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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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In Death of a Salesman, how does Willy feel about Charley and Bernard?

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Willy is deeply jealous of Charlie, his next-door neighbor. Charlie is everything that Willy is not: Where Willy is a braggart, Charlie is a modest man of few words; Where Willy is a dreamer, Charlie is practical and real. Worst of all, for Willy, Charlie knows that Willy is losing touch with reality and that he can't pay his bills. Charlie lends Willy money every week, just so that Willy can break even and look, to his family, like he can still make it as a salesman. The guilt Willy feels for coming to Charlie is almost unbearable; he will never be able to repay Charlie and he knows it. Willy tells Charlie, "I’m keeping an account of everything, remember. I’ll pay every penny back." They both know that will never happen. Charlie even offers Willy a job, but Willy is so proud and guilty that he turns Charlie down.

Even worse for Willy, is Charlie's son Bernard. When his sons were young, Willy used to make fun of Bernard. "What an anemic!" he'd say, comparing Bernard to his sons, the "Adonises." How awful then, for Willy, when he meets Bernard later in life. Bernard has become a successful lawyer who has friends with their own tennis courts, who has a wife with two kids, and who goes to Washington to argue cases in front of the Supreme Court. Willy knows all too well what his sons, the Adonises, have become, relative to Bernard.

Both Charlie and Bernard are great sources of jealousy, guilt and despair for worn-out Willy Loman. They serve as living reminders of how he has failed as a businessman, as well as a father. And it will be Bernard who will remind him how he has failed, too, as a husband.

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