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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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How does Willy Loman's pride and arrogance harm him in Death of a Salesman?

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Willy Loman's excessive pride and arrogance stem from his delusional ideas that he and his sons are well-liked, charismatic individuals, who are destined for greatness. Willy is blinded by his father and brother's success and believes that he has the inherent talent and appearance to attain the American Dream. Unfortunately, Willy is delusional and fails to take into consideration his lack of talent in the area of sales and does not realize his brother Ben's success was simply luck. Throughout the play, Willy refuses to face the reality of his situation and his pride prevents him from accepting Charley's help. Charley not only lends Willy money every month but also offers him a job several times in the play. Instead of accepting Charley's offer and coming to terms with the fact that he is not a successful salesman, Willy begins contemplating suicide in the hopes that his family will benefit from his life insurance policy. If Willy were to accept Charley's offer, he would have the much-needed opportunity to rest and finally attain financial stability. Unfortunately, Willy believes that working for Charley, who is unattractive and not athletic, is beneath him and refuses his neighbor's generous offer.

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Part of Willy's excessive pride and arrogance comes from a blinding view of his dreams.  He believes his dreams to be absolute and pristine, devoid of even the slightest of defects.  This lack of reflection and introspection is where his pride and arrogance resides.  In the place of rumination and reflective analysis, Willy has inserted his sense of hubris.  Willy never stops to ask questions about the conditions of his dream.  For example, when he speaks to Linda about Biff's failures, he never recognizes that there might be flaws in the stereotypical notion of the American Dream, or that it might not even exist.  Rather, Willy asserts that nothing is wrong with his vision of America, reflective of a sense of pride in the "greatest country in the world," one filled with "beautiful towns and fine, upstanding people."  This exceptionalism is reflective of arrogance because it sees a subjective vision as truth and little else can be offered.  

Another example of Willy's pride and arrogance comes from Willy's belief in money and materialism as defining success:  "Why? Does it take more guts to stand here the rest of my life ringing up a zero? ... And twenty thousand—that is something one can feel with the hand, it is there."  For Willy, this is reflective of an adamant condition in which money and wealth defines success.  Willy lacks the introspection to find other means to determine success. His own pride and arrogance equate wealth with success, even if that means he is a "zero."  Willy feels that "The world is an oyster," a reflection of how he, and others like him, can be "something" purely through their own efforts.  No other conditions enter this equation. His refusal to accept that his dreams might be flawed is an offshoot of his arrogance and pride.  This same lack of reflection is evident in how Willy fails to understand his failures as father and husband.  Willy only sees the need for him to "work harder" as a salesman.  Nothing else enters his calculations.  This arrogance and sense of pride is reflective of a point of weakness and why his own certainty are painful reflections of what it means to live in the modern setting.

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