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Death of a Salesman: An Anatomy of Failure and Disillusionment

“Death of A Salesman” is a tragedy of our time and of our society. Willy’s failures and disillusioned reveries are parallel to those of any twenty first century American national. But fault lies with his direction i. e. completely opposite to the common social current and hence he meets his catastrophic fortune. The most dominating theme of the story is that of “American Dream” or rather “Perverted American Dream”. It is very symbolic story of “Roaring Age” of later 1940s America, particularly the story of shattering of American Dream in that era of economic prosperity and material abundance.

The basic question that Miller poses in Death of a Salesman is that in this increasing industrialization and growing mutual alienation, “what value should man live by? ” Man’s search for personal dignity in the face of the growing realization of his littleness, is pone of the major concerns of the dramatist. Death of a Salesman tries to anatomize the failure of man to be himself, to leave his stamp as ‘something’ or ‘somebody’, to be a ‘success’ in life. Willy Loman: an Epitome of Failure: Death of a Salesman treats the inner frailties, shortcomings of an indivisible, sympathetically.

Miller is very rightly concerned with the dilemmas that are as timeless in drama as they are in life. It is a tragedy modern and personal, not classic and heroic. A central figure is a little man sentenced to discover his smallness rather than a big man undone by his greatness. Although he happens to be a salesman tested and found wanting by his own very special crisis, all of us sitting out front are bound to be shaken, long before the evening is over, by finding something of ourselves in him. Willy is loving but indulgent:

Willy has lived the life full f hope and expectations but his aspiration are not unreal or fantastic. His anxiety is anxiety of everyman; his concern is the concern of every parent for his sons. But he is a man who cherishes false dreams. He is disillusioned too. He thinks that he has countless friends, that everything will be alright, that he is a success, and his boys will be successes too. His ill-fortune is that he has gone through life as an adolescent, as someone who does not know who he actually is. He has cared tpp much for his sons.

He has more than ruined his sons. One has turned out to be only a women-chaser while, the other turned out to be a thief. His misconceived and disillusioned ideas have made his sons revolt against him. With the opening of the play, the audience comes to know Willy as a man who is very old, weak and tired. Fatigue makes it difficult for him to carry his simple cases; age and backache make him stoop. His mind has also got tired and seeks solace. This accounts for his lack of concentration and absent-mindedness.

His sons realize his condition and start despising him for his worthlessness. But Willy himself realizes too late that he is a failure. It ios only when he is ignored and dismissed unceremoniously by Howard that he realizes that he has been failure throughout. Everyone in the household- a failure and a misfit, hence the tragedy; Willy’s failure is a huge tree shadowing smaller plants of smaller failures of that of Biff, Happy and Linda. It is quite obvious that Billy is also a failure through and through at the age of thirty four and Happy is no better.

Linda can do no better than living from moment to moment making Willy survive through his problems and to keep against hope that things will alright one day. But of course, the supreme example of failure is our hero-Willy Loman. By trying to know the cause of Willy’s inadjustability, Miller has tried to present, in the play, an anatomy of failure. Biff Loman; another prototype of failure and disillusionment; When we take our eyes off the hero, Willy Loman, the next character that engages our attention is Willy’s elder son, Biff Loman.

Most of the action of the play takes its shape through Biff as also does most of Willy’s hope, tension, dream etc. Biff is also a failure like his father. Biff’s failure not only means the shattering of Willy’s dream; the entire myth that Willy has been living with, crumbles to nothingness. The younger generation sees in Biff, a reflection of its own inescapable predicament. This abject failure in life is a terrible illustration of the tremendous waste of human resources in a world of maddening competition where misdirected energies involve the futile labor of Sisyphus.

Willy Loman thinks that Biff is just one of the common ruts. He blames him, for not settling down as late as the age of thirty-four. He has not launched his career successfully. Willy feels that Biff is not lazy but is simply lost. His failures are due his laziness i. e. his habitual formation and not something innate in him. Willy meets his greatest disappointment in Biff because his failure has negated the myth by which Willy had been living—that personal attractiveness is key to success. Willy says about him: “Biff Loman is lost.

In the greatest country in the world a young man with such personal attractiveness, gets lost. And such a hardworker. There is one thing about Biff-He’s not lazy. ” Biff; Breaking off with delusions of his father; In the end, Biff stages a complete breaking off from his father’s dreams of him as his own dreams of himself. He sheds off the armor of self-pity and self-justification and faces the naked realities truth. It seems that he almost court-martialed himself, almost ruthlessly: “I realized what a ridiculous lie my whole life has been. We‘ve been talking in a dream for fifteen years”.

In the well known final confrontation with his father, Biff courageous enough to shatter the Loman myth: “We never told the truth for ten minutes in this house…………I never got anywhere because you blew me so full of hot air. , I could never stand talking-orders from anyone…I’m not a leader of men, Willy, and neither are you. You were never anything but a hardworking drummer who landed in the ash-can like all the rest of them! I’m one dollar an hour, Willy! I’m not bringing home any prizes any more, and you’re going to stop waiting for me to bring them home!

” Such cruel honesty is noble and highly commendable because Biff achieves a greater self realization than Willy. So it is manifested that in Death of a Salesman, Miller takes into consideration the failure and delusions that the contemporary individual was suffering from. His characters, Willy and Biff, skillfully epitomize these failures and disillusionments and demonstrate it various complexities and aspects. Reference Miller, Arthur. Death of a Salesman in Arthur Miller’s Collected plays : with an introduction. New York: Viking Press, 1957-1981.

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