Cause of Willy Loman's Demise Essay

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Real Tragedy of Miller's Death of a Salesman

Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, explores personal tragedy through the life of Willy Loman, whose fatal flaw is coupled with inaction. Willy is a unique man in that he is able to maintain his lifestyle for decades. This lifestyle is not successful but it was comfortable and easy. Willy is delusional because he has misguided notions about the American Dream. Willy is also very good at lying to himself and those around him. The lies allow him to continue living an empty existence. He is merely surviving rather than thriving. He does not know what to do with his life so he does nothing. The tragedy involved with Willy is one worth exploring, as it forces us to reckon with the forces of the human psyche and its fragile state. A psychoanalytical look at the drama demonstrates how it is easier to be a failure than we realize because our minds protect us from the truth.

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Willy's tragic flaw stems from his mind but his concept of how to achieve the American Dream bears a great of responsibility on Willy's attitude. Willy lives during a time where the American Dream is almost a given. He never stops to consider the difficulty involved in achieving success, which involves more than making money. He believes he will be successful if everyone likes him. He tells Biff that he must "Walk in with a big laugh. Don't look worried, Start off with couple of your good stories to lighten things up. it's not what you say -- it's how you say it -- because personality always wins the day" (Miller 1065-6). This is not serious advice for success and it explains why Willy is so lost when it comes to his self-identity. Biff realizes this and at the end of the play, he tells everyone Willy never got to know himself. As long as he believes his lies, he keeps the dream alive. Charley sees the damage of what happened and says:

For a salesman, there's no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back -- that's an earthquake. (1113)

Essay on Cause of Willy Loman's Demise Assignment

From this statement, we see that Charley saw how Willy was primarily show and very little action and this explains how he managed to live so long on a dream. He was able to fake it with quite a few people for a long time. For the American Dream to come true, there must be hard work and sweat involved. Willy worked long days but he was not actually working in the sense that he was contributing to society. Frank Ardolino maintains that Willy is "like a rat in a maze; no matter where he turns he runs into the same indices of defeat . . . For no apparent reason, Willy's psyche blinds him to the madness of his grandiose dreams of omnipotence and compels him to attempt to replace reality with his own concept of it" (Ardolino). Willy simply did not have the character to "knock Howard for a loop" (Miller 1070-1) and "get an advance, and I'll come home with a New York job" (1071). His concept of how to get it was askew.

Willy's demise is also related to acknowledging some semblance of the truth. While his life is a big lie, Willy, at times, has moments of clarity when he senses there might be something wrong with his approach. At 63, he reflects upon his life and might sometimes begin to feel somewhat of a failure. He counters this inclination through denial, which emerges as excuses. He tells Linda, "The trouble was that three of the stores were half-closed for inventory in Boston. Otherwise, I woulda broke records" (1046).Here we see Willy blaming outside forces for his failure. He is overlooked at work and believes he "is not noticed" (1047) rather than not being recognized for his potential. Willy lives with no real drive; he has no passion other than making money. Willy cannot admit failure and, therefore, cannot learn anything from doing so. When Charley offers Willy a job with him, Willy does not accept it. Willy is stubborn and this is slowly killing him because he believes that taking the job would mean admission of failure or defeat. It is not within Willy's personality to do this. He refuses the job but can still bring himself to ask for money every week. Willy is blind to certain facts about life. This kills him from the inside out H.C. Phelps contends that "Willy's suicide is the last in the series of futile, misguided gestures that made up his life" (Phelps). The tragedy is that Willy never had enough courage to live with intention. He cannot admit failure and this keeps him from making any positive moves. He knows the truth on some other level that he keeps somewhere in the back of his mind. He can hide that truth with the lies of going to work everyday and putting in the hours without actually thinking about things.

Willy's inability to face the truth is his biggest enemy. Being a success was more difficult than he imagined and he passed his mindset to his children. Biff suffers from a lack of self-importance and cannot seem to find a path in life that suits him. Lois Tyson notes that a psychoanalytic reading of the play might "examine the ways in which Willy Loman's flashbacks to the past are really regressive episodes brought on by his present psychological trauma: his own and his son's lack of success in the business world . . . Willy has spent his life repressing through denial and avoidance" (Tyson). Willy cannot handle the difficult truths of life. He cannot find a way to cope with his golden years and he does not communicate with his family in such a way that he can seek their help. All of these things point to failure at some level. Willy's preferred way of coping is through denial. As Death of a Salesman progresses, we see just how serious Willy's denial is. The denial feeds the lies, which gives Willie a reason to live. As long as he does not have to think about the reality of his situation, he is fine. He can move through the struggle of every day and not be bothered about the big picture. He gets through each day with lying to those in his life. When he is working as a clerk, he lies about being a salesman. Linda even sees the futility of his denial and lies and simply goes along with the lie instead of confronting Willy and attempting to help him. She tells Biff and Happy that Willy was demoted, which explains his meager income. In a sense, Willy refuses to free himself from failure because he refuses to do something else. He thinks he will get better. He lives a life of "what if" and "maybe" scenarios that get him absolutely nowhere. Linda is of no use to him because she enables him. She is not able to discuss any of this because she cannot be sure of what he will do. We live in a world that bombards us with lies of some sort almost every day. People tell "little white lies" without giving it a second thought and hundreds of millions of people lie to themselves all the time. It is easy to do but it is dangerous.

Willy's tragic flaw is most directly connected to his inaction than his dream. In reality, there was nothing wrong with his… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Cause of Willy Loman's Demise" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Cause of Willy Loman's Demise.  (2010, December 11).  Retrieved October 21, 2020, from

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"Cause of Willy Loman's Demise."  11 December 2010.  Web.  21 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Cause of Willy Loman's Demise."  December 11, 2010.  Accessed October 21, 2020.