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Willy Loman’s Distorted Values in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Willy Loman’s Distorted Values in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

Willy Loman, the central character in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, is a man whose fall from the top of the capitalistic totem pole results in a resounding crash, both literally and metaphorically. As a man immersed in the memories of the past and controlled by his fears of the future, Willy Loman views himself as a victim of bad luck, bearing little blame for his interminable pitfalls. However, it was not an ill-fated destiny that drove Willy to devastate his own life as well as the lives of those he loved; it was his distorted set of values.

If Willy Loman had valued acceptance over popularity, individuality over conformity and devotion over materialism, he would have considered himself rich in his later years, feeling grateful to have a wife and two sons that loved him; and that would have been enough. Yet because he was unable to appreciate the important things in life, he ultimately opted for death instead, subsequently stealing the opportunity for true happiness away from those who had managed to find their own versions of peace prior to his selfish act.

What is truly ironic here is that the act of suicide is Willy’s warped way of showing Biff that he loves him, yet he never once comprehends the notion that his acceptance and understanding would have benefited his son a thousand times more than any insurance policy ever could. Even if the Loman family had succeeded in acquiring the insurance money, it would not have eased their grief. Thus Willy’s distorted perceptions of reality and what truly mattered to his family blinded him to the things that could have made him and those he loved exceedingly happy. Spouting off rhetoric such as…

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…s not a breath of fresh air…The grass don’t grow . . . you can’t raise a carrot in the back yard.” (p. 17), he is basically demonstrating how barren and unfruitful he feels his own life has become. Yet what he fails to realize is that there is beauty all around us if we just now where to look and how to view it. Had Willy been able to grasp what his son Biff was trying to tell him about the true nature of happiness; if he had believed his son that his actions were not perpetrated out of spite, but out of the longing for a sense of self that Willy had never given him, perhaps Willy Loman would not have sold himself or his family short. Perhaps instead, he would had the strength of character to commendably walk away from the biggest sales gimmick of all time; The American Dream.


Arthur Miller, Death of A Salesman, edition: October 6, 1998, Penguin USA

The Power of Nature Revealed in The Open Boat

The Power of Nature Revealed in The Open Boat

In 1894, Stephen Crane said, “A man said to the universe: ‘Sir, I exist!’ ‘However,’ replied the universe, ‘The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.'” This short encounter of man and nature is representative of Crane’s view of nature. However, he did not always see nature as indifferent to man. In 1887, he survived a shipwreck with two other men. “The Open Boat” is his account from an outsider’s point of view of the two days spent in a dinghy. Crane pays special attention to the correspondent, who shares the chore of rowing with the oiler. While rowing, he contemplates his situation and the part that nature plays in it. Mainly through the correspondent’s reflection, Crane shows the power that nature and experience have in expanding people’s ignorant opinions of the world around them.

In the beginning, the four men in the boat view nature as evil and unjust. Crane portrays this through the men’s reactions to the waves and the seagulls. They describe the waves as “most wrongfully and barbarously abrupt and tall” (245). Later in their journey, the correspondent notices “the tall black waves that [sweep] forward in a most sinister silence, save for an occasional subdued growl of a crest” (254). Each of these examples show that the men in the boat feel that nature is out to get him. The waves are seen as a living enemy force. The men also view the seagulls as threatening. They hover around the boat and when they finally fly away, the men feel relieved. In a critique of “The Open Boat”, Donald Gibson explains that “as observers we know the sea is in fact not hostile, that the sea gulls are not actually gruesome and ominous. But the men in the boat have this to lea…

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…cult situation, such as a shipwreck, enables us to comprehend the world around us. Thus, a story such as this can only be written after the fact. At the beginning of the story, Crane tells us that the men did not even know the color of the sky. However, after the correspondent recognizes nature’s complexity, he begins to see the world differently. His observations of the sea and sky become more detailed. Only after two days on a dinghy could the men listen to “the sound of the great sea’s voice” and feel “that they could…be interpreters” (Crane 261).

Works Cited

Crane, Stephen. “The Open Boat.” Discovering Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays. Ed. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele L. Rico. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997. 245-261.

Gibson, Donald B. The Fiction of Stephen Crane. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968. 128-133.

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