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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller
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In Death of a Salesman, what are some ways in which Willy Loman tries to gain approval and seek acceptance in his relationships, specifically in relation to his fear of being abandoned?

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Willy Loman is keenly aware of the fact that he and his brother were basically abandoned as children. While he squashes the facts with fantastic accounts of how great his father was, the reality is that the abandonment definitely jaded him.

Having Ben as his second caretaker made Willy look...

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Willy Loman is keenly aware of the fact that he and his brother were basically abandoned as children. While he squashes the facts with fantastic accounts of how great his father was, the reality is that the abandonment definitely jaded him.

Having Ben as his second caretaker made Willy look up to his older brother as yet another paternal figure that would protect him. Yet, Ben also left him, supposedly to go to Alaska to look for their father. Instead, Ben ended up in Africa and made it rich in the diamond mining business.

So, with the two most important men leaving him to his own devices as such an early age, Willy was left to try to figure out life on his own. As we can see, Willy is not the calculating, adventurous risk-taker that his brother (and, presumably, his father) were. Willy was arguably the one who would have needed the most support and the most guidance.

Along the way, he developed his fear of abandonment, as is clearly illustrated with this quote from act 1 from Willy to his brother Ben.

WILLY [longingly]: Can’t you stay a few days? You’re just what I need, Ben, because I—I have a fine position here, but I—well, Dad left when I was such a baby and I never had a chance to talk to him and I still feel—kind of temporary about myself.

This shows that Willy needed guidance and support in his life.

In his conversations with Ben, Willy also shows that he remembers very well that moment when he was left behind. This shows that the incident left him marked.

WILLY: I remember I was sitting under the wagon in—was it Nebraska?
BEN: It was South Dakota, and I gave you a bunch of wildflowers.
WILLY: I remember you walking away down some open road.
BEN [laughing]: I was going to find Father in Alaska.
WILLY: Where is he?

Willy asks this question a few times in the novel: Where is his father? The answer is never clear or final, which leaves Willy continuously wondering what really happened; he longed to see his father again, and he definitely felt grounded when he had a chance to see his brother in real life. This is why he basically summons his brother in his memories and flashbacks; it is the need to see these men in his life again.

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