Death of a Salesman Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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Assess the dilemmas Willy faces during the course of this narrative.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One of the most challenging dilemmas that Willy has to navigate comes down to how he can find success in a world where the metrics determine him to be a failure.  How Willy can be a "something" is part of where the narrative moves and helps to provide its overall trajectory.  Willy fails to make money, fails to make a name for himself in business, fails to carry the weight of his own expectation, and fails to hold up the standards that society places upon him.  This becomes one of the major dilemmas that Willy faces.  It is a challenge upon himself that defines his character.  At the same time, Willy must also reconcile with the dilemma of being a failure on a personal level.  Not being a significant enough force in his children's lives and not being present for his wife are personal dilemmas that he must find his way through over the course of the drama.  The metrics for what defines success and how social notions of the good might not necessarily help to construct happiness becomes part of this dilemma, part of this questioning.  It is here where I think that Willy's conflicts becomes part of what drives his narrative, but also how the audience comes to interpret the drama's significance.

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