I need to describe "Willy’s relationship with his two sons and decide whether or not he is a good father." Anybody have an idea for a thesis? 

Expert Answers
James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

akannan's comments are very good. I want to add that, if I were assigning or grading this essay, I would want to see what is usually called a stipulative or operational defnition. By this, I mean that I would want to see you -- at some point in the essay, probably near the beginning -- define or characterize the term "good father." You might even want to go so far as to incorporate one or more formal definitions. such as Donald Winnicott's concept of the "good enough parent." You may want to argue, for example, that Willy Loman is not only not a good father but also not even a "good enough" father.

Addition: You may want to structure your essay as a syllogism, a three-part argument. Here's an example:

  1. A good father is a father who takes an active but not overly controlling interest in his children's development as individuals.
  2. Willy does not take an active but not overly controlling interest in his children's development as individuals. (Think of the instances in the play in which he only hears what he wants to hear, forces his sons to do things that only benefit him by sustaining his fantasy world, etc.)
  3. Therefore, Willy is not a good father.

You can boil all this content down into one ssntence, of coure. Here's an example, although it's a little clumsily phrased: "Willy Loman is not a good father because he does not take an active but not overly controlling interest in his children's development as individuals."

akannan is right, too, to enourage you to anchor your argument in textual evidence. Show specific instances in the play in which the father does (or does not) embody good parenting skills.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It seems to me that there are three ways to pursue on this question.  It seems like your thesis statement will either be that he is a good father, or he isn't, or perhaps some hybrid.  Depending on what your thesis statement is, this should determine how you examine the individual actions in the play to support your thesis statement.  There is little else one can say other than that you have to determine where you stand on Wily's conception of parenting and how he was as a father and then develop this with textual evidence.  In my opinion, you will probably get farther with examining Wily's challenges with being a parent.  In this respect, you could go ahead and analyze the first act itself, in terms of the discussion that Wily and Linda have about Biff.  I think this is one of those interesting questions about how individuals, themselves, view parental relationships.  While it is easy to pile on Wily for being a bad father, it's not like he was abusive or guilty of horrendously cruel acts.  He might not have been the mose emotionally affectual father, and some might argue that "it is what it is" and the kids cannot pine for what might be.  A logical extension of this would be to consider that perhaps the kids and Wily are guilty of the same thing in that both are suceptible to what might and should be as opposed to what is.

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Death of a Salesman

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