Death Of A Salesman


by Arthur Miller
Willy's Escape
No one has a perfect life. Everyone has conflicts that they
must face sooner or later. The way 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 Loman'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 its addictiveness and its
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 Loman 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 problem.
The next day, when Willy is fired after initially going to
ask his boss to be relocated, 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 Loman
family into a state of such constant tension? Now that
event is revealed and Willy is out of good memories to
which he can return. 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 its
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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