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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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How does Willy change throughout Death of a Salesman?

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Willy is very skilled at not plugging into reality. As the play opens, Willy is in his 60s and still has an inflated view of his own abilities as a salesman. He feels that he is valued enough that he can ask for a smaller territory, as he is slowing down—however, his boss uses this request as a reason to fire him. Willy has apparently been more of a liability than an asset to the company in recent years.

At this point, Willy is forced to start facing reality, a fact exacerbated by a visit from his sons. He reacts to this unwelcome situation in two ways: by having hallucinations, a coping method by which he simply flips off a reality that has become too unpleasant and disconnected from his fantasies, and, finally, by facing the reality he actually lives in.

By the end of the play, he has faced that he is a failure and that all he can offer Biff is the insurance money that comes from his death, so he kills himself. Sadly, however, he never seems to realize that his family might want something more from him and for him than money.

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Towards the beginning of play, Willy Loman is sick of traveling and believes that he can persuade his boss, Howard, into giving him a job in the city, where he doesn't have to travel or rely on making a commission. He also believes that Biff and Happy may possibly find success by teaming up, moving to Florida, and establishing a sporting goods store. At the beginning of act two, Willy is enthusiastic about the future and has complete confidence in his delusional thoughts. As the play progresses, Willy begins to discover that his positive outlook on the future is illusory and will not come to fruition. After Willy ends up getting fired and discovers that Biff was unable to get a business loan for the Florida idea, his hallucinations become more intense as he rapidly begins to lose touch with reality. By the end of the play, Willy has completely abandoned hope for a better future and believes that the only way to gain his family's admiration is to kill himself, which is exactly what he does. Essentially, Willy goes from being comfortable behind his delusional thoughts to facing reality, which influences his decision to commit suicide.

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In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Willy is a complex character. At the start of the play, Willy is optimistic and hopeful. Although he is getting older and is having difficulty remembering things, he believes he can be successful and still thinks that he can bring money home to his family. He also believes that his two sons will be successful as well.

However, as time goes on, Willy has a harder and harder time traveling and making his sales quotas. When he asks his boss if he can work locally, the boss says no. Willy becomes frustrated. By the end of the play, Willy has lost hope and has become disillusioned. He gives up. Likewise, he knows that his sons will never make anything of themselves as he always dreamed.

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