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In Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, how are aspects of human nature revealed...

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lollypops | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted July 10, 2012 at 12:24 AM via web

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In Arthur Miller's play, Death of a Salesman, how are aspects of human nature revealed through Willy's struggles in the complex world?

Some aspects that I'm looking for are pride, jealousy, and denial/rejection. Thanks!!! :)

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 18, 2012 at 9:00 PM (Answer #1)

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The concepts of denial and rejection are clearly part of Willy Loman's psychology and struggle in Death of a Salesman. It is human nature to turn away from confusion and uncomfortable ideas and Willy Loman's character is largely defined by his decisions to turn away from reality and toward fantasy.

In the play, we see Willy repeatedly engaging in an oversimplification of elements of his family and professional life which he cannot fully comprehend. This is arguably a response to a struggle with a world that is too complex for him. His notions of success help to lead him to habitual failure as Willy

cannot face the reality that he has misdirected his energies and talents chasing a dream that never had any chance of materializing.

Willy does not have an accurate idea as to how one succeeds in business. He rejects and denies his ignorance by repeating the mantra "you must be well-liked" in order to succeed. Personal charisma is Willy's totem regarding professional life and it stands as his answer to a question which he refuses to directly engage - the question of how to explain his own failure. 

With his family too, Willy chooses to avoid his problems rather than face them. He says that Biff is a good boy and will get himself straightened out, but says this despite the facts in front of him. 

Another denial comes in Willy's decision to end his life as a response to his continued failure despite the fact that he and his wife finally paid off their mortgage. This significant feat is entirely ignored as Willy focuses instead on his fanciful and erroneous image of success as defined by his brother. 

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