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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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In Death of a Salesman, how does the Loman family handle their problems?

Quick answer:

The Loman family is a dysfunctional family. They are unable to deal with their problems or to see them as problems. They bury their heads in the sand, hoping that things will get better, while they ignore the warning signs that things are getting worse.

Expert Answers

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The Lomans, individually and as a family, are very ineffective in dealing with their problems. Linda tries to solve family problems by trying to control the others' behavior. She attempts to protect Willy's health and safety, as well as his ego, by hovering over him and making excuses for him. She tries to solve the problems between Willy and his sons by begging Biff and Happy to treat their father with more respect and by trying to convince them that Willy is a good man. Linda frequently runs interference between her husband and her sons. 

Happy deals with problems by refusing to acknowledge them or by making wild promises that are forgotten as soon as he makes them. 

For most of his life, Biff dealt with problems by lying, stealing, or simply running away. After coming home for the last time before his father's death, however, Biff tries to have an honest discussion with his father, but gives up in the face of Willy's anger and denial. Biff faces the truth about his family when he tells Willy, "We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house!" 

Willy deals with some problems by voicing them to Linda (concerns about his job), but his deepest and most significant problems he buries for years, until the end of his life when they finally overwhelm him. Willy tries to cope (with more denial), but he is finally destroyed by his angry outbursts and suicidal depression.

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