Does Willy Loman have an inferiority complex?

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One could argue that Willy Loman has an inferiority complex, which is defined as a feeling of inadequacy stemming from either real or imaginary sources. Typically, individuals with an inferiority complex suffer from subconscious emotions, which compel them to overcompensate and cause their moods to dramatically fluctuate. Individuals suffering from an inferiority complex also tend to be extremely depressed, have low-esteem, and feel inadequate when they compare themselves to others. Willy Loman expresses several characters traits typically found in individuals with inferiority complexes. Willy is continually comparing himself to other successful salesmen and tries to overcompensate by deliberately lying about his accomplishments and greatly exaggerating his achievements. He lives in the shadow of his successful brother and desperately wishes to be a successful businessman like his father. Willy also suffers from depression and has made several suicide attempts. Willy confides in Linda that others make fun of him because he is overweight and admits that he is not well-liked. Willy's confession reveals that he has a fragile ego and experiences feelings of inadequacy. Willy also experiences dramatic mood shifts and has extreme highs and lows at different moments in the play, which are typical behaviors of people suffering from inferiority complexes.

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One could argue that Willy Loman does indeed have an inferiority complex. The very fact that he constantly feels the need to blow his own trumpet is useful evidence in this regard. Willy constructs a whole fantasy world for himself in which he's still the hot-shot salesman of yore, the legendary pitch-man who was well-liked and respected among his peers.

But deep down Willy senses that this just isn't true at all. Deep down, he knows he's washed-up: a has-been whose best days are long gone. That's why he refuses to accept Charley's offer of a job because that would be an admission of failure, an admission that he's nowhere near as good as he thinks he is. It also explains why he tries to live out his fantasies of success through his sons. He knows that he can no longer be successful himself, so that he means that he has no choice but to pass the baton on to Biff and Happy. The problem is that there's no baton in the first place.

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It was Alfred Adler, a colleague of Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung, who coined the term "inferiority complex." Willy Loman is a good example of a man who tries to convince himself he is important just because he knows he is not at all important. He even confides in his wife that people in the business world laugh at him. He is a dime a dozen, but he rages at his son Biff, "I am not a dime a dozen. I'm Willy Loman." Since he can't prove his importance by achieving financial success, and in fact proves just the opposite, he continually reminisces about the few good years he had in his younger days. He also projects his ambitions onto his son Biff, who could make Willy look successful if only he became successful himself. Willy even dies for success and approval, probably hoping, and hoping in vain, that he will at least have a beautiful funeral with many acquaintances coming from all over New England to attend it.

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