In Death fo a Salesman, what emotions and feelings does willy evoke in the audience by the end of Act 1 and why?  

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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As the first act ends, Willy remains largely sympathetic. The details revealed about his character thus far suggest a man who is at loose ends, experiencing difficulty as a parent and as a professional. 

Willy has been having trouble driving and trouble selling. He is struggling to make ends meet and struggling to even to simply continue to work. 

...the audience discovers that Willy has had several automobile accidents recently and that he seems to be emotionally unstable.

Willy varies between a hopefulness and a despair regarding his working life and the same can be said for his relationship with Biff. While Biff is clearly the favorite son, he is also a problem for Willy. 

Willy wants to be close to Biff (and, ultimately, wants to be forgiven by Biff), he has difficulty communicating with his son. Willy's advice is driven by a hope that Biff might take Willy seriously and achieve success in business. This hopefulness is significant in Willy's effect on the audience. 

Willy lacks professional ability, but maintains hope. He has a troubled relationship with Biff, but continues to admire his son and hope that through him some success might be achieved for both (or all) of them. 

This hope creates sympathy in the audience, as well as a deeper emotional investment in Willy's troubles, which are not yet clearly Willy's fault. 

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pruhouser's profile pic

pruhouser | (Level 1) eNoter

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what emotions and feelings does willy evoke in the audience by the end of act 1 and why?

 Before answering, I would like to point out that ‘what’, ‘willy’ and ‘act I’ should all be capitalized.  Also, if you’re going to use the word ‘evoke’, you should use the word ‘from’ instead of ‘in’.  The question should read as follows:  What emotions and feelings does Willy evoke from the audience at the end of Act I and why?

 Audience members will experience a variety of emotions evoked during Act I.  Among these emotions is sympathy, empathy, sadness, hope.  As a result of encountering similar circumstances and issues through their own life experience, the audience will also relate to the emotional turmoil that plagues the Loman family.  This turmoil is a result of several factors.  The Loman’s are boxed in by denial; the apartment buildings surrounding them are symbolic in this respect.  In essence, the Loman’s are suffocating under the weight of this denial.  However, there is obvious regret over lost opportunity and dreams that went unfulfilled.   When any of the characters attempts to break through this denial, the attempt is quickly quelled by another family member or by the character themselves.  For example, though Willy tries to explain to Linda that other people don’t like him, Linda quickly dismisses the notion as she prefers to see Willy through rose-colored glasses.  Willy also vacillates between embellishing his success and expressing how he feels others actually perceive him, i.e. they don’t like him, they laugh at him.  This is also true with Biff.  Biff wants desperately for Willy to understand and accept him.  Willy does not want to see Biff for who he truly is and becomes angry when Biff does not support the unrealistic picture Willy has painted of him.  Biff in turn gives in indicating that he will make himself fit the mold Willy has constructed for him.   Hap would prefer to act as mediator and simply keep the peace by perpetuating the wall of denial that insulates the Loman family from the ugly reality that surrounds them.

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