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Literary Analysis: Death Of A Salesman

1950 words - 8 pages

"After all the highways, and the trains, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive," (Miller, 98). This quote was spoken by the main character of the Arthur Miller play Death of a Salesman: Willy Loman. This tragedy takes place in Connecticut during the late 1940s. It is the story of a salesman, Willy Loman, and his family’s struggles with the American Dream, betrayal, and abandonment. Willy Loman is a failing salesman recently demoted to commission and unable to pay his bills. He is married to a woman by the name of Linda and has two sons, Biff and Happy. Throughout this play Willy is plagued incessantly with his and his son’s inability to succeed in life. Willy believes that any “well-liked” and “personally attractive man” should be able to rise to the top of the business world. However, despite his strong attempts at raising perfect sons and being the perfect salesman, his attempts were futile. Willy’s only consistent supporter has been his wife Linda. Although Willy continually treats her unfairly and does not pay attention to her, she displays an unceasing almost obsessive loyalty towards her husband: Even when that loyalty was not returned. This family’s discord is centered on the broken relationship between Biff and Willy. This rift began after Biff failed math class senior year and found his father cheating on Linda. This confrontation marks the start of Biff’s “failures” in Willy’s eyes and Biff’s estrangement of Willy’s lofty goals for him. This estrangement is just one of many abandonments Willy suffered throughout his tragic life. These abandonments only made Willy cling faster to his desire to mold his family into the American Dream. They began with the departure of his father leaving him and his brother Ben virtually penniless and without a strong male role model in their lives. Eventually Ben, Willy’s brother, seemingly abandons Willy and heads to Alaska to seek adventure. Willy is also fired from his long time job. He feels abandoned by his boss and snubbed after all his long years of hard work. Perhaps the most damaging abandonment in Willy’s life is from that of his sons. All these factors combined attribute to Willy’s feelings that a he is worth more dead than alive. Consequently Willy makes many failed attempts at committing suicide. Ironically he does so many times by inhaling gas through a rubber tube. This is ironic being that gas is used to provide an essential element of comfort he struggles to provide his family. Willy is metaphorically and literally being killed by the gas particles. In the end Willy is successful in his last suicide attempt. He has reached bottom low and feels he is truly worth more to his family dead than alive. Throughout this play, Miller uses Willy’s failed goal of reaching the American Dream to show the effects of abandonment on the ability of Willy to decipher reality from fiction, the toll on his family, and his fragile emotional state.
Throughout this...

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