What do we learn about Willy's characterization in the opening of the play?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that we gain some valuable insight into Willy's characterization in the opening of the play.  Consider one of his descriptors of America as "the greatest country in the world."  Willy's statement reveals the very essence about the idea of how he believes in the power of one's own subjectivity.  Willy's characterization in terms of how he praises subjective desire over all else is evident in the opening of the drama.  Linda's call of "being careful" is a statement as well that can reveal how little care and caution that Willy exhibits.  It is one that again brings the reader into this idea that his hopes are one of a staircase of ascension, but his reality is one which is a descent into failure.  Willy's entrance as the haggard salesman who continues to believe in what exists in his mind, but not in reality is also evident.  When unable to go to the conference in Maine, Willy's insistence of how he "could sell" is the resounding theme.  There is a refusal to understand what reality is and instead seek it out to what it should be in the portals of his own subjectivity.  Both elements become extremely important and in this configuration and help to underscore a characterization in the exposition of the drama that will remain throughout it.

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Death of a Salesman

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