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Theme Of Failure In Death Of A Salesman

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“Was it my fault?”(93), this is the question that plagues Willy throughout Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. Willy wonders what the value of his life has been, his family struggles to pay their bills and his sons are not getting ahead in their job fields. Willy wonders: has he been successful? Or has he not only failed in the business world, but in his family life as well? To the reader it is evident that Willy has not been successful in life. But what is more ambiguous is whether or not Willy recognizes his own failure. Through Willy’s conversations with Ben at the end of the play it is revealed that Willy was on the path to recognizing his failure. However, he returns to believing that success is still attainable after he realizes…show more content…
As a teenager Biff idolized his father, but their relationship changed after Biff discovered that Willy was cheating on Linda. Biff realizes that Willy is not the man he presented himself to be, and as a result Biff is left without a role model. Because of this realization, Biff gives up on his dreams and drifts from one job to the next, never progressing in any aspect of his life. This causes conflict between Biff and Willy. Biff has failed in the business world and has accepted his failure as his own fault. However Willy fears that Biff blames him for his failure. Willy’s adulterous ways left Biff without a role model, so he feels responsible for his son’s failure. Willy’s guilt is apparent when he tells Biff, “when you’re rotting somewhere beside the railroad tracks, remember, and don’t blame me!”(130). Willy denies his guilt, because he sees himself as the cause of Biff’s failure, meaning that he himself failed as a father. By denying his guilt Willy hopes that Biff will not realize Willy’s fault and hate him for it. And that is Willy’s greatest fear: Willy’s ultimate desire in life is to be well loved, he already knows Biff dislikes him for being unfaithful, and he lives in fear that his son’s dislike will grow into…show more content…
Centola in his essay “Family Values in Death of a Salesman”, “Miller’s play tells the story of a man who, on the verge of death, wants desperately to justify his life”. To Willy, Justifying his life means proving that he is successful. Willy decides that suicide would be the most effective way to prove this. Death means that his family will receive his life insurance money. This money would provide for Linda, and probably ensure that she lived more comfortably than she ever did on Willy’s income. To Willy the insurance also means that Biff will have enough money to launch his career and become the “magnificent”(133) success he was always meant to be. Willy will achieve success by providing for his family in a way he could not do while he was living. Willy conclues that Biff will, “worship me for it”(135). Willy thinks that by providing Biff with money he is ensuring his success. Willy will achieve his success by ensuring his family’s success, so that they will love and worship him
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