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The Confusion Between Illusion and Reality in Death of a Salesman

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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 believes that he is much more…show more content…
The theme, confusion between reality and illusion leads to a downfall, applies here because in a way suicide is the ultimate downfall. Charley, a voice of reason, counter argues that “nobody’s worth nothin’ dead” (98). Charley is consistently in reality and is one of the most successful people in the play. So, the fact that Charley recognizes reality in the harshest and brightest light is what kept him from experiencing a downfall in his life. If the Willy was not confused about the reality of his life, there may not have been such a great fall when his life amounted to less than he expected, and when Biff’s life did not turn out to be what he had hoped. Apart from Willy’s delusion of his own success, he also sees his sons as great successes in the business world, and that they will amount to so much in their lives. These boys cannot be successful because they have been “[blown] so full of hot air [they] could never stand taking orders from anybody” (131). Willy’s illusions about his sons not only ruined Willy’s life, but it caused these boys to have a false sense of reality, which is the theme. This false sense of reality leads to their downfall in the business world because Willy had built them up so high that they believed they should be the one giving the orders, not taking them. When Willy tells his boys “together [you] could absolutely lick the civilized world” (64), this is an example of the way Willy falsely sees his boys and fills their
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