Identity Crisis in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is the story of a man much like Miller's father, a salesman, "whose misguided notions of success result in disillusionment" (Draper 2360). The suppression of the main character, Willy Loman's, true nature is a result of his pursuit of a completely misguided dream. The fraudulent and miserable existence this generates is accentuated by the father-son relationship he shares with his son Biff.

Willy Loman has surrendered the life of himself and his sons to a dream of success, while this dream is not particularly reprehensible, it is nevertheless unsuitable for him and can only be kept alive at the expense of his selfhood. Because Willy does not know himself, his ambitions ?are based on false conceptions of one?s talents and capacities? (Eisenger 331). He is incapable of viewing himself and the world as they truly are, and will sacrifice his existence rather than the ideal he has relied on. His dreams ?may provide a momentary respite from a harsh reality,? but are more devastating over time and result in disillusion (Abbotson 47). Willy desires to meet the demands he believes society dictates: American determination for wealth and renown??an almost virtuous pursuit? (Abbotson 48). He is torn between two contradictory lifestyles: the agrarian life that his father led and suburban city life. He genuinely cannot tolerate the latter, demonstrated in his constant dissatisfied grumbling: the apartments that restrict him??Bricks and windows, windows and bricks? (Miller 17). Not to mention the streets ?lined with cars,? the absence of fresh air, the grass that ?don?t grow any more,? and the demise of the ?two beautiful elm trees? that once grew in his back yard (Miller 17). Willy prefers to dr...

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...ather, not as a salesman? (Corrigon 105). Although he is not flawless, Willy ?accepts the responsibilities [his family?s] existence creates? unlike his brother Ben because he truly cares about them (Abbotson 44). Willy?s devotion to his family is sabotaged by his misconceived ideas on how love is conveyed, as he attempts to endow his sons with corrupt objectives.

Willy?s identity crisis brings him much despair because without comprehension of his true nature his aspirations are inappropriate. Willy?s relationship with Biff is unquestionably most significant in Death of a Salesman, for it emphasizes the theme of self-awareness and its importance in the novel. Willy?s existence consists of a ?patchwork of errors in judgement, mental and moral lapses, and misdirected hopes?, however, Willy?s ?greatest mistake is living far too long with the wrong dream? (Nelson 110).
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