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Character Map: Willy Loman
Transcript of Character Map: Willy Loman
"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-for, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved by so many people?" (61)
"After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive." (98)
Themes and Motifs
“The trouble is he’s lazy, goddammit!”(5) → “And such a hard worker. There’s one thing about Biff---he’s not lazy”(6) -Willy
-Willy’s constant contradictions tie back to his difficultly to grasp reality; his mind is constantly battling with itself as it tries to grasp what is really true and what is formed in his own imagination.
“Will you stop mending stockings? At least while I’m in the house. It gets me nervous. I can’t tell you. Please”(55) –Willy
“And thanks for the stockings. I love a lot of stockings”(26) –The Woman
: Willy sees Biffs failures in life as a betrayal to how he had raised him. Willy believes that Biff betrays his ambitions and desires for him due to Biffs discovery of Willy’s affair with ‘the woman’, which is Willy’s betrayal of Linda’s unfailing love.
The American Dream
: Willy believes that success is built off of things such as being ‘well liked’ and ‘making an appearance’, which will allow one to acquire wealth and a comfortable. These ideas actually oppose the more realistic qualities needed to conquer the American Dream, such as hard work and dedication. Willy’s failure to acquire the American Dream with his ideas allows the really necessary qualities to be seen.
"I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person" (40).
Description of Character
63 year old traveling salesman
unsuccessful in his career (considered a failure, supposed to be bread winner as the man of the family)
extremely proud which gets in the way of his opportunities and what he needed to do to support his family (job with Charley)
proud of false achievements (70, 62) and synthesized image (Linda cleaning, stockings)
incapable of accepting/acknowledging shortcomings
incapable of noticing success on the home front (how loved and admired he is)
a modern tragic hero who neither comes from wealth or privilege and does not come to full self-realization in the play but remains disillusioned (Miller notes as one of primary reasons for lack of success)
Connections/Relationships with Other Characters in Play
Willy and Biff:
Willy is disappointed in Biff. He thinks him wasteful because of his idea of the American dream. Biff possesses all of the qualities Willy sees necessary for success and Biff disproves these distorted beliefs when his seemingly "guaranteed success" never comes. Willy thinks that Biff hates him because of his failures but is severely mistaken, Biff truly loves, cares for, and respects his father, revealed in the argument between them just before Willy's death. Biff fights Willy's delusional mindset and reaches a true understanding of reality. This realization only comes after Biff sees the woman and Willy's image is shattered.
Willy and Happy:
Willy fails to notice Happy much. Happy tries desperately for Willy's approval, trying to achieve the physical qualities and material success that Willy so values. As a result, Happy falls into the same state of disillusionment, lying and deceiving himself and others in order to preserve his image and achieve Willy's version of success.
Willy and Linda:
Linda loves Willy unconditionally but she fully realizes their situation and status. She does not deceive herself or protect herself from reality, but rather faces it strongly. Linda is the antithesis of Willy.. Linda respects Willy for his hard work, and participates in his delusions to keep him happy. She stops mending her socks to preserve Willy's pride in his family's image, the one that he created. She listens to all of Willy's stories but never fully acknowledges them as truth, and protects him by pretending to delude herself as well. She maintains the stability in the household when all else seems to be falling down around them, when "the woods are burning!" (28).
Willy feels that the only way to be happy is with success and deludes his failures, and never can move into real life because he is so focused on times in the past when he felt successful, since he lacks feeling successful in his present day.
Since Willy feels as if he needs success to be happy & is always looking forward to the day he will be feel successful & happy, he can never fully be content with his life. And gets frustrated when he has sudden realizations of his mediocre lifestyle.
Willy can never come to terms with the fact that he may not be the most successful sales person ever, and because of that seems to live in a false reality that exsaggerates his success.
Willy and Ben:
Willy idolizes Ben. From what the readers know, he is the root of Willy's delusions and distorted ideas. The way that Ben achieved success, off of pure chance, made Willy believe in success being granted to those who are personable and attractive, qualities that Ben possessed. Willy thinks those with these attributes are entitled to success without hard work, a material success. Willy values success of tangibility (diamonds) rather than happiness and fulfillment in life or a moral victory/growth. (65)
Willy's inability to acknowledge and accept the reality about himself and the world around him was his detriment, and ultimately lead to his destruction.