At the end of reading Miller's drama, explain if you felt closer to Willy in terms of empathy.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that I am left feeling terrible for Willy's family, in particular his wife.  I empathize with Willy in so far as how the belief in materialism, "the American Dream," and how being enamored with superficiality can all have personally destructive consequences.  I empathize with how much the desire to "not be a zero" can infiltrate all aspects of being.  I empathize with how the desire to "be more" can be all encompassing.  I don't walk away from the drama without these feelings because Willy is so much a modern character.  Miller talks about how he viewed a production of the drama with the audience in tears because they were seeing their own lives on the stage.  To a great extent, my empathy lies in here.  I can blame Willy and throw stones at him, but in doing so, I fail to fully recognize how my experience and many others are represented in his predicament.

Yet, I think that I feel worse for Linda and those who end up being the collateral damage for Willy's pursuits.  Linda turns out to be a reservoir of strength, a woman that deserved better than what she got, but never resented life for it.  She is so caring for her husband and so defensive of him when so many others would have simply discarded him and have done so.  My empathy for Willy has limitations, primarily because my empathy for her character is boundless.  While the drama is about Willy and his struggles, I think that there is something more haunting about how at least Willy had death to embrace at the end his suffering.  Linda's seems to continue and reverberate for a much longer period.  It is for this reason that I empathize more with her character because she is the personification of an interminable suffering in silence.  At the very least, Willy was a man in a setting where men had considerably more power than woman.  For this reason, my empathy extends more to Linda.

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Death of a Salesman

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