Death Of Salesman And Willy Loman

Death Of Salesman And Willy Loman Compared with other Characters Literary Journalists have spent lots of time researching different characters in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, and have focused primarily on Willy Loman, since he is the most complex character in the play. There have been many different theories about the relationship between him and the other characters of the play. Certain Journalists have gone beyond that point and have compared him with other characters. These comparisons allow the reader to see Willy from a different perspective, which also allows the reader to understand the position of Willy Loman. D.

L. Hoeveler has explained Willy’s standpoint to the other characters in Death of a Salesman as Psychomachia. From Milkman to Salesman: Glimpses of the Galut by Dan Vogel compares Willy to Tevye, another fictional character, while John S. Shockley has proved that Willy “shares a number of important traits with the most successful American politician of the late twentieth century, Ronald Reagan” (quote). All of these authors have tried to show and explain Willy Loman in a different perspective by comparing him to other characters. If one wants to understand a character in any sort of literature it is necessary to look at the other people who he/she has contact with.

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Hoeveler has analyzed Willy by looking at the other characters and has shown how they are affected by him during the play. According to Hoeveler, Willy “has forced his family to play the parts that he has designed for them. They are all characters in a dream, Willy’s dream of reality” (634). All the characters in the play represent a certain trait, just as in the play Everyman, written in the late 15th century. The reader is shown that the individual characters “represent aspects of” Willy’s “splintered mind” (632). Linda is a voice that guides and acts as a security for Willy.

His son Biff represents the failure of Willy to achieve the American dream. Willy’s other son, Happy, is a personification of “Willy’s belief in success at any price” (635). Ben, Willy’s brother, represents the dreams of financial success. Willy is easier to understand if one knows what he is. He is a man that has enforced his ideas unto his family and therefor has caused his personality to be divided among the other characters to an extent. The Requiem at the end of the play shows how all the characters are seemingly freed of Willy, “but each of the characters continues to embody the values that Willy demanded of them” (635). They are actually not free at all because they have become Willy.

He is best explained when the deeds he has done to others is analyzed. This was what has been done first in order to get a better insight on how Willy thinks and acts towards the characters around him. One of the famous characters that Miller’s Willy Loman has been compared to is Sholom Aleichem’s creation, Tevye the milkman. This is a very rational comparison, which is discussed in Dan Vogel’s article From Milkman to Salesman: Glimpses of the Galut, because it is easier to understand a character if another person is in almost the same situation. Willy Loman and Tevye are both heroes that have to deal with “life’s debilitating existentialist ironies and insults” (174). The way they deal with their problems is not by brute force on a battle field. The difference is that Tevye is defeated with dignity whereas Willy chooses destruction.

There is an obvious difference between the strength of characters. Both are salesman that have to deal with the bursting of their dreams. Tevye’s daughters all end up doing something he does not approve. One commits suicide because of love, the eldest marries a tailor that dies young and the third one falls in love with an exiled Marxist. Tevye invests money in the stocks and ends up losing all his money. Willy, who is used to a wonderful life is confronted with apartment buildings all over the place, a car that can be thrown away, a son that has run away and a loss of his job.

The real important differences and similarities between these two characters are noticeable when the reader looks at the way they both deal with these problems. Both have a major problem with self esteem. They are constantly in search of themselves. Tevye and Willy boast about themselves and then realize that they are no better then anyone else. This bothers them a lot. “Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person” (56) as Willy because “he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him” (56).

This attitude is the same one that Sholom Aleichem has towards Tevye. Also, both have raised a child that becomes a renegade. Biff runs off to become a worker on farms and Chava converts to Christianity. Tevye and Willy are very sad and still long for their children even though they have been betrayed. When the renegades return home they are embraced with the family again.

The fathers act very similar towards their children. The prime difference is that Tevye would never go as far as committing suicide because of his problems. Willy has a weaker character and therefor is more prone to commit suicide, which he does. This weakness can also come from the difference in both beliefs. Tevye believes in God and is not forced to face the destruction of this belief. Willy, on the other hand witnesses the complete destruction of his belief, the American dream, through Biff.

Hence, he is much less stable than Tevye. “For Willy, acculturated to the American Galut, there is no Messiah to hope for, only to be liked if not well liked by the sons of men; and no God, only the bitch goddess Success” (177). The reader has come another step closer to fully understand Willy and his behavior by seeing how his acts have been compared to the characters in the play and another fictional character existing in another place and time. Hence, the last step is to compare Willy to a historical character that most people are familiar with. In the article Death of a Salesman and American Leadership: Life Imitates Art John S.

