The Coward Revealed in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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The Coward Revealed in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

In the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, the main character, Willy Loman, is a struggling salesman. Willy Loman is a complex character who confuses illusion with reality. In a way, Willy has two personalities in this play. The one we see in the present action is a tired man in his sixties. The other Willy is the one we see in flashbacks. He is young and confident.

In Act Two, Scene Fourteen, Willy’s son Biff tells him that he loves him. Willy can tell that Biff is not just saying this out of pity because Biff is sobbing. In a flashback, Willy speaks to his dead brother Ben. Ben keeps saying "Time, William, Time", reminding him that suicide is closing in. Ben also tells Willy that he should come to the jungle. In this scene, the jungle represents opportunities for success. The reason that Ben tells Willy to come to the jungle, is that when in the jungle, Willy can get the diamonds. The diamonds represent the insurance money that the family will get from Willy’s accident. Therefore, Ben is saying that the only way Willy can get twenty thousand dollars in insurance money is to kill himself, or symbolically Ben is saying that the only way to get the diamonds is to enter the jungle. Willy also talks to Ben how great Biff would do with all of that money.

Willy thinks one more time about Biff and how he was a great football player. This shows that Willy still thinks of Biff as a football hero, which is one of the reasons Willy thinks Biff is so magnificent. As Willy is finishing up his thoughts, his wife, Linda, is calling him to come up to bed. After this happens, the sound of a speeding car is heard driving off into the night. In the same scene, Willy’s wife Linda has come to make a peace with their two sons, Biff and Happy. Linda also suspects that Willy may kill himself. She made a big mistake by leaving the disturbed Willy alone. The rubber tubing that Linda found on the heater foreshadows Willy’s suicide. Linda doesn’t want Willy to kill himself, but believes that she cannot interfere with his business.

I believe that Willy’s suicide was an escape from shame. He couldn’t keep living his life as a lie.

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