74 pages 2 hours read

Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman

Fiction | Play | Adult | Published in 1949

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Character Analysis

Willy Loman

The events of Death of a Salesman revolve around the actions of the aged salesman, Willy Loman, during the last day of his life. Willy’s perception of reality, both the imagined past and real present, construct the audience’s understanding of the play’s events. The fluidity of time accurately represents Willy’s disturbed mental state and his constant efforts to make sense of his failures and to create order in his disorderly life. Simultaneously responding to events of the past and present, Willy comes off as mentally unstable. He constantly contradicts himself and is obsessed with his distorted worldview. In an effort to maintain the image that he and his son Biff are likeable, he fabricates stories about their popularity and success. This creates a false sense of hope around attaining the American Dream. When faced with particularly troubling situations, Willy recreates memories from the past that justify his lack of success and convince him of his and his son’s potential. In turn, he avoids thinking about past events that most disturb him, such as his affair with the unnamed Woman, until his mind is unable to handle the situation at hand.

Willy’s motivations are characterized by his dedication to the American Dream, his failure to attain it, and his regrets in life.