How Pride is Willy’s Tragic Flaw in Death of a Salesman and How It is the Central Theme of the Play
There is a reason why Willy Loman is considered as a tragic hero where a great deal of it has to with his pride. As a matter of fact, through the character of Willy, Arthur Miller is able to build the theme of pride around him with pride coming out as the main theme. The same theme of pride also helps in establishing other smaller themes such as the theme of legacy, change, and identity. In Death of a Salesman, pride as a way of self-deception as well as using it as a coping mechanism. Willy Loman comes out as being extremely pride despite the fact that the source of his pride is not in any way founded in reality. Steven Centola also demonstrates the theme of pride in Willy’s denial of reality and inability to accept the changes within himself and in the society. Looking at the two works, one can easily see that the identity that Willy ends up assuming is heavily built upon his false sense of pride which plays a huge role in almost all the decision that he takes. His unjustified pride goes a long way in preventing him from being able to learn from his mistakes and the changes taking place around him, an event that leads to his downfall.
While it is a good thing that Willy is a dreamer, part of his excessive arrogance and pride comes as a result of his unrelenting belief in his dreams. To him, his dreams are not only pristine but also absolute where they are free from any defects where nothing can be done to change his stand on his country or his dreams of what he wants to accomplish. As a matter of fact, will never excise any form of introspection of reflection in a bid to see things as they are and not how they ought to be. This state alone builds the premise for his pride. To start with, will never take the time to questions some of his beliefs and dreams. A good example is when he was having a conversation with Linda about the failures of Biff. It becomes clear that his belief in the American dream is unrelenting where he believes that the American dream is superior. Believing that there is nothing wrong with the American dream, will demonstrate a great sense of pride in America as being, “the greatest country in the world.” A country that is full of “beautiful towns and fine, upstanding people (Miller 126).” Willy completely fails to see how people are suffering which makes his exceptionalism in this context to reflect his false sense of pride where he simply fails to see the truth.
At the same time, at this time will is terribly falling as a salesman where he has very little to be proud of his financial situation. But despite this fact, Willy uses his unrelenting pride as a coping mechanism where he believes that things will be okay with time. This false sense of pride makes Willy live in a world full of delusion where reality no longer makes any sense to him. Whether or not he simply chose to ignore the reality, his false sense of pride lay the foundation for his downfall. What is even worse is the fact that he passes his delusions sense of pride to innocent parties. (Centola 32) perfectly captured this aspect where he observed that “Willy fails to see the folly of his dream and ends up passing on not only his dream but also his confusion to Biff and Happy.”
Willy’s believed that “the man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interests, is the man who gets ahead” (Centola 26) makes him be so keen about his look and appearance at the expense of doing what is right to change his personal financial problems. He has a self-sense of pride where he is so convinced that he is destined for success that leads him to “constantly dress the part” (Centola 26).Willy’s false sense of pride also surfaces where he selfishly believes that the values associated with one’s family have a way of opening doors for success. His pride in his family leads him to look down manual labor arguing that it cannot translate to success. When Biff confronted him that since their situation was bad, they should work as carpenters. Full of arrogance and undue pride, Willy quickly asserts that “even your grandfather was better than a carpenter…Go back to the West! Be a carpenter, a cowboy, enjoy yourself!” (Miller 222). He is simply too proud to accept that he is financially dwarfed and that he can change his fate by doing manual works. His unfound sense of pride even leads him to accept a job offer from Charley who he categorized as his inferior. He then decides to accept loans that he is no position to pay. He simply has a false sense of pride coming out as being extremely proud when in reality he nothing real to be proud of.
As established above, it is Willy’s false sense of pride that leads him to believe that he is successful as a businessman and as a father. While he may have been successful in the past, his pride blinds him from accepting his current situation. His dreams and ambitions are baseless where to him it only makes sense that he is fated for greatness. He fails to accept that he is both failing as a salesman and as a father choosing to be proud when he has nothing really to be proud of. It is this false sense of pride that eventually leads to his downfall.
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