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Willy Loman’s Depression in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Willy Loman’s Depression in Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller’s, “Death of a Salesman,” shows the development and structure that leads up to the suicide of a tragic hero, Willy Loman. The author describes how an American dreamer can lose his self-worth by many negative situations that occur throughout his life. The structure and complications are essential because it describes how a man can lose his way when depression takes over.

The first comlication which occurs in Act I, is when the reader acknowledges that Willy put his whole life into his sons, Biff and Happy, and they turned their backs on him. Willy always believed that biff would be this great, successful businessman and it turned out that Biff is still searching to find himself, which disappoints Willy in the worst way. The conflicts between Willy and Biff are rooted very deep. It all started when Biff was younger and he had failed his math class. He traveled to Boston to visit Willy, who was on a business trip. He had told that he had let Willy down and comes to find out that Willy is with another woman. Biff leaves and never takes that math class over. Willy felt guilty about this and believes that deep inside that he is responsible for Biff’s choices in life and his failure to be successful. This conflict makes Willy weak and tremendously guilty, which stays with him as a reminder.

The second complication that destroys Willy is his aging. By getting older he can’t do the things he used to do. His aging affects his work because he is not the salesman he once was. He is not making enough money to support his wife, Linda, and himself. Being 60, Willy is getting too old for the traveling he does for his work. Willy asks his boss, Howard, for a raise and Howard fires him. Willy is really worn out and Howard knows this. This situation in end destroys Willy’s pride and he could never ask his sons for money.

The last complication at the end of Act II, is the conflict between Willy and Biff. Biff finally wants to get everything straight and clear with his father. Biff shows Willy the rubber tube that Willy wants to kill himself with. An arguement errupts from this and Biff tries to explain that he was never what Willy wanted him to be.

Tragedy and the Common Man – Miller Redefines the Tragic Hero

Tragedy and the Common Man – Arthur Miller redefines the Tragic Hero

Arthur Miller states in his essay, “Tragedy and the Common Man,” ” . . . we are often held to be below tragedy–or tragedy below us . . . (tragedy is) fit only for the highly placed . . . and where this admission is not made in so many words it is most often implied.” However, Miller believes ” . . . the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were” (1021). It is this belief that causes Miller to use a common man, Willie Loman, as the subject of his tragedy, Death of a Salesman. Miller redefines the tragic hero to fit a more modern age, and the product of this redefinition is Willie.

Miller states, ” . . . the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life . . . to secure one thing, his sense of personal dignity” (1021). Willie is no exception. Willie’s sense of personal dignity is primarily found in his family, most notably his son Biff. Willie transfers his dreams of being great onto Biff and, when Biff is a failure in the world, these dreams affect Willie’s self-image and sense of personal dignity. To regain this personal dignity, Willie must make Biff great. In the end, it is the love for his son and the belief that his insurance money will make Biff “magnificent” that give him the needed excuse and cause him to end his life.

“Tragedy, then, is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly” (1021). It is the nature of man to make evaluations of himself based upon his peers. Willie’s peer with whom he evaluates himself is Charley. Willie and Charley are about the same age, their children grew up together, and have been friends for many years. Charley has achieved what Willie has dreamed of for so long. Charley’s son is a successful lawyer, whereas Biff is a loafer. Charley is successful in business, whereas Willie has “washed out.” As mentioned before, for Willie to be great, Biff must be great. Willie has failed his job in making Biff better than Charley’s son, therefore he fails his evaluations of himself.

“The flaw

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