Essay on The Confusion Between Illusion and Reality in Death of a Salesman

Essay on The Confusion Between Illusion and Reality in Death of a Salesman

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The line between reality and illusion is often blurred in Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman. Whether it is incorporated in the content or the actual structure, this struggle between recognizing reality from illusion turns into a strong theme; it eventually leads to the downfall of Willy and his family. Willy is incapable of recognizing who he is, and cannot realize that he, as well as his sons, is not capable of being successful in the business world. Happy and Biff both go through some battle between reality and illusion that cause a collapse in some part of their lives. The line between Willy’s flashbacks and current time also send him into turmoil when he cannot distinguish between the two.
Willy believes that he is much more successful than he is in reality. The first sign of Willy’s illusion about his life occurs rather early in the play. He has the illusion that “[he’s] the New England man. [He’s] vital in New England” (14). In reality any person could have taken Willy’s position at work. This illusion leads to his downfall because as his life begins to fall apart, he lives in the illusion that he has enough money to support his family, so he does not recognize that he has to put the pieces of his reality back together. More towards the end of the play, in an outburst of anger Willy refuses to be called “a dime a dozen” and states “I am Willy Loman, and you are Biff Loman” (132), as if the Loman family is a special figure in society. His unclear view of his place in society leads to his destruction; with only one view of his life, Willy believes that he is living his life to the fullest.
Not only does Willy believe that he is a success, but he believes that he is “worth more dead than alive” (98). This is the f...

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...but as Willy slowly slips farther into his illusions, the stage directions signal “The Woman’s laugh is heard” (40). Willy is completely immersed in this slight flashback of The Woman, but then is confused and yells at everyone around him. This chaos ensues directly as a result of Willy’s confusion between what is reality and what is his imagination. During the intense argument at the restaurant between Biff and Willy, the stage direction directs “The Woman laughs, off left” (113). Not only does this laugh symbolize turmoil and bad times in Willy’s life, but it also triggers Willy’s fall into another of his many occurring flashbacks. Without this theme of illusion and reality, the atmosphere of these flashbacks would not have such a withstanding effect on the play.

Andersen, Richard. Arthur Miller. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark, 2006. Print.

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