Death of a Salesman- Willy's Escape


 No one has a perfect life. Everyone has conflicts that they must 
face sooner or later. The ways in which people deal with these
personal conflicts can differ as much as the people themselves. Some 
insist on ignoring the problem as long as possible, while some attack 
the problem to get it out of the way. Willy Lowman's technique in 
Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman, leads to very severe 
consequences. Willy never really does anything to help the situation, 
he just escapes into the past, whether intentionally or not, to 
happier times were problems were scarce. He uses this escape as if it 
were a narcotic, and as the play progresses, the reader learns that it 
can be a dangerous drug, because of it's addictiveness and it's 

 The first time Willy is seen lapsing off into the past is when he 
encounters Biff after arriving home. The conversation between Willy 
and Linda reflects Willy's disappointment in Biff and what he has 
become, which is, for the most part, a bum. After failing to deal 
adequately with his feelings, he escapes into a time when things were 
better for his family. It is not uncommon for one to think of better 
times at low points in their life in order to cheer themselves up so 
that they are able to deal with the problems they encounter, but Willy 
Lowman takes it one step further. His refusal to accept reality is so 
strong that in his mind he is transported back in time to relive one 
of the happier days of his life. It was a time when no one argued, 
Willy and Linda were younger, the financial situation was less of a 
burden, and Biff and Happy enthusiastically welcomed their father back 
home from a long road trip. Willy's need for the "drug" is satiated 
and he is reassured that everything will turn out okay, and the family 
will soon be as happy as it was in the good old days.

 The next flashback occurs during a discussion between Willy and 
Linda. Willy is depressed about his inability to make enough money to 
support his family, his looks, his personality and the success of his 
friend and neighbor, Charley. "My God if business doesn't pick up , I 
don't know what I'm gonna do!" (36) is the comment made by Willy after 
Linda figures the difference between the family's income and their 
expenses. Before Linda has a chance to offer any words of consolation 
Willy blurts out "I'm Fat. I'm very--foolish to look at, Linda" (37). 
In doing this he has depressed himself so much that he is visited by a 
woman with whom he is having an affair. The woman's purpose in this 
point of the play is to cheer him up. She raises his spirits by
telling him how funny and loveable he is, saying "You do make me 
laugh....And I think you're a wonderful man." (38). And when he is 
reassured of his attractiveness and competence, the woman disappears, 
her purpose being fulfilled. Once again the drug has come to the 
rescue, postponing Willy's having to actually do something about his 

 The next day, when Willy is fired after initially going to ask 
his boss to be relocated is when the next journey into the past 
occurs. The point of the play during which this episode takes place is 
so dramatic that willy seeks a big hit of the flashback drug. Such a 
big hit in fact, that he is transported back to what was probably the 
happiest day of his life. Biff was going to play in Ebbets field in 
the All-Scholastic Championship game in front of thousands of people. 
Willy couldn't be prouder of his two popular sons who at the time had 
everything going for them and seemed destined to live great, important 
lives, much more so than the "liked, but not well liked" boy next 
door, Bernard. Willy's dependency on the "drug" is becoming greater by 
the hour, at this rate, he cannot remain sane for much longer.

 Too much of anything, even a good thing, can quickly become a bad 
thing. Evidence of this statement is seen during Willy's next 
flashback, when the drug he has been using for so long to avoid his 
problems backfires, giving him a "bad trip", quite possibly a side 
effect of overuse. This time he is brought back to one of the most 
disturbing moments in his life. It's the day that Biff had discovered 
his father's mistress while visiting him on one of his trips to ask 
him to come back home and negotiate with his math teacher to give him 
the four points he needed to pass math and graduate high school. This 
scene gives the reader a chance to fully understand the tension 
between Willy and Biff, and why things can never be the same. 
Throughout the play, the present has been full of misfortune for the 
most part, while the opposite is true for the past. The reader is left 
to wonder when the turning point occurred. What was the 
earth-shattering event that threw the entire Lowman family into a 
state of such constant tension? Now that event is revealed and Willy 
is out of good memories to return to. With the last hit of Willy's 
supply of the drug spent, what next?

 The comparison between Willy's voyages into the past and the use 
of a narcotic is so perceptible because of it's verity. When Willy's 
feeling down, or life seems just too tedious and insignificant, or 
when things just aren't going his way, why not take a hit of the old 
miracle drug, memories. The way he overuses his vivid imagination is 
sad because the only thing it's good for is enabling Willy to go 
through one more day of his piteous life, full of bitterness, 
confusion, depression, false hopefulness, and a feeling of love which 
he is trying very hard to express to his sons who seem reluctant to 
accept it.


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