No one has a perfect life. Everyone has conflicts

that they must face sooner or later. The ways in which people deal with these
personal conflicts can differ as much as the people themselves. Some
insist on ignoring the problem as long as possible, while some attack
the problem to get it out of the way. Willy Lowman’s technique in
Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, leads to very severe
consequences. Willy never really does anything to help the situation,
he just escapes into the past, whether intentionally or not, to
happier times were problems were scarce. He uses this escape as if it
were a narcotic, and as the play progresses, the reader learns that it
can be a dangerous drug, because of it’s addictiveness and it’s
deadliness.


The first time Willy is seen lapsing off into the past is when he
encounters Biff after arriving home. The conversation between Willy
and Linda reflects Willy’s disappointment in Biff and what he has
become, which is, for the most part, a bum. After failing to deal
adequately with his feelings, he escapes into a time when things were
better for his family. It is not uncommon for one to think of better
times at low points in their life in order to cheer themselves up so
that they are able to deal with the problems they encounter, but Willy
Lowman takes it one step further. His refusal to accept reality is so
strong that in his mind he is transported back in time to relive one
of the happier days of his life. It was a time when no one argued,
Willy and Linda were younger, the financial situation was less of a
burden, and Biff and Happy enthusiastically welcomed their father back
home from a long road trip. Willy’s need for the “drug” is satiated
and he is reassured that everything will turn out okay, and the family
will soon be as happy as it was in the good old days.

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The next flashback occurs during a discussion between Willy and
Linda. Willy is depressed about his inability to make enough money to
support his family, his looks, his personality and the success of his
friend and neighbor, Charley. “My God if business doesn’t pick up , I
don’t know what I’m gonna do!” (36) is the comment made by Willy after
Linda figures the difference between the family’s income and their
expenses. Before Linda has a chance to offer any words of consolation
Willy blurts out “I’m Fat. I’m very–foolish to look at, Linda” (37).
In doing this he has depressed himself so much that he is visited by a
woman with whom he is having an affair. The woman’s purpose in this
point of the play is to cheer him up. She raises his spirits by
telling him how funny and loveable he is, saying “You do make me
laugh….And I think you’re a wonderful man.” (38). And when he is
reassured of his attractiveness and competence, the woman disappears,
her purpose being fulfilled. Once again the drug has come to the
rescue, postponing Willy’s having to actually do something about his
problem.


The next day, when Willy is fired after initially going to ask
his boss to be relocated is when the next journey into the past
occurs. The point of the play during which this episode takes place is
so dramatic that willy seeks a big hit of the flashback drug. Such a
big hit in fact, that he is transported back to what was probably the
happiest day of his life. Biff was going to play in Ebbets field in
the All-Scholastic Championship game in front of thousands of people.
Willy couldn’t be prouder of his two popular sons who at the time had
everything going for them and seemed destined to live great, important
lives, much more so than the “liked, but not well liked” boy next
door, Bernard. Willy’s dependency on the “drug” is becoming greater by
the hour, at this rate, he cannot remain sane for much longer.


Too much of anything, even a good thing, can quickly become a bad
thing. Evidence of this statement is seen during Willy’s next
flashback, when the drug he has been using for so long to avoid his
problems backfires, giving him a “bad trip”, quite possibly a side
effect of overuse. This time he is brought back to one of the most
disturbing moments in his life. It’s the day that Biff had discovered
his father’s mistress while visiting him on one of his trips to ask
him to come back home and negotiate with his math teacher to give him
the four points he needed to pass math and graduate high school. This
scene gives the reader a chance to fully understand the tension
between Willy and Biff, and why things can never be the same.
Throughout the play, the present has been full of misfortune for the
most part, while the opposite is true for the past. The reader is left
to wonder when the turning point occurred. What was the
earth-shattering event that threw the entire Lowman family into a
state of such constant tension? Now that event is revealed and Willy
is out of good memories to return to. With the last hit of Willy’s
supply of the drug spent, what next?
The comparison between Willy’s voyages into the past and the use
of a narcotic is so perceptible because of it’s verity. When Willy’s
feeling down, or life seems just too tedious and insignificant, or
when things just aren’t going his way, why not take a hit of the old
miracle drug, memories. The way he overuses his vivid imagination is
sad because the only thing it’s good for is enabling Willy to go
through one more day of his piteous life, full of bitterness,
confusion, depression, false hopefulness, and a feeling of love which
he is trying very hard to express to his sons who seem reluctant to
accept it.

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