Shockley has compared Willy to “the most successful American politician of the late twentieth century, Ronald Reagan” (quote). The first similarity is that “both were selling themselves and the American dream” (quote). They dreamed this dream and believed that the fulfillment of a man should not be hindered. To believe the American dream and live by it both men had to deny certain facts. Willy tried very hard to still believe that his sons were not failures and that he was also not failing as a salesman. He just had to deny these facts.

Linda constantly gets to hear lies from Willy about how popular he is and how much money he is making. Ronald Reagan who grew up with an alcoholic father who had failed to achieve success. “As Willy loved telling jokes to highlight his personality, Reagan loved entertaining others” (quote). The denial of unpleasant facts continued throughout Reagan’s whole life. These denials had a bigger effect on Willy because he was not as successful as Reagan. The search for close friends was very hard for both characters, and they never were able to achieve this goal.

In the end, the only people that stood by them were their wives. Willy and Reagan had the same problem with children. Reagan had great problems with his adopted son and daughter. This is partly due to the fact that both had no father figure to help them out. The differences of the two compared characters are also very important in determining what Willy is not.

Ronald Reagan had a better chance in becoming a success because he inspired people and made them feel good about themselves. Another disadvantage of Willy is that he does not know what is happening to him, whereas Reagan has a very good idea about himself and the position he is in. Reagan also faced career problems but was rescued by friends and supporters. Since he “was quite willing to accept help and funds from anyone” (quote) he was able to keep his self-confidence. Nobody tried helping Willy which caused his self-worth to collapse. “Ronald Reagan, in sum, was what Willy Loman wanted to be: well-liked, at least in a superficial way; entertaining without being a bore; successful; handsome; and not fat” (quote). Hence, “Willy Loman committed suicide. Ronald Reagan became President of the United States” (quote).

Looking and analyzing a character is always important to understand the character in any type of literature. The reader must compare the character to other people and find out what is essential. Many Literary Journalists have done this to see Willy Loman from many different perspectives. The reader then draws a conclusion that he/she is satisfied with. These three authors have exhibited how a character is to be seen, which should make all the readers very happy. Bibliography Brucher, Richard T.

“Willy Loman and The Soul of a New Machine: Technology and the Common Man.” American Studies 17 (1983): 325-336. Ferguson, Alfred R. “The Tragedy of the American Dream in Death of a Salesman.” Thought 53 (1978): 83-98. Hoeveler, D.L. “Death of a Salesman as Psychomachia.” Journal of American Culture 1 (1978): 632-637. Miller, Arthur.

Death of a Salesman. New York: Penguin, 1976. Rosinger, Lawrence. “Miller’s Death of a Salesman.” Explicator 45.2 (1987): 55-56. Shockley, John S. “Death of a Salesman and American Leadership: Life Imitates Art.” Journal of American Culture 17.2 (1994): 49-56.

Vogel, Dan. “From Milkman to Salesman: Glimpses of the Galut.” Studies in American Jewish Literature 10 (1991): 172-178.

Death Of Salesman And Willy Loman

Death Of Salesman And Willy Loman Death of a Salesman, written in 1949 by American playwright Arthur Miller, illustrates the destructive compulsion of a man to attain a success far beyond his reach. This is accomplished through the portrayal of Willy Loman, the play’s central character. Willy Loman is a pathetic character because he does not hold any possibility of victory. Unrealistic dreams which are the product of a refusal to honestly acknowledge his abilities deter any triumph that Willy may have the ability to achieve. Throughout the play Willy Loman surrounds himself with an obvious air of insecurity and confusion.

His lack of confidence and uncertainty in what he wants are qualities which prevent him from achieving his dream. Willy shows this weakness while observing himself in a mirror. He focuses completely on what he deems as negative qualities in his personality and physical appearance. In talking with his brother he reveals his insecurity by mentioning that he “feels kind of temporary” (pg. 51).

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Although Willy has chosen to pursue success as a salesman he demonstrates confusion by continually contradicting that choice. Willy resents the advancements, such as the loss of fresh air and fertile land, increased population and, most significantly, the competition which have been created by the very business community he has opted to be a member of. It is impractical to assume that Willy Loman can be victorious in a career that he does not seem comfortable in or completely dedicated to. His attempts make him pathetic because they are at the expense of confidence that he may receive from another field of work. Willy Loman’s false pride is another factor that contributes to his pursuit of a prosperity which is unobtainable to him as a salesman. This attribute is apparent in him when his mind journeys back to the day he turned down his brother’s offer to battle for riches in the Alaskan timberlands.

