success that he desperately seeks, despite his persistent efforts to make his dreams a reality to him and to his family. His preoccupations and lack of understanding prevent all his interactions to an extent he deceives his own values.
I think that the influence of the society that Willy Loman lives in has influenced him. Economy system that is determined by the abstract principles instead of human needs is part of the responsibility for Willy’s fate (Miller, 186). Willy tells his boss that he cannot be compared to a mere fruit. He tries to show that the bottom line comes first always. His boss responds by making him aware that business is business.
He believes that it is much beneficial for his family to have his life policy other than his continuity of being alive. He believes in his boss that the value of people is quantifiable according to their wealth or earnings potential. He even tells one of his friends named charley that he may end being much worthwhile when he is dead than when he is alive (Miller, 201). Wily is seen to kill himself primarily when he realizes that nature disregards his consuming power of his impression, which retains their hold on him until the end.
In conclusion, I believe the reason why the audience reacted the way described above is because the story makes them feel sad for Willy. The harder Willy tries, the more he fails. This makes the audience relates to Willy and they can feel the possibility fear of failing themselves. Willy tried his hardest to be successful and to be a good father and husband. But at the end of the day, all the wrong choices he made, ruined him and his family.
How Willy’s Personal Dissatisfaction Affect On His Family
Life…., is nothing but a book with an inevitable plot. With every page you turn you are forced to ask yourself, what will you be exposed to next? Just like our life’s books contain chapters, often provoking sorrow, hope, happiness and the occasional inability to overcome the accommodations of life. In The “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur miller. Willy Loman is a self-deluded salesman, who obtains a questionable mental status. Burdened by his unsuccessful career, he enters a state of mental depression that causes a series of hallucinations, unable to escape his state of madness; his consistent episodes take a toll on his interpersonal relationships with his family. Therefore a individual who suffers from mental depression can emotionally effect all members of the family.
Death of a sales man addresses the characters incapability of accepting reality. Willy Lomans, abnormal nature has a drastic effect on his family. Willy’s state of mind stems from his inability to achieve the American Dream. A life that offers financial stability, a perfect family, and respect from all. Willy yearned for the American Dream, but failed to proceed to his ambition. This lack of prosperity caused him to enter a dark tunnel of hallucinations and denial. Willy’s emotional imbalance leads to a tumultuous relationship with his son Biff. “When you write your coming he’s all smiles and talks about the future, and he’s just wonderful. And then the closer you seem to come the more shaky he gets and then by the time you get here he’s arguing and seems angry at you” (Miller, 54). Willy and Biff had several controversies, Biffs Unsuccessful career and failure to arise to his father’s standards, escalated to resentment. When Biff informs his parents of his visit, Willy is overjoyed by the news but once Biff arrives, Willy is unable to accept him and causes several outbursts that upset Biff and cause him to hate his father. The mood swings that willy had experienced in regards to Biffs visit resulted from Manic Depression. In the article “Bipolar Disorder” by Dr. Arnold Lieber, Lieber explains “Bipolar Disorder also known as Manic depression causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking and behavior”. As proven by Lieber, Willy’s changes of mood stem from manic depression, causing him to experience changes in mood. “Everything I say there’s a twist of mockery on his face” (Miller 55 ). Willy’s consistent changes in mood triggered by his depression, therefore, his mental illness has had an emotional and physical toll on Biff.
Willy’s inability to be well liked and obtain a certain position in society caused him to feel a sense of hopelessness and disappointment. “I am fat I am very foolish to look at Linda….they laugh at me” (Miller 65 ). Explaining his position to his wife, she continues to remain in a state of denial, as Linda overlooks the chronic signs of depression, she chooses to be blind to her husband’s several attempts of committing suicide including the rubber pipe in the basement that Willy occasionally try’s to inhale. But this state of denial stems from her love for her husband. “No you can’t just come to see me, because I love him, he’s the dearest man in the world to me, and I won’t have anyone making him feel low or blue” (Miller 55). Willys depression causes Linda to be more cautious around her husband and she advises her kids to do the same, Willy’s fragile state effects his family drastically, but Linda continues to believe it’s a temporary phase that will eventually disappear. In the article “Depressions painful effects on friends and family” Dr. Muller states that “Its intangibility makes it particularly hard on friends and family who cannot see or feel the force behind the suffering. Some respond to the confusing nature of the disorder by denying its existence” (Muller 1). Depression causes family members to be oblivious to their loved ones condition because they don’t want to except the fact that there loved one is suffering. Though Linda try’s to persuade her sons to be more respectful toward there father, Biff is unable to contain himself. “I am not a leader of man Willy and neither are you. You are never anything but a hard working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them! (Miller 132). Biff is fed up with the lies his family lives by, he wants Willy to except him for who he is and wants Willy to face the fact that he is a phony and a failure. It is Willy’s depression that began this argument between Biff and Willy. Biff strives to get across to his father and wants him to accept reality. In the article “depression a family matter”, Hara Estroff Marano justifies that “The behaviors and mood of a depressed person affect the whole family. There’s the irritability, which sets off conflicts and derails family dynamics. The negative thought patterns, which become a prism of pessimism for everyone” (marano 1). This proofs that depression does affect the entire family and often causes out lashes amongst the members of the family. In this case Biff causes an argument to force Willy to accept reality.
