How does self-deception function as a coping mechanism for the Lomans in Death of a Salesman?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the idea of believing in appearances over reality plays a major role in all of the characters in Miller's drama.  Part of the particular strength of the drama is how each character is shown to be predisposed to focusing on what can be as opposed to what is as a result of the matrix of their states of being in consciousness.  It might be easy for the reader/ audience to criticize the characters for doing this, but in assessing the configuration of their own lives and the circumstances in which the characters are placed, the recognition of self- deception as a way in which life is lived is understandable.  Willy's pursuit of a dream that never quite materializes or embracing something that has no real chance of happening is something that defines his state of being where self- deception is a means by which to cope with the reality that surrounds him.  In a way, Biff deceives himself in blaming his father for all of his woes.  In being able to deceive himself in blaming his father, Biff does not have to fully embrace the responsibility of progressing down a path whereby he must face his own failure.  Linda might be guilty of her own form of self- deception.  She understands that her husband and her sons might be embracing a sense of delusion and se;f- deception, but she facilitates this in perhaps deceiving herself in believing that this is what a supportive mother and wife is supposed to do.

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