Death of a Salesman

Fragile and Fantastic, Fake and Flawed: Two Conflicting Views of Willy Loman College

Arthur Miller’s 1949 play, Death of a Salesman, endures today because of its ability to effectively convey a complex family dynamic in the wake of its patriarch’s failed American dream. Themes of disappointment and denial, embellishment and skewed self-perception emerge to form the backbone of the story. Willy Loman, the play’s central character, eventually falls victim to his own demise and consequently leaves his family to reflect on who he was as a father and husband. His wife, Linda, and his son, Biff, display conflicting ideas about Willy’s identity and why he took his own life due to the different relationship Willy held with each of them.

In Linda’s eyes, Willy is her entire life. By clinging to the codependency of their relationship, she allows herself to rationalize Willy’s behavior by ignoring his faults and augmenting his strengths. For example, the play’s first glimpse into Linda’s perception of Willy describes an “iron repression of . . . exceptions to Willy’s behavior.” She loves him and even admires “his massive dreams and little cruelties” because they are “sharp reminders of the turbulent longings within him” (1224). Linda tolerates her husband’s verbal abuse because she believes his outbursts are a product of...

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