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Death of a Salesman

Analysis on sympathy.

Kevin Horak

on 8 April 2013

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Transcript of Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman An Analysis Willy & Sympathy At the start of the play, Willy is immediately
cast in a SYMPATHETIC light by Linda, who routinely makes excuses for him Linda never once holds willy accountable for his actions or their repercussions (such as his troubles while driving around Yonkers).

Linda fails to recognize Willy's dementia (at least in a public manner) "...I absolutely forgot I was driving. If I'd've gone the other way over the white line I might have killed somebody." -Willy (pg. 14) "But you're sixty years old. They can't expect
you to keep traveling every week." -Linda (pg. 14) Through the eyes of Linda, we see Willy Loman in a SYMPATHETIC light. Willy Loman dreamed of success for the majority of his life, but he never set the foundation that would allow him to achieve. While it is important in life to dream big, there must be a process in which to accomplish that. Willy is so enthralled with his dream that he pretends he is living in it. He boasts to his family that he is vital to his employer in his current market, where in actuality he is not. All Talk The audience cannot relate with Willy because he does not have an accurate understanding of the reality that is his life. Therefore, he is viewed under a NON-SYMPATHETIC light in this situation. "They don't need me in New York. I'm the New England man. I'm vital in New England." -Willy (pg.14) Near the conclusion of the play, Willy comes to the realization that his life is not like what he has mistakenly envisioned. Neither him or his sons are as financially abundant as he thinks. The audience can now relate with Willy because his thoughts are finally real and he recognizes the dire situation he is in. Due to this turn of events, we can view him in a more SYMPATHETIC way. "...the woods are burning, boys, you understand? There's a big blaze going all around." -Willy (pg. 107) Willy is portrayed SYMPATHETICALLY to the audience when he visits Howard Wagner and is cut off while he tries to speak. Willy is at a tipping point in his life and the termination of his employment signifies the end of his career, something he covets dearly. The fact that Howard would not let Willy finish his sentences speaks volumes in regards to his value to the company. Interestingly, Willy treats his wife the same way when the whole family is arguing during the final scenes of Act I. NON-SYMPATHETIC In the book, the lines are:

"Will you let me talk?"
"I was talking, wasn't I?"
-Willy (pg. 65) However, the movie does a much better job at portraying Willy's emotions in this scene. The hurtful intent behind his words becomes clearer because of the way he delivers them. With regards to Willy's quest for a New York job, he was shot down by Howard Wagner. Every point he tries to make is invalid in Howard's eyes. Furthermore, he proceeds to fire Willy, which is the ultimate blow. His work was the only thing tying him to his dreams. SYMPATHETIC "You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away, a man is not a piece of fruit!"
-Willy (pg. 82) Even though Willy's career is crumbling around him, he still maintains a false sense of pride and accomplishment. Howard Wagner suggests that Willy's sons should support him while he is out of work. That seems like a fine idea, however, Willy's sons amount to nothing because he raised them to think that they were entitled to riches and success, despite the amount of effort (in this case, how little effort) they put forth. NON-SYMPATHETIC The power of knowledge & perception is terribly evident in Linda's monologue where she is chastising Biff for emotionally neglecting Willy. Her devotion to her husband is the polar opposite of his to her, and Biff knows this. However, Linda is missing one key piece of knowledge (Willy's affair) that is causing her to perceive what a great man he is. This situation is causing Linda and Biff's relationship to deteriorate, largely due to Willy's adulterous business trip. This conversation shows Willy to the audience in a SYMPATHETIC light through Linda's perception, but in a NON-SYMPATHETIC light through the knowledge of Biff. There is a big turning point in Act I in regards to the portrayal of Willy Loman. He is overshadowed by a cloud of darkness in the eyes of the audience when his mistress surfaces. The NON-SYMPATHETIC feeling the audience has for Willy only gets worse when the details of how Biff found out become apparent in Act II. Willy can also be viewed in a NON-SYMPATHETIC light because of they way he treats women. Think back to how he yells at Linda in Act I. He also disrespects his mistress by throwing her out of the hotel room. "She's nothing to me, Biff" -Willy (pg. 120) Willy's neighbor, Charley, wants to help him out. Charley sees the Loman's lives for what they are. His compassion towards Willy shines him (Willy) in a SYMPATHETIC light. However, the audience's view of Willy in this particular situation changes when Charley offers him a job, and he refuses. Willy so desparately tries to keep up the facade that everything is alright, even when everyone in his life knows that his walls are crumbling. "I offered you a job." - Charley

"I've got a job." - Willy

(pg. 96) Willy can be viewed in a SYMPATHETIC light by the audience while Linda is conversing over the phone with Biff on the morning of Willy's last day. She tells Biff how the dinner meeting will "save his life". Here Willy is portrayed as a fragile entity, in a SYMPATHETIC light. This line does a perfect job of explaining Willy's emotional & mental state:

"He's only a little boat looking for a harbor."
-Linda (pg. 76) Overall, Willy's dementia helps the audience relate with him on a more SYMPATHETIC level. This first starts in Act I when Willy says:

"Oh I'll knock 'em dead next week. I'll go to Hartford. I'm very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don't seem to take to me." -Willy (pg. 36) ...And concludes when Willy gives into the Dementia in the final scene when Ben talks him into killing himself. The movie does an exceptional job at portraying this. "...and twenty thousand - that is something one can feel with the hand, it is there." -Ben

"I see it [the insurance policy] like a diamond, shining in the dark, hard and rough, that I can pick up and touch in my hand." -Willy

(pg. 126)
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