A Family’s Influence in Death of a Salesman

Published: 2021-07-01 07:15:18
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Category: Death of a Salesman

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Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller depicts the life of a salesman named Willy Loman and his family in 1950’s New York. Willy Loman reflects on his life in his old age with dissatisfaction, and at the close of the play ends up taking his own life. A family can emotionally hurt each member of it’s content more than any other person because of their closeness and similar thinking, as is shown throughout the play through the Loman family. Arthur Miller uses vividly portrayed flashbacks from Willy’s life to explain how one’s family can influence a person to feel like a failure.
One way the author portrays Willy’s regrets is by introducing his older brother, Ben Loman. Ben ventured to Alaska to seek out a fortune and have an adventure, and although he invited Willy, he declined to stay in New York and become a salesman. Willy tells his Boss “I was almost decided to go when... I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. ” (p. 1859) He then goes on to say that although it was once a great business, the times have changed and instead of personality and friendship in the job, the people do not know him anymore.
Willy also complains to his son, Happy, that he should have gone with Ben and made a fortune, rather than staying behind. “Why didn’t I go to Alaska with my brother Ben that time! That man was a genius, that man was success incarnate! What a mistake! ” (p. 1839). Miller is telling through these passages that older siblings are able to make one feel inferior, when comparing your own successes to theirs. Ben overshadowed Willy with his accomplishments, feeling like he did not live up to expectations from his family.

Older siblings create a standard for younger siblings to live up to, and if one does not live up to these standards just like Willy Loman, there is a sense of inferiority and failure. Willy Loman once had a strong relationship with his boys. Miller contrasts Willy’s past relationship with his two sons, Happy and Biff, with their current relationship to illustrate how your children’s dissapproval and strained relationship will affect one’s sense of failure. In Act I, Willy gets lost in a daydream where his boys are laughing and joking with him and hanging on his every word.
When he tells them of his travels, they ask to be taken along, and offer to carry his bags. (p. 1835). Miller uses the small gesture of the boys asking to carry their Father’s bag to show that they had a true respect for him once, and would offer to do the smallest things to please him. This instance is contrasted when Biff is speaking to his Mother about Willy’s well being and yells “I know he’s a fake and he doesn’t like anybody around who knows! ” (p. 1848).
Throughout their lives, their relationship has become strained and Biff no longer feels the same respect for his Father as he did once before. Willy outwardly resents Biff every time they come in contact, but in reality he is resenting himself inwardly as Biff tells him the things he is starting to believe are true about himself. When a parents child has ceased to believe that their parent is magical and true in every way, that person will feel as though they have failed to teach their children, just as Willy Loman felt he had failed to teach Biff and Happy.
The relationship between husband and wife is crucial to a family’s foundation and ultimate happiness. While Linda and Willy Loman have a seemingly wonderful relationship, Willy has an affair with a character simply called The Woman. The author portrays Willy’s deep guilt towards Linda during a daydream when The Woman is introduced. Willy flirts with The Woman, with her saying that he is funny and generous. Willy gives her a new pair of stockings, and she tells him while he kisses her “You just kill me, Willy.
And thanks for the stockings. I love a lot of stockings. ” (p. 1838) The scene then changes to Linda mending a pair of old stockings, telling Willy it is because they are so expensive. Willy lashes out at her quickly, telling her to throw them out. Miller uses this contrast between the two women in Willy’s life to portray the guilt he feels towards the affair, and illustrating that his heart does not completely lie in the marriage he is in.
Both women are offering Willy adoring comments, but while he is able to buy The Woman new pairs of stockings, his wife is at home mending an old pair. Willy had become unhappy at home, and had therefore tried to find his happiness somewhere else in another woman, offering her new things rather than his wife. The author is telling his audience that marital relationships are very important, and if it is not strong then the rest of the family will continue to suffer, and eventually feel the effect of their failed relationships.
In another essay by Arthur Miller, he states that Willy “gave his life, or sold it, in order to justify the waste of it. ” (p. 1892). The failed family relationships from his wife and children, as well as the shadow of his brother hanging over his head, had led Willy to believe he was worth more dead than he was alive. A person’s family has more influence on a person’s self esteem and worth more than any other factor, and can either lead to great self esteem, or in the case of Willy Loman, a sense of intense failure.

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