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In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, how does Ben affect Willy's character?

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sharjeel12345 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 27, 2011 at 2:17 AM via web

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In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, how does Ben affect Willy's character?

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 27, 2011 at 2:45 AM (Answer #1)

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Ben Loman affects Willy tremendously because his character is a foil of Willy's.

Older than Willy Loman, Ben was Willy's support system when their father left the household.  However, the first difference we encounter in the brothers, aside from their age, is that Ben is courageous, and set out to look for their father in Alaska.  Contrastingly, Willy is left defenseless, and alone.

Secondly, Ben was daring and willing to initiate and take on challenges. One of them left him a very rich man when he decided to take the risk of entering the African mining business. In contrast, Willy never became successful and led his life trying to chase after the successes and dreams of people who led their own goals,namely, Dave Singleman: The man whose success inspired Willy to be a salesman for the sake of becoming rich quick.

Third, Ben's success rubs on Willy's ego at all times. Certainly Willy loves his brother, but it is impossible to maintain a healthy brotherly relationship when Ben continuously reminded Willy about his lack of success.

In all, Ben shares the same ambition and desire for a better life as Willy. However, as often happens in life, success is achieved by the survival of the fittest. In this case, Ben was the fittest man and became successful. As a result, Willy had to endure the act of basking on his brother's glory or accept his own failures.

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lcassidy | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted May 4, 2011 at 12:16 AM (Answer #2)

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In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Willy is a character whose idea of success is not to work hard and work your way up the corporate ladder.  Instead, he believes that being lucky and being well-liked are the keys to being successful and to being truly happy.  This is why he admires his brother Ben so much.  Ben was on his way to Alaska, but made a wrong turn somehow and found himself, luckily, in Africa.  This is where he made his fortune.  In addition, this is the type of success that Willy craves and admires; to get rich accidentally without having really worked for it.  Stumbling upon riches is his dream and is why he epitomizes his brother’s success.  This is what he yearns for in his own life, and it is his life’s regret that he never accompanied Ben on his voyage.  Consequently, because of Ben’s accidental success, Willy lives his life with the unrealistic expectations of becoming such a success.

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