The Two Willy Lomans in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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The Two Willy Lomans in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman There are two Willy Lomans in The Death of a Salesman. There is the present broken, exhausted man in his sixties, soon to end his life. And there is the more confident, vigorous Willy of some fifteen years before, who appears in the flashbacks. One actor portrays both, readily shifting from one representation to the other. To some extent, of course, the personality remains constant. The younger Willy, although given to boastful blustering, does admit misgivings to Linda and loneliness to Biff. And the shattered older man, in turn, occasionally reverts to his former manner of jaunty optimism. Yet the changes are great and significant. The earlier Willy could never have been the idol of his teen-aged sons had he behaved in the perverse, distracted fashion of his older self. Willy's agitation during his last days stems from a twofold sense of failure. He has not been able to launch successfully in the world his beloved son Biff, and he no longer can meet the demands of his own selling job. Although not altogether ignoring Linda and Happy, he is primarily concerned about the once magnificent young football star who at thirty-four drifts from one temporary ranch job to the next. Willy cannot "walk away" from Biff'sproblem, as Bernard suggests, nor can he accept Linda's view that "life is a casting off." Being over sixty, Willy is doubtless tiring physically. The sample cases are heavy. The seven-hundred-mile drives are arduous. And many business contacts, developed over the years, are vanishing as the men of his era die or retire. Yet the worry over Biff has obviously accelerated his collapse. Actually, Willy's attitude toward Biff is complex. On the one hand, t... ... middle of paper ... ...ledge. But Happy is still determined to "beat this racket"and come out "number one man." On the day of the big game, Charley ruefully asks Willy when he is going to grow up. In some ways Willy never does. His boyish enthusiasm is, of course, part of his appeal. But his persistent refusal to face facts squarely drives him at last to a violent death. Ironically, his suicide, to him the ultimate in magnificent gestures, merely leaves Linda woefully bereft and Biff more than ever sure that "he had the wrong dreams. All, all wrong." Works Cited Eisinger, Chester E. "Focus on Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman': The Wrong Dreams," in American Dreams, American Nightmares, (1970 rpt In clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1976 vol. 6:331 Gordon, Lois "Death of a Salesman": An Appreciation, in the Forties: 1969) rpt in clc. Detroit: Gale Research. 1983 vol. 26:323
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