Death of a Salesman: an Analysis of Psychological Downfall

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Date Submitted: 11/29/2011 08:17 PM

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Many works of literature address the various psychological issues that plague mankind. Through indirect and direct methods including characterization and flashbacks, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman details Willy Loman’s struggle through life. As Willy aged, his personality and mental stability began to deteriorate. This was due to underlying feelings of guilt and his inability to accept reality. Throughout the play, he suffered from hallucinations and rapid mood swings. He frequently experienced flashbacks and visions of people in which he became lost in conversation with. These episodes made him appear insane and erratic. Willy’s biggest dream in life was to be popular and rich thus accomplishing the “American Dream.” In reality, he was not a very successful man, and could never let go of his illusions of grandeur. Willy’s insanity stemmed from his disappointment in himself that he couldn’t bear to accept. Instead, he internalized his illusions of greatness, became lost in this false world, and could never truly step into reality.

Throughout his life, Willy Loman deeply desired success, acceptance, and wealth, which represent his idea of the American Dream. He was attracted to being a salesman as a young man because he made a connection between a person’s popularity and being a successful salesman. As he stated himself, “And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. ‘Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?” Willy had the opportunity to join his brother Ben and go to Alaska, but chose to remain a salesman. His brother’s trips and business ventures eventually led him to a diamond mine in Africa where he made a fortune. Willy, on the other hand, struggled to pay his bills. He turned down something that would have given him his...