Analysis Of The Character Of Willy Loman In Death Of A Salesman

In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is a 63 year old burn-out salesman suffering from gross delusions of granduer as well as recurring psychotic episodes that are consistant throughout the majority of the play. Memories of the past will often trigger intense flashbacks to past events (although they are argueably distorted) in which he often consoles his dead brother, Ben, for help regarding his financial situation and the unrealistic ambition of achieving the American dream. When said flashbacks have ended, Willy often wakes up confused and disorientated, often in entirely different places. His psychotic symtoms also clash with his family members and collegues such as his two sons, Biff and Happy, who gradually become more alarmed thoughout the play as Willy's episodes increase. Willy's wife, Linda, is aware of his episodes and that they are increasing however chooses to remain silent except to her two sons in the later half of the play because she knows if she confronts Willy about his mental ailments it will destroy his dignity, the most valuable characteristicf that he so dearly hold onto, even turning down a job from Charlie when he is going through a financial crisis. However his concept of dignity is greatly distorted as he happily turns down a job offer from Charlie but still borrows money from him.

Howard, the successful son of a colleague Willy used to work with, also becomes aware of Willy Loman's unstable state of mind and refuses to give him a job at his firm, to Willy's great disappointment and aggitation 'I named you Howard when your father was trying to pick out a name'. Compared to Othello, Will Loman has arguably never been in a high position of power, despite his insistant, exausting ramblings proclaiming that he's worked hard his entire life. I disagree with the statement that a tragic protagonist must first possess a sense of greatness, for it is more tragic and saddening to see a character so consumed by their desire for greatness and power that they have deluded themself into thinking they are a great person 'The world finally needs to pay attention to a man like Willy Loman'. Willy Loman is a the tragic protagonist for the 'modern era', the every man who constantly struggles to be something he can not and live up to an unrealistic ideal, even if that means being in denial about his flaws and short-comings and choosing not to confront the problem at hand. 

Willy Loman's ultimate downfall is his inability to self-reflect and accept/confront his flaws, although this could very well be yet another manifestation of his mental illness. The issue at hand is entirely subjective towards the audience, however it could be argued that atleast Othello had a taste of true power compared to Will Loman's relentless craving for recognition, status and money. This analogy can easily be summarized in the phrase 'It's better to be a lion for only one day, than a sheep for a lifetime'.

16 August 2021
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