In "Death of a Salesman" who does Willy victimize and how, and who is Willy victimized by and how?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Willy victimizes his family. He forces his wife into a stereotypical housewife role, constantly shooting down her suggestions, interrupting her, and verbally abusing her. He also cheats on her throughout their marriage, which leads to the destruction of his relationship with Biff. He spends extravagantly on his mistresses, but forces Laura to mend her stockings again and again. Ironically, she is the one who defends him at his death, repeatedly demanding that they show him some respect.

He victimizes Biff and Happy as well. He spoils Biff, and raises him to believe that charm and good looks will get him everywhere. He encourages biff to bully and take advantage of other children as well. This destroys his chances later in life, rendering him incapable of holding a job or relationship. Happy suffers in the family as well. He constantly walks in Biff's shadow, trying to emulate his athletic achievements. But Happy never receives his father's praise: Willy only has eyes for Biff.

Despite this (& perhaps the cause of this), Willy himself is victimized. One can wax philosophical and say he's victimized by "the system"-the build up of the American Dream that lets so many people down. But Willy is also victimized by the nature of salesmanship: the need for fresh, new techniques and faces to match the customers. He is pushed aside due to age, & his boss willingly leaves him behind for the sake of business.

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Death of a Salesman

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