Willy’s most enthusiastic moments in the play come in directing the rebuilding of the front stoop, teaching his sons to polish the car and in talking with Charley of the ceiling he put up in the living-room. These instances make it obvious that his true talents and joys lie in working with his hands. He is unable to go with his brother and put his skills to use because he has given his family the impression that he is greatly excelling in his career. He is unable to leave behind such great success as a salesman for uncertainty in the woods without admitting his true position and suffering the humiliation of his lies. Willy is ready to avoid that embarrassment at the cost of happiness so that his family’s praise for him may continue to remain active.

Willy’s false sense of pride also compels him to repeatedly refuse accepting the job offered to him by Charley, his best friend and neighbor. Although he needs the money, Willy finds himself incapable of working for someone who is the success he himself only pretends to be. It is also that same false pride which brings him to degrade himself by borrowing money from Charley so that he can keep his stature intact with his family. What Willy Loman views as pride is, in reality, his self-deprivation. By ignoring what he is best fitted to do Willy does not allow himself happiness or the opportunity for triumph.

This makes him a pathetic character.V Willy Loman cannot be victorious in achieving success because he does not have the aptitude to be a salesman or the capacity to be a good father. His jokes and much too talkative nature demonstrate his inability to do his job productively. His exaggerated claims of past profit and deals made with Howard’s father are not able to get him a position in New York because he has long been insignificant to the Wagner Company. He was placed on commission like an inexperienced newcomer to the industry on account of interference in his job productivity: “You didn’t crack up again, did you?” (pg. 79).

Willy is unable to keep his business obligations. He displays this irresponsibility when he fails to make a sales trip to Boston and, as a result, he is fired. Since his own father was not present throughout his life to act as an example, Willy Loman seeks guidance from his brother, who pays little interest to him or his wife and children, on how he should parent. Willy, in choosing one son over the other, makes his greatest mistake as a father. He ignores Happy, his younger son, in favor of the athletic Biff. The consequence of this type of parenting is the inheritance, by Happy, of the same desperate need for recognition that Willy possesses. Willy has failed Happy because his son is now obsessed with losing weight, is a proficient liar, and lacks respect for others. Most importantly, as showcased in the restaurant scene, Willy’s parenting has left Happy easily able reject him as his father when it is convenient for him: “No, that’s not my father. He’s just a guy” (pg.

115). Willy shows that he is emotionally immature by allowing a football game to become much more important than his son’s studies. This leads Biff to ignore his education and trivialize his future. Willy places great expectations upon Biff by way of always insisting that his eldest son will succeed. He does not allow his son to be anything other than what he wishes because he is attempting to live success through him.

He shows disregard for Biff and reveals a selfish nature in not supporting the career paths that his son has chosen in the past. At the discovery of his infidelity, Willy does not try to show his son affection and help his son come to terms with the extramarital affair, instead, he never speaks of it again and leaves his son with the painful secret. Throughout the play Willy Loman does not obtain the skills required to be a successful salesman or father. Pathetically, he does not realize the limits of his capabilities and is, therefore, unable to assess realistic possibilities of victory. Victory for Willy Loman is overshadowed by his distorted view of how to attain success. Willy and you’ll believes that you must “start big end big” (pg. 64). He does not seem to understand that, before a person is able to climb their way to the top, they must first create the rungs on the ladder which reaches to success and that this must be done through gaining working experience from the bottom.

Willy proceeds through the play trying to sell himself and his image much more than the products he is peddling because of the ideology that they are his key to success. “Be liked and you will never want,” Willy advises his sons; and his famous distinction between being “liked” and being “well liked” seems to rest on whether or not the liking can be exploited for practical ends. “Be liked and youll never want”, however, Willys funeral is very lonely. Suicide is Willy’s final attempt at gaining success. He clings to the idea that if his son is successful then he, in return, is also a success. The money from his $20,000 life insurance plan would allow Biff the ability to finally be as great as Willy has expected him to be.

He holds the belief that his son will “worship (him) for it” (pg. 135) because the possibility of true success will come into existence. Willy, shows irresponsibility in bypassing all thought of the trauma and hurt his family may experience as a result of his suicide. Willy’s illogical definition of success causes him to wander through life trying to achieve the impossible. This makes him a pathetic character because there is never any chance for him to rise above and become victorious.

In Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller gives his readers the opportunity to delve into the mind of Willy Loman and come away with an evaluation of their own definitions of success and victory or the destruction that they may cause. For Willy, it is the refusal to honestly evaluate his abilities and limitations that makes him a pathetic character by stripping away any possibility of success. Perhaps others can use Willy’s example to avoid the unhappiness that he experienced throughout his life.


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