Though mental depression can impact your family and loved ones. Many argue that it has a greater effect on the individual. Depression provokes mood swings, chronic fatigues, decrease and appetite, and insomnia. These symptoms are cause from changes in brain which takes control of your body. Depression increases your risk of a number of diseases this is due to the fact that depression takes over your immune system. These several aspects of depression can drastically change the individual and change their way of life. Therefore mental depression effects the victim more than it does there family. However these symptoms of depression not only take a toll on the victims but can effect family as well. “Depression is not just a medical matter. It’s a family one, too. The behaviors and mood of a depressed person affect the whole family” (Marano 1). This proofs that though mental depression has a dramatic effect on the individual; it also has a major effect on their family.
Willy’s personal dissatisfaction lead to his brutal death. His inability to comply that he was truly a phony and was living amongst a lie. Unable to overcome his depression and accept his failure of the American dream, Willy’s depression eventually got the best of him and lead him to commit suicide. Throughout the novel the several out bursts and in acceptance of one another stemmed from Willy’s depression. Willy’s family was drastically affected by his mental state, and are burdened by their inability to safe there father. Therefore mental depression can emotionally affect all members of a family.
Depiction Of American Dream in Death of a Salesman
The Wrong American Dream
Willy Loman, a character from Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, is on his last leg of life. His career is winding down, his sons are all grown up yet not succeeding, and he is miserably depressed. His eldest son, Biff, cannot seem to find his niche in life. Biff constantly bounces around between manual labor jobs that Willy thinks are beneath his son. While Willy is analyzing the end of his life, he feels very guilty for being Biff’s downfall through poor parenting, magnified false perceptions of identity, and infidelity. At the end of the play, Biff finally understands who he is and what he is meant to do in life. Even more than that Biff understands that the real American dream is to be truly free to live whatever lifestyle he chooses.
Willy is constantly talking up Biff trying to be the supportive father he never had. Telling him he is the greatest specimen of human perfection and that nothing Biff does is ever wrong. Once when Biff stole a football from the school locker room, Willy justified it by saying “Coach’ll probably congratulate you on your initiative!” (Miller 1222). Willy is unknowingly instilling the wrong types of values into both of his sons to lie, to cheat, and to steal. On the other hand, Willy never had a father to provide an example. He spent most of his life looking up to his brother Ben. All Willy knows about his father is from what Ben has to say “And we’d stop in the towns and sell the flutes that he’d made on the way. Great inventor, Father. With one gadget he made more in a week than a man like you could make in a lifetime” (Miller 1232). Willy is raising his sons on whatever values he can surmise from that description.
Around the time when Biff was supposed to graduate high school, he caught Willy in an affair. Biff had run away to find Willy in Boston after learning that he was not going to graduate. By the end of the ordeal Biff told Willy, “You fake! You phony little fake! You fake!” (Miller 1268). Once he caught Willy cheating, Biff gave up on his life and began trying to cope with what he now knew about his father. Even his classmate, Bernard, could understand that something inside Biff had died at the time, “I’ve often thought of how strange it was that I knew he’d given up his life” (Miller 1254). Willy’s apparent lack of parenting skills and shame of being discovered in an affair not only altered the man his son could have been, but also created overwhelming guilt for himself.
Willy’s version of the American dream has to do only with the business world. Without a father, Willy never had someone to be impressed by his accomplishments or validate him as a man. Throughout the play you never know what Willy sells or even what is inside his sample suitcases. His boss also comments on how it seems like Willy is trying to sell himself more than the product. He is seeking the attention and validation of being “well-liked.” Unfortunately, Willy believes “that the values of the family he cherishes are inextricably linked with the values of the business world” (Centola paragraph 6). Without this validation from his family and his peers, Willy remains unsure of himself and what he has set forth as his life accomplishment or American dream. He desperately wishes to be like Dave Singleman, who was so “well-liked” he could sell over the phone at the age of eighty-four and everyone remembered who he was. What Willy does not understand is that you cannot become another person or recreate the same life they had. Even the character’s last name, Singleman, suggests this (Centola paragraph 19). If you put a space in between the two words of Dave’s last name, it is easy to realize that Dave is the single man who can sell over the phone and be remembered. It is ironic for Willy to want to be like Dave so badly. Willy denied valuable traits in himself like his woodworking skills because he believed in being a salesman so much. He never got a chance to be truly happy and free, living the lifestyle of his choice.
Biff’s American dream begins as his father’s dream. Biff was going to go off and play football in college and become highly successful in the business world. For Biff, doing farm work, “the work and the food and time to sit and smoke” brings him happiness (Miller 1274). He has also come to terms with the fact that he is not destined to be a successful businessman. It is okay to let go of his father’s dream (Centola paragraph 21). Willy’s beliefs were almost like personal religious doctrines (Centola paragraph 5). He believed in them so strongly that his sons could not fathom why they would have any different values. The day that Biff caught Willy cheating and called him a phony began Biff’s awakening, the spiral downwards to understanding himself. By the end of the play, all Biff wants is truth and resolve between him and his father. Biff has finally figured out “what you are and what I am” and is telling the truth in their house (Miller 1273). For Biff to be able to understand the American dream, he had to understand himself. There was also the need to build self-esteem away from Willy who “blew me so full of hot air” that he was disrespectful to superiors. Biff’s big epiphany resulted from just seeing the sky and realizing “the things that I love most in this world” (Miller 1274).
Willy’s American dream was focused on the wrong values. He never emphasized working hard or being honest. It was always about being “well-liked” and known all around the business world; these vague terms that are never defined by Willy, but pursued passionately. Biff had to go through a transformation to understand that he could not live as his father had. It felt wrong and therefore was the wrong lifestyle for Biff. Willy knew he loved working with hands and doing carpentry, but his business beliefs held him back. He could have been free and happy in a life where he prospered from manual labor rather than just floating by being a salesman.