What are the flaws of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman"?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's play "Death of a Salesman" is intended as a deeply flawed character. He is not a tragic hero, characterized by greatness and grandeur, but rather a mediocre salesperson, who has in most ways failed to achieve his own aspirations. 

The first flaw Willy has is that he is not really a very good husband. Although he does work hard (if not effectively) at his job, and tries to take care of his family, he commits adultery and cannot quite keep up with the bills. As a father, he condones his son's cheating in school, and in emphasizing sociability over good grades, does them a great disservice in terms of preparing his children for the real world of work. Finally, Willy tends not to see reality very clearly, but instead, his perpetual optimism and upbeat fantasies distort his sense of reality.

Despite these flaws, however, there is an almost heroic quality to his final act of suicide, in which he seeks to redeem himself by supporting his family with his life insurance after his death. 


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