Watching a solitary blade of grass will never tell you the direction of hurricane, just as one characteristic can never describe Linda Loman. In Death of a Salesman, Linda Loman is a woman torn between guilt, retaliation, and pity. Her guilt stems from the fact that she prevented Willy from pursuing his true American Dream; she retaliates in response to Willy's failure; she feels sorry for Willy, because he is a "pitiful lone adventurer of the road" (47). As the battling motivations blow from opposing directions, the reader is left to decide to which one motivation Linda will succumb.
Willy is a source of guilt for Linda, because, in part, she blames herself for his failures. In one of Willy?s flashbacks, the reader is able to see how easily Linda turns the tide from frantic desire to go to Africa to enthusiastic zeal to conquer the business world. Linda reminds Willy of his "beautiful job" as a salesman in order to keep him where she wants him (1252). As Willy's descent into insanity gains momentum, Linda is forced to come face what she helped create. Her guilt spawns an all-out defense against Willy in all his imperfections. She defends her husband against all logic and reasoning, against her sons, even though Willy is irrational and incoherent. To Linda, Willy is the "dearest man that ever lived," despite his failures, and her guilt and defense amplify her glorification of Willy.
Willy?s dream sequences provide a window to see Linda?s bitterness and sarcasm toward her husband. Her tone with Willy when he discusses his earnings is condescending and sarcastic. She tells him "that?s very good, Willy," like a mother congratulating her child on tying ...
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...le the battling winds of motivation, but ends up changing between them, never settling on one, and preventing the reader from making a concrete decision about her true nature. Perhaps Linda is both overlooked and undervalued and as corrupted by materialism as Willy, but it is nearly impossible to say that she is one or the other. Linda bends to each force in different parts of the play. She is loving and hateful. She is offense and defense. Trying to find a single description to fit the ever-changing Linda is like trying to catch a single leaf in the midst of a hurricane.
Lewis, Allan. American Plays and Playwrights. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1970. 47.
Miller, Arthur. "Death of a Salesman." Discovering Literature: Stories, Poems, Plays. Ed. Hans P. Guth and Gabriele L. Rico. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997. 1211-82.
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