Essay, Research Paper: Death Of Salesman And Willy Loman

Literature: Arthur Miller

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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 Loman'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
its 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 Loman 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 as in the good old days. 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!” This 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". 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.” 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 has 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 Loman 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 Willy overuses his vivid imagination is
sad because the only thing it is good for is enabling him 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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