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Lack of Morals and Ethics in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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Lack of Morals and Ethics in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman


      Much of a person's personality is derived from his or her parents

or the people with whom they live.  One's behaviors are a reflection of his

or her up bringing.  All actions of others in one's environment have an

impact in one's behaviors.  That is especially true of parent's influence

on a child.  Nearly all morals and ethics are learned from parents.

Sociologists have indicated that as time progresses American ethics have

decayed immensely.  Parents in America have become more lax with their

children, and the strictly enforced code of ethics seems to have diminished.

 Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, portrays the consequences of

the laxity of parents with regards to ethics through the relationship of

Willy Loman and his two sons, Biff and Happy.


      Rather than having played a positive role model for his sons Willy

Loman, established a poor standard of morality.  For example, when Biff was

in high school he was the star of the football team.  One afternoon he

stole a football from the locker room.  When Willy became cognizant of

Biff's actions, Wily did not punish Biff.  Instead, he told Biff that the

coach was likely to congratulate Biff for his show of initiative (29, 30).

Similarly, at another point in the play Biff and Happy stole lumber from a

nearby construction site.  Instead of teaching the boys a lesson in ethics

Willy was proud of his sons.  In fact, he bragged about the amount of

construction materials the two stole (50, 51).  Willy allowed the boys to

steal, which could be considered an immoral act, worse yet, Willy's praise

for their actions prohibited Biff and Happy from knowing stealing was an

immoral act.  Studies have shown that at a very young age children were

extremely impressionable.  Teaching the difference between right and wrong

would give hope for a moral future.  In the play there was little hope for

Biff and Happy because Willy continued to show poor standards of morality

in a positive light.

 

      In addition to stealing, being dishonest also surfaces as an

unethical behavior that was practiced and thus promoted by Willy Loman.

Willy was a salesman who had a rocky past few months.  Instead of admitting

his failure to his wife, Linda, he lied about his income.  He lead Linda to

believe he earned more than he actually did.  Each month his debt grew

greater and greater because he had borrowed money to continue to  live the

lie (72, 73).  With the knowledge that Willy lived a lie, Biff saw no wrong

in dishonesty.  In turn, he too lied to Linda.  He told her that he was

ready to settle down with one women.  His statement was only said to please

Linda; it could not have been further from the truth (68).  Dishonesty is

against traditional ethics.  If Willy taught it as an unethical behavior

Biff and Happy would be aware of it as well.

 

      Moreover, Willy's poor treatment of others revealed his unethical

character and also paved the path his sons would follow.  An example of

Willy's poor treatment of people was his affair.  Although, Willy and Linda

were married for many years, Willy must not have been satisfied with his

marriage, because he had an ongoing affair with another woman (116, 119).

Linda would have been crushed to know about Willy's unfaithfulness.

Willy's poor treatment of Linda lead his sons to believe that dishonesty

toward others was acceptable.  They too treated women as objects.  For

example, at one time they left their father at a restaurant  so they could

go rendezvous with a couple of woman (24, 25, 27).  Through his dishonesty,

Willy was not even competent enough to teach his sons the most important

law of ethics, the golden rule.  Do onto others as one would want done onto

them.  In a perverse way the Loman boys did practice the golden rule.  They

did to Willy what he did to others.

      In conclusion, Willy's relationship with his sons in Death of a

Salesman reflected the lack of enforcement of morals and ethics in the

American society.  Through the character Willy Loman, Arthur Miller

demonstrated that it was necessary to teach children a solid code of ethics,

which should be applied to everyday life.  Without an ethical background

people would lead immoral lives.  Perhaps, if Willy had been more strict

and a more positive role model his sons would have turned out as more

ethical and conscientious people.  Rarely does a parent who behaves

unethically raise a child who grows up to be remotely ethical.

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