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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller
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How do the family members in Death of a Salesman contribute to their family's dysfunction, and how Willy cope with it?

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The Lomans are portrayed as a dysfunctional family and live in a delusional fantasy world, where they are accomplished, successful individuals on the verge of experiencing a big break. Willy Loman is a depressed, mentally unstable salesman, who maintains contradicting beliefs about his two unsuccessful sons, Biff and Happy. One part of Willy views them as complete failures, while the other part of him firmly believes that they are destined for greatness. Willy struggles with his own failures as a salesman by reminiscing, making excuses, and contemplating suicide. Biff, Happy, and Linda all contribute to their family's dysfunction and Willy's delusion by supporting his unrealistic dreams and attempting to live up to his high expectations. For example, Happy continually lies to his father about his position at work and encourages Biff to lie about his meeting with Bill Oliver.

Initially, Biff subscribes to the imaginary "Florida idea" and fills Willy's head with delusional thoughts of grandeur. Both of Willy's sons attempt to appear like they are ambitious, determined men with a solid business plan, which could not be further from the truth. Happy is simply prepared to tell Willy anything that will put a smile on his face and has no intention of accomplishing the things he speaks about. Linda also helps Willy cope with his insecurities by continually replacing the rubber hose on the gas pipe and refusing to speak about his suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Essentially, the entire Loman family is content with living a lie and suppressing the truth to maintain appearances and please each other. Willy attempts to cope with his own failures by hallucinating, suppressing his negative emotions, contemplating suicide, and accepting his delusional perspective of the world.

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