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The Two Willy Lomans in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman Essay

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The Two Willy Lomans in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

There are two Willy Lomans in The Death of a Salesman. There is the present broken, exhausted man in his sixties, soon to end his life. And there is the more confident, vigorous Willy of some fifteen years before, who appears in the flashbacks. One actor portrays both, readily shifting from one representation to the other. To some extent, of course, the personality remains constant. The younger Willy, although given to boastful blustering, does admit misgivings to Linda and loneliness to Biff. And the shattered older man, in turn, occasionally reverts to his former manner of jaunty optimism. Yet the changes are great and significant. The earlier Willy could never have been
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At this point, however, relations are strained. Although Willy shies away from remembering so painful an episode, he knows in his heart that the Boston affair 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. Biff has failed, in other words, mainly 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. "Why can't I give him something," he asks the spectral Ben, "and not have him hate me?" And his great final moment of joy and triumph occurs when he can exclaim,"Isn't that remarkable? Biff - he likes me!"

On the other hand, Willy also is emotionally involved with Biff because his son's success or failure is also his. By becoming rich and influential, the handsome, personable Biff was slated to provide Willy's victorious reply to all not sufficiently impressed with his own modest advancement. By making his fortune in the business world, Biff would prove that Willy had been right in turning down Ben's adventurous challenge to head for Alaska. He would also outshine the sensible, plodding Charley and Bernard, thus establishing once and for all Willy's theory that having personality and being "well liked" were the great requisites for preeminence. Losing his own job, Willy is naturally unhappy. But if he
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