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Death of A Salesman and The Zoo Story

 

 

      Arthur Miller's  Death of A Salesman , is considered a to be one of the great masterpieces of American Literature.  Comparatively, Edward Albee's, The Zoo Story, is also an incredible work of art. Miller and Albee both depict a the struggles of man in relationships.  Interestingly, both plays seem to parallel each other throughout both works of literature. 

 

      The Death of a Salesman tells a story of a distressed father, named Willy who struggles with his tenous relationship with his son, Biff.  Willy's personal failures have led him to try an live vicariously through his son Biff. Willy Loman is an elderly salesmen lost in false hopes and illusions. The sales firm that he worked for no longer paid him salary. Working on straight commission, Willy could not bring home enough money to pay his bills. After many years with the firm, he was no a commodity to the company.  They have spent his energy and discarded him like an old pair of shoes. Willy's sons, Biff and Hap, are both failures, however Willy refuses to come to terms with this bleak reality. He wants his sons, especially Biff, to succeed where he has not. He believes his boys are great and cannot understand why they are not successful. This is a major source of conflict throughout the play. As Willy has grown older, he has trouble distinguishing between the past and present, between illusion and reality, and is often lost in flashbacks where much of the story is told. These flashbacks are generally during the summer after Biff's senior year of high school when all of the family problems began. Willy has had an affair with a women he meets on sales trips and once caught by Biff. Now, Biff does not respect Willy and they do not get along. Willy eventually commits suicide so that Biff can have the insurance money to become successful. Ben is Willy's dead brother who appears to Willy during his flashbacks and times of trouble. Ben was a rich man who made it big in the diamond mines of Africa. Willy once was given the chance to become partners with Ben, but refused and instead choose the life that he currently lives.

 

      Likewise, the only two characters in the Zoo Story, Peter and Jerry, reminded me of both Willy and Ben Loman. It is my understanding that both Jerry and Willy appear to be in the same mental state. Both of these men had trouble dealing with real life situations. Jerry has difficulties dealing with people he just cannot seem to relate and struggles with poor social skills.  In order to start somewhere he decides to begin by forming a relationship with a dog.  Similarly, Willy Loman also had problems dealing with people, especially with his son Biff.  I believe the relationship between Willy and Biff, could easily be compared with Jerry and the dog.  These two relationships clearly showed both love and hate and the ultimate struggle to connect with each other, however unsuccessful. " I had tried to love, and I had tried to kill, and both had been unsuccessful by themselves" (pg 2180).  Willy Loman obviously felt that he failed in making Biff successful, just as Jerry failed to get the dog's love.  Ultimately, both men in desperation commit suicide as the easy way out of the incredible pain and turmoil they are faced with. Both men left this world with regret.

 

      Another comparison that can be made is with the other two characters, Ben and Peter.  I feel that Ben could be viewed as playing the same significant role in Death of A Salesman as that of Peter in The Zoo Story . Both of these man were depicted as successful.  "When I was seventeen, I walked into the jungle. And by twenty-one, I walked out. And by God, I was rich!" (pg 1950).  Peter is more depicted as a person that's living the American Dream. He's got two kids, a wife, and parquets.  I believe that Peter's success had a direct effect on Jerry as did Ben's success on Willy.   

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