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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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In Death of a Salesman, how does Willy maintain self-respect despite feeling unjustly treated?

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This question can be answered in considering both Willy's reality and fantasy life.  In fantasy, Willy's ideal self is revealed to the reader through flashbacks of people he has met and events that have taken place.  In his fantasy world, Willy is a more loving father and husband, is respected by those he meets, is a capable provider, and is more light-hearted and self-assured about his position in life.  All of these characteristics are essential to Willy's self-respect.

In Willy's reality, the only way I see him maintaining any shred of self-respect is, ironically, through his suicide.  When Willy has exhausted every avenue available to him for continued success in achieving the American Dream, he believes by committing suicide his family will inherit his $20,000 life insurance policy and will be set for a long time.  It is this feeling of providing for his family, even though through his death, that allows Willy to maintain self-respect in a world that has been so unjust to him.

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