Importance of Ben Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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The Importance of Ben Loman in in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


Ben Loman is an important character in Death of a Salesman but he is quite unusual. The audience encounters Uncle Ben during Willy Loman's hallucinations of the past and as a result, it is tempting to disregard his character as just another creation of Willy's delusional mind. However, Ben is much more than that. His character is representative of Willy's unrealistic dreams as well as the realty of his life.

When the audience first encounters Ben (Miller 44), he represents the success that Willy is striving for. Before the audience learns of the success that Ben encountered in Africa, they see him on the stage accompanied by an idyllic musical motif
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This time, however, Ben's motif, which turns out to be more sinister than idyllic, precedes him; sotto voce at first then coming to a crescendo as repressed suicidal thoughts come forward when Willy loses his job (Launsberry). When Ben finally appears, Willy must ask him, "how did you do it?" (Miller 84) Ben's theme is heard for the last time towards the end of the play "in accents of dread" (Miller 133) as Willy finally resolves to commit suicide so that Biff may receive the insurance money. While the idyllic theme music that accompanies Ben ad his father would at first seem to represent Willy's positive memories of the past and optimistic views of the future, they really represent selling out and abandonment. They oppose the fine theme of nature that begins and ends the play (Launsberry).

Ben is also a very peculiar character. The audience first encounters him with the full knowledge that he is dead. Ben is also the one figure that is able to move freely between the past and the present. Because Ben represents that which Willy seeks, Willy feels that he can achieve his goal the same way that Ben did and so he believes that "opportunism, cheating and cruelty are success incarnate" (Smith).

Ben is also a peculiar character in that he is not really a character. For one, he was completely a figment of Willy's imagination. He also does not appear inn the requiem (Smith). In a Paris Review Interview, Miller acknowledged…