Reality and Illusion in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
In Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman, a major theme and source of conflict is the Loman family’s inability to distinguish between reality and illusion. This is particularly evident in the father, Willy Loman. Willy has created a fantasy world of himself and his family. In this world, he and his sons are men of greatness that “have what it takes” to make it in the business environment. In reality, none of them can achieve this greatness until they confront and deal with this illusion.
Willy is convinced that being well liked is the key to success, exclaiming “Be liked and you will never want...” (Klotz, A 1998). It is unclear whether Willy’s …show more content…
All the while telling him that stealing will get him no where. This behavior continues as Willy encourages Biff to cheat off the neighbor, Bernard, for his Regents exam, and again when he asks both Biff and Hap to steal lumber from the construction site for the front porch. This eventually leads to both Willy’s infidelity and Biff’s habitual stealing, which is responsible for his continued failure in business. Willy was so intent upon teaching his sons how to be successful, but his inability to deal with reality and his twisted sense of morals were actually responsible for their failure.
Some literary experts were critical of Arthur Miller’s character, Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”, insisting that “Willy was a ‘little man’ and therefore not worthy of the pathos reserved for such tragic heroes as Oedipus and Medea”. In contrast, it could be argued that most of us cant even imagine life as characters such as Oedipus and this allowed the majority of society to identify more closely with the woe’s of a person such as Willy Loman.
Willy is an elderly failing salesman whose salary has been taken away and now works on commission. Finally, after thirty-four years, the company has no further use for him and discharges him. As he has grown older, he has trouble distinguishing between illusion and reality. He is continually lost in the past and
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In Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller, Willy Loman’s life seems to be slowly deteriorating. It is clear that Willy’s predicament is of his own doing, and that his own foolish pride and ignorance lead to his downfall. Willy’s self-destruction involved the uniting of several aspects of his life and his lack of grasping reality in each, consisting of, his relationship with his wife, his relationship and manner in which he brought up his children, Biff and Happy, and lastly his inability to productively earn a living and in doing so, failure to achieve his “American Dream”.
In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the author conveys the reader about how a person lives his life when he or she cannot live the “American Dream.” Willy Loman, the main character in the play is a confused and tragic character. He is a man who is struggling to hold onto what morality he has left in a changing society that no longer values the ideals he grew up to believe in. Even though the society he lives in can be blamed for much of his misfortune, he must also be the blame for his bad judgment, disloyalty and his foolish pride.
In “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller, Willy Loman is the well-developed protagonist of the story. Willy struggles throughout the story with daydreams and delusions that he confuses with reality. These delusions have a huge effect on the story and greatly impact Willy’s life. Willy has a difficult time keeping his bills paid with his job as a traveling salesman. He works long hours and drives long distances for very little success. His delusions cause him to believe that his work is successful when it is far from it. “Willy is self-deluded, believing wholeheartedly in the American Dream of success and wealth. When he fails to achieve this, he commits suicide—yet until the end he never stopped believing in this American Dream” (Sickels).
The father-son conflict between Willy and Biff is complex. First of all, there is a strong personal attachment. He wants Biff to love him. He remembers the fondness shown for him by Biff as a boy, and he still craves this. At this point, however, relations are strained. Although Willy shies away from remembering so painful an episode, he knows in his heart that his affair with the Boston woman left the boy bitterly disillusioned. Feeling some sense of guilt, Willy fears that all of Biff’s later difficulties may have been really attempts to get revenge. In other words, Biff failed to spite Willy. Although outwardly resenting such alleged vindictiveness, Willy still wants to get back the old comradeship, even if he has to buy it dearly. For instance consider when he asked Ben, “Why can’t I give him something and not have him hate me?” and his final moment of joy and triumph occurs when he exclaims, “Isn’t that remarkable? Biff… he likes me!”
In the play, Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller establishes Charley, a humble and successful salesman as the foil to Willy Loman, a prideful and arrogant man. Charley is the perfect character to help depict Willy’s flaws. Although the two contrast with each other, their characteristics help maintain a balance between them. Willy Loman lives in his own world, where he believes that in order to be successful, one must be well liked with a great appearance. “The man who makes an appearance…is the man who gets ahead” (Miller 1568). These are obvious words from Willy which proves that he does not believe in hard work. He instills within both of his children that looks and personality are all that matters. The characteristics of Willy allow us to grasp the idea that he lives within a false reality. He is a man living within a child’s fantasy based off of the life of Dave Singleman. The very words he spoke against his neighbor Charley and his son, Bernard, are the very words that prove him wrong.
