Analysis Of Willy Loman’s Perception Of Reality And Illusion

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Until one is ready to face reality, living in an illusive world, will lead their life to be misleading and full of misery. An example of this is found in the character Willy Loman, a distressed, who is unable to recognize the truth of his dysfunctional life. Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman was written during the era in which the American economy was soaring and the “American Dream” was conceptualized. The idea that anyone could make it was a predominant societal belief and accordingly was the major conflict within the play. 

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The protagonist Willy Loman, has a twisted perception of this dream and pursues this fantasy throughout the novel, which ultimately leads to his inability to distinguish between reality and illusion. Its theme includes the disintegration of a family brought about by self-blindness and a refusal or to acknowledge the truth can only lead to ruin. Throughout the play, readers witness Willy encounters frustration and failure as he construct his entire life based off the unattainable dream of being well liked which even extends to teaching his children the same ideals and ultimately leads to his own demise. The line between reality and illusion is often blurred as Willy cannot distinguish between the reality of a situation or the illusions he lives within. Furthermore, his most predominant flaw is his belief that success is embodied by overwhelming, great financial earnings and widespread popularity. In pursuit of his fantasy world, he mask his true passion and real talents as a carpenter and strives for a more prestigious profession that entails glory. He strives to build an image of false reality in which his ideal occupation is a salesman as his blindness leads him to believe that he will be more respected as a mediocre salesman than an average carpenter. His vision if being a highly respected salesman is of inspiration to emulate the success Dave Singleman; a salesman who was so “well-liked” that he made sales over the phone and have hundreds of buyers and fellow salesman’s attend his funeral. For Willy to live by such ill-founded ideals, it is necessary for him to create lies that construct his ideal reality for him. This is clearly demonstrated by the following quote: “You take me, for instance. I never have to wait in line to see a buyer. ‘Willy Loman is here!’ That’s all they have to know, and I go right through”. Over time, Willy begins to believe his own lies and his constructed realities until he is no longer sure which version is real and which is an illusion. 

The Loman family is a clear example of ones that suffer from a loss of reality, as Willy’s skewed perception of their identity eventually affects his sons Biff and Happy. Willy is fooled by the belief that his sons not only have what it takes to be successful businessmen but are destined to be great. Willy’s dreams of Biff being exceptional is destroyed by the reality of mediocrity as throughout the story we learn he has accomplished nothing in life. For Biff, his failures commence after he failed to graduate high school leaving charmed life as the start football player behind and entering the real world. As mentioned earlier, Willy adopts the idea that if a person is well liked and attractive enough, he will gain acceptance and door will suddenly open for him. To Willy’s surprise, Biff does not go to be a successful business man despite him being the perfect candidate since Biff was always well liked in school and was good-looking. Insteads goes from job to job stealing from each of his employers, evening ending up in jail for it because Willy is too busy praising his son, to correct him. Although Biff may have been unsuccessful in the eyes of his father after epiphany in Bill Oliver’s office. “I was a ‘shipping clerk, was never anyone prestigious.” This quote demonstrates that Biff determines to come to realistic terms with his own life as he cannot ignore his instincts, that lead him to abandon Willy’s flawed dreams and move out West to work with his hands. Despite being the only member of the family who is able to become self aware, acknowledging his failure and eventually manages to confront it, he ultimately fails to reconcile his life with Willy’s expectations of him.

Willy’s dreams of Biff being exceptional is destroyed by the reality of mediocrity as throughout the story we learn he has accomplished nothing in life. At the end of the play, Willy is still harboring misguided hopes about success for Biff and pays the ultimate price for this. Willy perceives his entire life as a failure and commits suicide as desperate attempt to redeem himself by giving up his own life in order for his family to get the money from his life insurance. In his mind the only worthy thing he can do with his life is to die. However, his motives involve more than helping with finances. In a day dream, Willy tells his brother, Ben, ‘That funeral will be massive! . . . He’ll see what I am, Ben! He’s in for a shock, that boy!’ . Willy is trying to earn his sons respect with the money from the insurance policy rather than establishing a relationship with him. This reinforces that Willy dies as deluded as he lived. Willy’s loving wife Linda, can be compared to the ideal 1950s housewife as some of her characteristics involve her being a loyal wife that does not question her husband. Linda’s utter and blind devotion to her husband is Imperative for allowing the theme of illusions to progress since she enables his delusions. Throughout the play it becomes evident that Linda is willing to protect Willy at all cost and support his paralzying, unachievable dreams and does so in order to protect his ego and downfall. This is best represented when she finds the gas tube in the basement and recognizes that her husband is trying to commit suicide. Rather than confronting Willy, Linda goes as far as to blames Biff in order to protect Willy. Biff recognises that Willy is delusional and Linda takes offence. She places enormous responsibility on Biff “his life is in your hands” this quote displays how Linda supports Willy regardless of the valid arguments that her sons point out that he is acting crazy. She’s actually tells Biff to stop bothering him because she is protecting him and acting loyal. Linda acts very symapthetic for her husabnd espically when he is in the midst of his downfall into depression when he is fired from his job. Despite her efforts, her relationship with her husband as she supported her husband in every wrong, resulted in a fatial ending. 

Death of A Salesman is more than the story of one man’s failure Willy Loman, lives a life of incredible grief and hardship. Willy was sold on the wrong dream aggravated by worlds of promise and success that he cannot ever seem to meet. Willy’s efforts to obtain the “American Dream” and pass his success on to his two sons becomes his main focus and cause for the diluted life the Lowman family lives. However, Miller demonstrates that none of characters can achieve greatness until they confront and deal with this illusion. Eventually the family begins to drown in each others dreams and lies as a way to solve their issues, only to cause the demise of their family. 

16 August 2021

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