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Death of a Salesman

by Arthur Miller

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Why does Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman" appear desperate, despite his wife being aware of his difficulties?

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Additionally, Willy Loman had built up a huge fantasy world in which he was a successful salesman and his children were successful as well. He no longer lived in reality. As a result, he was unable to face the fact that he was just plain Willy Loman, an aging man in an industry that prizes youth and vitality. Sales is about whar Willy calls being "well-liked" and, while he may have been liked at one point, he is now an aging has-been. He believed ibn empty promises, some of them real and others imagined. He placed all of his hopes and dreams on the idea of success, of living the American dream, and he is unable to accept the fact that most people just get by.

As to the fact that nobody seems to care about him, this is a direct commentary on the way corporate society has evolved. As a salesman, you are valuable as long as you are making the company money. When you lose your "game" so to speak, no one cares about you any more. They let you go because corporate America is all about profit. His sons care about him, but only to the extent that they are capable of. They are self centered, but for different reasons. Happy resents his father because his father always criticized him and compared him to Bif in a negative light. He was the fat, nerdy son. Even the fact that Happy was the one to go on and be closer to what Willy would call success was never enough to make Willy acknowledge Happy. Biff resents his father because he caught his father having an affair. Up until that point, Bif had worshipped willie, but this one night changed his entire perspective on who his father was. Bif still tries to stop Willy from killing himself, but only half-heartily as he has lost respect for his father as a human being.

Willy's wife is aware of what is really going on because she has to be. she has kept the family afloat for their entire lives, paying the bills and making the money that has come in meet their needs. She has borrowed when she needed to and done what she had to do. Through it all, she has kept silent, letting Willie have his delusions and supporting him throughout them because she loves him. She is aware of his flaws, but she also notes that his flaws exist only because he wanted so much more for his family, and that society should respect a man who truies as hard as he has to reach out and grab the elusive American dream.

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I might argue that nobody really cared about him. His neighbor Charly offered Willy a job out of his concern for Willy-and Willy rejected it out of pride, more than anything.

Biff did care about his Dad's feelings, but he was never taught to be responsible enough to step up to the plate, so he does not know quite well how to react properly to help him.

Happy, if anyone, is the one with the least of concerns because he is even more irresponsible than Biff, and never faced the situation with the mistress nor the pressures of Willy like Biff did.

The wife is, unfortunately, an enabler. She never set her foot straight as a mother nor wife and now she is paying the consequences- I argue that her worries are more to protect Willy's fantasy than to protect his life.

The real problem with Willy is not that he is trying to earn money desperately: The primary problem is his inability to let go of the past, to break free from his obnoxious and stubborn ways of viewing the world with himself in grandiosity and self-made riches. If he only realized that he is past his prime, embraced change, and diverted his frustrations towards possibilities, he would have not been stuck in the rut that he was now.

The money part is separate. Yes, he is not making money, and yes the money is and will always be needed especially during those times. However, Willy is more a slave to himself than to the extrinsic circumstances that led to his demise.

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Perhaps the reason is that the appeal of the play was the fact that so many people are living this every single day.  The sense of not being able to make enough money to give their families or themselves the things they want.  The sense of constantly having to have more is an emotion that so many people can identify with that it drove many audiences to tears because they felt it so keenly.

The desperation of Willy is meant to connect to that issue and the more his desperation is visible and over the top, the easier it is for audiences to empathize with so it drives a great deal of the action of the play.

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