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Death of a Salesman
The tragedy "Death of a Salesman" deals with Willy's relationship with his sons to whom he tragically passes on his fate to. Just like Joe Keller in "All My Sons," Willy is primarily concerned with the future of his boys. Willy instills in them his views, hoping to set them up with successful careers in selling. Miller's tragedy, however lies in the fact that he passes on to his sons his overconfidence and an inflated image of self. Willy has a tough life of a traveling salesman, suffering on the road in order to raise a family. His dreams lie in the success of his sons. Tragically, Willy causes their downfall by stripping them from reality, making them more like him. He also instills his own values in them, making them think that they need to sell themselves to impress everyone. Miller enhances the dramatic effect and the degree of sufferings by this simple man, who dearly loves his sons, by allowing Willy to pass his flaws on to his sons and therefore cause their downfall.
While trying hard to raise self-confident men, Willy unintentionally encouraged his boys' weaknesses and over-inflated their image of themselves. Willy's extreme case of self-deception causes him to have a distorting memory. It is for this reason he withdrawals from reality and can see Ben. Willy gave his sons the impressions that if they were likable, were good at sports and popular, they would succeed in the adult business world. The time Biff "borrowed" a basketball from the locker room, he was encouraged by his father: "...Coach will probably congratulate you on your initiative...[t]hat's because he likes you. If somebody else took that ball there'd be an uproar." Willy brought up his boys believing in his sales talk. His sons grew up learning to believe their own lies. Upon his return home, Biff told his family that Oliver has invited him back to work for him. Biff actually believes this figment of his imagination, although he stole a carton of basketballs from the man ten years before. The correlation instilled in him by Willy that success in sports means success in business tortured Biff in his jobs. As he put it, he knew that he could outrun, outbox and outlift anyone, but his insignificant position in the store, made him sleep with his bosses' wives. The inflated self-image instilled in Biff and Happy by Willy tragically led to the failure of his sons.
Willy's influence on his sons caused his values to transfer to them resulting in their failures in business and personal life, just like their father. There is correlation between Willy's failure in his relationship with Linda and Biff's failed relationships. Willy believed that he needed to impress Linda with fancy sales talk even after they were married for over two decades. Linda knew who Willy really was and called his bluffs; this leads Willy to have an affair with a woman he could sell himself to. Biff and Happy treat women in a very similar way. Happy sweetens up two girls at the restaurant with his salesmanship skills. He sells himself to them as a champagne salesman. Upon Biffs arrival, he sells Biff as a great football player. As successful as those sales were, they never amounted to anything in the long run for Willy or his sons, Biff and Happy. As his sons took on a similar personality as their father, they doomed themselves for failure just like him. Biff has been stealing and bouncing around many jobs. He is a wondering soul just like Willy. In Willy's attempt to raise successful men, he tragically failed by passing on his personal qualities to them. His sons will likely follow his father's footsteps, make the same mistakes and end up in a similar way. Biff truly believes [He is] not a leader of men." He tells his father: "You were never anything but a hard-working drummer who landed in the ash can like all the rest of them!" Tragically, Biff sees himself among the "rest of them," who is "a dollar a week."
Miller enhances the dramatic effect and the degree of sufferings by this simple man, who dearly loves his sons, by allowing Willy to pass
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