The line between reality and illusion is often blurred in Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman. Whether it is incorporated in the content or the actual structure, this struggle between recognizing reality from illusion turns into a strong theme; it eventually leads to the downfall of Willy and his family. Willy is incapable of recognizing who he is, and cannot realize that he, as well as his sons, is not capable of being successful in the business world. Happy and Biff both go through some battle between reality and illusion that cause a collapse in some part of their lives. The line between Willy’s flashbacks and current time also send him into turmoil when he cannot distinguish between the two.
Willy is like an impetuous youngster with high ideals and high hopes. Children always have high hopes for their
Willy Loman could honestly take no pride in the values he had instilled in his two sons. Case in point: As he preaches that likeability, above all, is the ultimate goal of mankind, he neglects to qualify his statements by adding that one should be liked for being himself, not by adapting like a chameleon to whatever the surrounding circumstances dictate. The following passage superbly demonstrates Willy’s twisted perceptions of what it means to succeed in life.
As a salesman, Willy shows he perceives himself highly when talking to Linda about his job: “I’m the New England man. I’m vital in New England” (14). One can also see Willy’s inflated sense of self-worth when he talks to his children about his job: “They know me, boys, they know me up and down New England... I have friends. I can park my car in any street in New England, and the cops protect it like their own” (31). However, even though he is extremely confident about his value as a salesman to his family, the reality of Willy’s reputation at his job is almost completely opposite: “I’m fat. I’m very—foolish to look at... they do laugh at me” (37). Although he essentially brags to his family about his expertise in business, Willy acknowledges the reality that his career is much less successful than he expects it to be. In fact, the inner turmoil inside of Willy from his unrealistic expectation of himself of being a fantastic salesman leads Willy to become mentally unhealthy, and eventually results in Willy committing suicide when he believes that he doesn’t have any self-worth anymore. Willy’s previous inflated self-worth is demonstrated yet again at his funeral, when no one shows up even though Willy thought he had a lot of friends from his job: “Why didn’t anybody come...
In the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Willy is both sympathized with and looked down upon throughout the story. Willy is a very complex character with problems and faults that gain both sympathy and also turn the reader off to him. Willy Loman is both the protagonist and the antagonist, gaining sympathy from the reader only to lose it moments later.
This is what Willy has been trying to emulate his entire life. Willy's need to feel well-liked is so strong that he often makes up lies about his popularity and success. At times, Willy even believes these lies himself. At one point in the play, Willy tells his family of how well-liked he is in all of his towns and how vital he is to New England. Later, however, he tells Linda that no one remembers him and that the people laugh at him behind his back. As this demonstrates, Willy's need to feel well-liked also causes him to become intensely paranoid. When his son, Biff, for example, is trying to explain why he cannot become successful, Willy believes that Biff is just trying to spite him. Unfortunately, Willy never realizes that his values are flawed. As Biff points out at the end of the play, "he had the wrong dreams."
In Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, Miller probes the dream of Willy Lowman while making a statement about the dreams of American society. This essay will explore how each character of the play contributes to Willy's dream, success, and failure.
As though to recreate the connection in life, literature often shows the relationship between past events and a character’s present actions and values. In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Willy is haunted by memories of his older brother, father, and salesman Dave Singleman. Willy’s character and values are constantly influenced by the memory of the three men, compounding upon his deliria throughout the play. Willy considers these men the epitome of success, thus explaining his dependency on all three. Miller’s view on society, men, and the success of the American Dream are portrayed through Willy’s interactions with the men. The American Dream is synonymous with the phrase “the world is your oyster,” but Miller uses Death of a Salesman to criticize the American Dream through Willy Loman and his interplay between the past and present.
An individual’s ability to successfully recognize the reality from illusions is significantly influenced by their understanding of themselves. Many choose to use self-perception to prevent themselves from the realization of living through self-deception. However, in Arthur Miller’s modern play, Death of a Salesman, Miller explores the relationship between self-deception and reality through the character development of Biff Loman. Initially, Biff’s perception of himself is tremendously influenced by his father, Willy Loman, who unknowingly, lives a life full of illusions. As a result, these illusions prompt Willy to set unrealistic expectations for Biff. However, as the play progresses, Biff realizes the impracticality of these expectations