Death of a Salesman

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Death of a Salesman

Ben as a Minor Character Who Develops the Play

In Arthur Miller’s, Death of a Salesman, the character of Ben is used as a catalyst to fuel the development of the main character, Willy. Ben appears in three major flashbacks throughout the story. In the first flashback, Ben makes his appearance to give Willy happiness because to Willy, money means happiness. The second time Ben appears, he is used as a scapegoat to show that Willy has a hard time dealing with the truth. The third and final time that Ben appears is in Willy’s hallucination to help him decide on whether or not he should commit suicide. Through a comparison and understanding of each of these occurrences, the reader is able to gain vast knowledge of who Willy Loman actually is. These flashbacks and hallucinations show how Ben’s character is used as a device to allow the reader to understand what is actually going on inside Willy Loman’s mind.

The first time Ben appears is in a flashback within Willy’s mind. This flashback is used as an interruption of Willy’s feelings of inadequacy about his present situation. Willy has returned home from a selling trip, unable to concentrate and unable to keep his mind in the present. Ben appears as an archetype for Willy’s inability to face the truth, a way for him to forget about his present condition and feelings. This flashback with Ben provides the reader with a large amount of information about him, and, thus, about Willy. The reader first learns that Ben is much wealthier then Willy, and, while they are brothers, they did not grow up together. The reader also learns through the flashback that Willy idolizes Ben, though they have never been close. Willy comments, “Ben! I’ve been waiting for you so long! What’s the answer? How did you do it?” obviously showing Ben has achieved what Willy wishes. The reader realizes that Ben has made a fortune by “walking into Africa”. He has prospered by essentially using other people for what they can give him. “When I was seventeen I walked into the jungle, and when I was twenty-one I walked out. And by god I was rich” . The reader learns about the character of Willy because he completely believes that this is an excellent way to make money.
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