Essay on Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman and Amanda in Glass Menagerie

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The Characters of Willy in Death of a Salesman and Amanda in Glass Menagerie

In "Death of a Salesman", Willy Loman believes the ticket to success is likeability. He tells his sons, "The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead." In "The Glass Menagerie", Amanda Wingfield has the same belief. Girls are meant to be attractive and they are meant to be attractive in order to entertain gentlemen callers. As she tells Laura, "All pretty girls are a trap, a pretty trap, and men expect them to be" (1048). It is this very belief that both Amanda and Willy try to ingrain in their children and it is this emphasis on likeability that makes the characters of Amanda Wingfield and Willy Loman so unlikable.

A major part of the reader's animosity towards Willy stems from his responsibility for the ruin of his sons. Willy's affair ends up being the reason that Biff ends up a high-school failure and a football has-been. This blunder both disheartens and destroys his eldest son. It becomes the reason Biff refuses to go to summer school; it becomes the reason that Biff leaves home. Yet, this is all a result of Willy's need to be likeable. He cheats on his doting wife simply because it makes him feel special, because it gives him proof that women other that Linda are interested in him, because it makes him feel well liked. A woman "picked [him]"; a woman laughs when he makes jokes about keeping pores open; a woman pays him some attention (38).

In fact, it is Willy's emphasis on likeability that leads Biff to brush aside his education in the first place. Bernard, the friend next-door who begs Biff to study for the Reagents, is described by Willy as a...

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...something she discovered was useless. They both put emphasis on something that had brought them nothing but pain and suffering and it is this entrapment that makes Amanda and Willy most unlikable. Rather than learning from their mistakes and teaching their children to avoid making the same ones, Amanda and Willy lead their children down the same path to failure, a path that Amanda found to have a dead end, a path to which Willy found no end at all.

Works Cited:

Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Seventh Edition. X.J. Kennedy, and Dana Gioia. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., 1999. 1636-1707.

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. In Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, 4th ed. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995. 1519-1568.
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