“The present and the past coexist, but the past shouldn't be in flashback” -Alain Resnais. The play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller follows the life of a man named Willy Loman, and his family life with his two sons; Biff and Happy Loman, and wife, Linda Loman. Throughout the play, Willy has delusional episodes of past events in life, which he believes he is reliving, and these flashbacks are providing him an escape from dealing with the obstacles he is facing in life. The reader discovers that Willy is having an affair with a mistress titled The Woman, and he retreats to memories of their time together for an ego boost, though in reality he is arguing with his sons. Willy has an encounter with his brother Ben at the same time that he is playing cards with his neighbour Charlie, and because Willy’s mind is so far gone into the memory, Charlie leaves. During this flashback Willy sees his life compared to his successful brother, but he will not accept his lack of skill at being a salesman. His final flashback is a fake encounter he believes he has with his brother, and this progresses to Willy’s final act of suicide. Willy’s flashbacks are evidence that he is delusional because he cannot differentiate between a past event and reality.
In the restaurant, Willy, Biff and Happy are discussing Biff’s encounter with Bill Oliver, the man Biff goes to see about getting money to start his sporting goods business. During the conversation, Willy begins being drawn into a delusional flashback with The Woman, and he is unable to continue his discussion with his sons:
HAPPY: Sit him down, Biff!
BIFF, going to get him: Come on, slugger, drink us under the table. To hell with it! Come on, sit down, pal.
On Biff’s last insistence, Willy is about to sit.
THE WOMAN, now urgently: Willy, are you going to answer the door!
The Woman’s call pulls Willy back. He starts right, befuddled. (Miller 114)
Willy is so deranged that when his sons are trying to have a serious talk with him about a situation at hand, he is unable to focus during the conversation and veers off into fantasy with The Woman. He leaves his sons and escapes to the restaurant washroom where his delusion continues. This scene shows how these fantasies in Willy’s mind take over his sense of reality and he cannot maintain the normal habits expected of a sixty year old man. The Woman fuels Willy’s superciliousness with her admiration and attention:
… I’ve been sitting at that desk watching all the salesmen go by, day in, day out. But you’ve got such a sense of humor… you do make me laugh… you’re a wonderful man… you’re so sweet. And such a kidder. (Miller 38-39)
Previous to his encounter with the woman, Willy is feeling low about himself during a conversation with Linda, “I’m fat. I’m very - foolish to look at…”(Miller 37). The flashbacks with the woman come at times when Willy is feeling unsatisfactory. She gives him the surge of self-confidence.
Charley, a neighbour to the...