How are the female characters in "Sonny's Blues" and Death of a Salesman similar or connected?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Sonny's Blues" by James Baldwin and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, the female characters in the story, specifically the mothers, are similar in some ways, but very different in others.

In "Sonny's Blues," Sonny's mother is a strong woman. After her husband dies, she sits down to speak with her son, Sonny's brother (and the story's narrator). Her concern is that should something happen to her, no one will be there to keep an eye on Sonny. The narrator insists she will be around a long time and Sonny will be fine.

The mother continues to tell a story about her recently deceased husband: he and his brother, when young, had gotten drunk one night, and as they walked home, a car full of drunk white men had hit and killed his brother. Sonny's mom is grateful that her husband died before her as she believed he would not have survived without her because he had never recovered from his brother's tragic death. She has been the solid, grounding thread in her husband's life, holding him up even many years after his brother's death.

In Death of a Salesman, Willy's wife, Linda has been spent supporting the men in her life: two sons and a husband. She is also a strong woman. She loves her husband dearly, and would do anything for him, even though he is not grounded in reality. He is a man who is haunted by the past in terms of opportunities he feels he has missed with his brother Ben), his dreams of how he think the world is (in terms of his son Biff), and his perceptions of how the world should be (that his job and his career potential should remain the same over the course of thirty years).

Like Sonny's mother, Linda Loman is a central figure in her husband's life as he tries to cope with life's difficulties.

However, where Sonny's mother keeps her husband grounded, Linda feeds Willy's dreams so that he is never really able to get in touch with the reality of his existence. His inability to do so eventually causes him to take his own life. This is not to say that Linda is responsible, but she is an enabler, and in essence, Willy is on his own, which he is totally unable to handle.