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Arthur Miller, the award-winning theater playwright in 1949, author of "A View from the Bridge" and other plays, writes well-represented story of emotional struggle, a successful family tries to overcome. The main character, Willy Loman, is an ageing, professional as well as personal salesman who fights depression. His beloved wife, Linda, is closely attached to Willy. You have two children, Biff and Happy Loman, also affected by individual challenges (Harshbarger 67).
The game documents changes between Willy's reality and the illusion of his trodden mind. His work is not as he had hoped for. In addition, Willy’s sons Biff and Happy do not live up to the potential he had in mind. Coupled with poor conditions at his workplace, Willy has increased stress and depression levels which directly lead him to suicidal tendencies. Evidence of failed attempts of suicide is littered throughout the play. This interpretation, however, does not portray Willy as a saint, as if he suffers from consequences, not of his making. Biff once witnessed and confronted him about cheating during a work-related trip (Bettina 409). The scuffle that ensued from that argument caused father and son to drift apart as it represents a significant blow to their bond. After Biff attempts to reconcile with his father a while after the incident, another argument is created whereby Biff explains to Willy that he is just an ordinary man, not anything special as Willy had intended. It is a combination of the above and other factors that led Willy to contemplate suicide having two laid out benefits in mind.
Firstly, his death would ease the burden he felt he brought to the family. Also, his death would put a permanent end to his suffering in all the aspects of his life that presented insurmountable difficulties to him. As an example, Willy’s career aspirations had not gone as planned, in addition to losing his job, his sons not living up to expectation, yet his neighbor was quite well off with financially stable children. In this sense, suicide does not appear as abandonment but strangely as a means of relief to those who would remain after his demise. Suicide, as perceived by Willy, would be a sort of last resort attempt to help his family attain the stability and security that he had envisioned for them (Tracy 58).
The characters in the play are there to take a significant role in shaping the mind of Willy. They mainly play the part of psychological markings of trauma in Willy’s mind. Willy usually suffers from mental breakdowns that send his conscience into an episode from his past. He recalls memories fondly of past instances, such as when Biff confronted him about cheating during a business trip. Willy’s loyal wife, Linda, primarily plays the role of an anchor that tethers Willy to reality as shown in the below excerpt (Miller 88).
WILLY (with pity and resolve): I’ll see him in the morning; I’ll have a nice talk with him. I’ll get him a job selling. He could be big in no time. My God! Remember how they used to follow him around in high school? When he smiled at one of them, their faces lit up. When he walked down the street (He loses himself in reminiscences.)
Linda (trying to bring him out of it): Willy, dear, I got a new kind of American-type cheese today. It’s whipped.
Willy: Why do you get American when I like Swiss?Linda: I just thought you’d like a change...Willy: I don’t want a change! I want Swiss cheese. Why am I always being contradicted?Linda (with a covering laugh): I thought it would be a surprise...
As depicted above, Linda pulls Willy out of one of his episodes in a fresh and calm manner defusing the situation with a distraction. The above example is extracted from a normal conversation indoors showing off the dynamics of their relationship as man and wife and also as parents. Without Linda to guide, advice, and remind a distressed Willy wherever necessary, it is safe to assume that he would be irrevocably lost in the world his mental difficulties having gotten the best of him. Willy’s sons Biff and Happy take up the role of being constant reminders of Willy’s failure to attain his goals of being successful (Bettina 410).
To this effect, Biff informs his father that he was never meant to be anything special, just an ordinary man. This sentiment resonates with Willy because he aspired to be someone great, unlike what both his son and reality was reflecting on him. Willy’s deteriorating mental state pushed him to the very edge of his capacity in finding a way to live up to his aspirations with a lucky family as well. The above-mentioned mental frame of Willy is what sent him on several occasions to attempt suicide as a means of ending his troubles permanently. In a major way, the characters play a vital role in demonstrating Willy’s situation.
Bettina, Sister. "Willy Loman's Brother Ben: Tragic Insight in Death of a Salesman." Modern Drama 4.4 (1962): 409-412.
Harshbarger, Karl. The burning jungle: an analysis of Arthur Miller's Death of a salesman. University Press of America, 1977. Print.
Miller, Arthur. The Death of a Salesman: Revised Edition. Penguin, 1996. Print.
Tracy, Jessica L., and Richard W. Robins. " Death of a (Narcissistic) Salesman:" An Integrative Model of Fragile Self-Esteem." Psychological Inquiry 14.1 (2003): 57-62.
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