Example of a Character Analysis essay on Death of a Salesman about:
Arthur Miller / Death of a Salesman / Loman / character
The significant way the characters of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a salesman” relate to each other and influence each other’s lives.
Who may be truly considered to be the central character of the play?
Where does Willy’s insanity come from?
Why are the relations between Willy and Biff so complicated?
The characters of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a salesman” reveal the life Brooklyn back in 1940’s.
Introduction: Arthur Miller’s “Death of a salesman” is an extraordinary play from many perspectives. The way it is written makes the reader fully “jump in” the life of the Loman family feeling a member of this historical period. The author leaves the reader with no space to have a though of his own but simply observe the events and make a conclusion about them at the end breathing out.
Willy Loman – is the tragic hero of the play. Being salesman did not lead him to the realization of his dreams and expectations in life. He finds himself tired of this job but unable to find a way for pay the bills. As a salesman throughout his whole life he considers the trait of being liked by other people to one of the most important qualities in life a man can have. Willy thinks if he was more “likable” he would have been more successful in his profession and would achieve much more in his life. Willy denies the present so strongly that his mind creates time-traps for him. He confuses the past and the present. Willy Loman realized that his life is a failure and his family is not the one he wanted to have and commits suicide. As Willy realizes the fact that his whole life has been a self-deception and a delusion he sees no other way out.
Biff Loman – is Willy’s son and the character who does not suffer from his misery and the reality of his life. He simply accepts the class he belongs to and the future that he can possibly have. Nevertheless Biff also faces disillusionment throughout the novel as he reveals the fact that his father has a mistress. It becomes the breaking point for him to stop trying satisfying his father’s expectations and frees him to be himself.
Happy Loman – is a young man of a complicated character. As throughout his whole life he has been the number two child in the family he has learned that no one expects anything from his. He is truly a son of his father, pretending to be someone more important that he truly is living the day full of lies. Happy is not to escape this way of life like his brother Biff.
Linda Loman – is Willy’s wife who sets herself free when Willy commits suicide. Linda’s conflicts are obvious as she stays Willy’s wife while her internal emotional life is unseen to the rest of the family. She is the one who expects Willy to commit suicide.
Ben – is Willy brother who once asked him to join him on his trip to Alaska and then became rich.
Charley – is Willy’s neighbor who loans Willy money to pay the bills.
Conclusion: The characters of Arthur Miller’s “Death of the salesman” seek the American Dream but cannot reach it as they are doomed to live the way they do. As Willy is unable to admit that he has not become even close to the man he wanted to be and his inability to accept reality causes a deep conflict which results eventually in his death.
- Length: 1190 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Willy Loman, the main character in Death of a Salesman is a complex and fascinating tragic character. He is a man struggling to hold onto what dignity he has left in a changing society that no longer values the ideals he grew up to believe in. While society can be blamed for much of his misfortune, he must also be blamed himself to an equal extent for his bad judgement, disloyalty and his foolish pride.
Willy Loman is a firm believer in the "American Dream:" the notion that any man can rise from humble beginnings to greatness. His particular slant on this ideal is that a man succeeds by selling his charisma, that to be well liked is the most important asset a man can have. He made a living at this for 30 years, but as he enters the reclining years of his life, people have stopped smiling back and he can no longer sell the firm's goods to support himself. His ambition was one of greatness, to work hard and to be a member of the firm; and if he could not succeed in this respect, that he should at least be well-liked and be able to sell until the day of his death: When his friends would flock from all over the country to pay their respects.
Willy's main flaw is his foolish pride, this it what makes him a tragic hero. Yet there are many facets to his personality that contribute to the state he and the family are in during the play. His upbringing of the boys is one major issue, he raised them with the notion that if one is well-liked, he need not worry about qualifications, he believed that if his boys were popular they would come out on top. Sadly, he doesn't realise that the only way an ordinary person can get rich is through work (represented by Bernard) or through luck and good timing (Ben), and Willy missed the boat when it came to luck. The boys grew up to believe in all that their father had told them, and Happy went on to follow in his footsteps as a salesman. Biff, after catching his father with the woman begins to question these values. He realises that for him, at least, these values are not applicable, and he is not too concerned if he doesn't come out on top.
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Tragic Hero Changing Society Tragic Character Main Character Facets Misfortune Footsteps Qualifications Greatness
He just wants to be able to say he knows who he is. The aptly named Happy continues to believe in these ideals even after his father's death and decides that the Loman name will succeed.
In 1949, shortly after the play's premiere, Miller wrote a controversial essay about how Death of a Salesman was a true tragedy, only with common people rather than kings. Loman's lack of self-awareness is not unlike King Lear's, it could be argued - both men evoke the tragic by dying in the effort to secure, in Miller's words, "a sense of personal dignity."
As the play progresses, one begins to feel sorry for Willy and his predicament, but also angry and frustrated with the character for his foolish pride. It is this trait that prevents him from accepting a steady job with Charlie, something that could have saved his life. However, it is this false pride has been sparking the family flame for years, the notion that the Loman name was well known and well-liked. The family lie even amongst themselves about their position as is revealed during the climax of the play:
BIFF "...We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house!"
HAPPY "We always told the truth!"
BIFF (turning on him) "You big blow, are you the assistant buyer? You're one of two assistants to the assistant aren't you?"
Another example is the way in which Willy led Biff to believe that he has a salesman for Oliver, which in the end left Biff bitterly disappointed. The cause for this extrapolation of the truth may be part of Willy's paranoid psyche that he has not raised his boys 'right'.
Happy says of Willy: "He's never so Happy as when he's looking forward to something. " This is very important during the play. Willy's spirit wanes when he has nothing to look forward to, and when his spirit is down, he goes into a flashback. It is as though he is dying and his life is replaying before his eyes. For example, the morning when he is going to see Howard and Biff is going to see Oliver, Willy is invigorated and in the realms of sanity for the first time in the play. Once he gets fired, however, he goes into a tailspin, reliving incidents from the past until he reaches Charlie. The next scene is the restaurant, where he is expecting big news from Biff, he is sane and relatively Happy, waiting for the news that will fulfill his dream. Once Biff starts trying to explain his point of view to Willy, and break it to him gently, Willy realises that something is going wrong and starts another flashback. This time to the woman; he feels a lot of guilt about his affair and relives this event at this moment because he believes that it is the reason that Biff is unsuccessful.
Willy gradually realizes that his selling career is washed up, and foolishly believes it is below his dignity to work any other job. In what he believes is the best interest of the family, he decides to commit suicide, so that his family may get the life insurance. He does not consider that his family loves him, but prefers to look at what is the best business move. He believes that this final solution will give the family a chance financially as well as recover lost dignity (when Biff sees the masses that are supposed to go to his funeral.) Willy says to Charlie: "Funny you know? After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive. " This statement is a sad reflection on the state of mind that Willy is in due the unfortunate combination of his ideals and the change which has occurred in his society.
Willy is a multi-faceted character which Miller has portrayed a deep problem with sociological and psychological causes and done so with disturbing reality. In another time or another place Willy might have been successful and kept his Sanity, but as he grew up, society's values changed and he was left out in the cold. His foolish pride, bad judgement and his disloyalty are also at fault for his tragic end and the fact that he did not die the death of a salesman.