In the play, Death of a Salesman, the main character, Willy Lomans tragedy is due to both his own flawed character and societys flaws. Advancements in science throughout this century have led to tremendous advancements in industry. In this case however, advancements in industry have not always led to advancements in living conditions. For some, society has created mass wealth. For Willy Loman, however, mass society has created only tremendous grief and hardship, based on endless promise. For these reasons, his tragedy is due both to societies flaws and to the flaws in his own character.
It was society who stripped him of his dignity, piece by piece. It was society who stripped him of his lifestyle, and his own sons who stripped him of hope. The most obvious flaw in society is greed. This is the desire to get ahead of the next guy. It is the philosophy of businesses that compromise the dreams of many men. Though sometimes this can drive a man to great things, sometimes it can drive a man to ruin. Willy Loman was a simple man driven to ruin by greed. However, this was not by his own greed, but by that of others. The developers greed took away the sun and left him with only shadows.
Willys boss reduced him to commission and even his sons reduced him to a failure. All of this greed around him led him to ruin. The next largest flaw in society is a lack of compassion. This could be as a result of overwhelming greed. The main culprit or cause of this flaw is big business. Im always in a race with the junkyard! I just finished paying for the car and its on it last legs. The refrigerator consumes belts like a goddam maniac. They time those things. (Act 2, Page __, lines 16-19) It was Willys belief in this statement that drew him to believe that big business lacked compassion.
It is this flaw that allowed him to die a slow death and which played the greatest role in his eventual downfall. The third and largest flaw in society is the lack of a social net. This would be a net which would identify people in trouble and attempt to improve their situation. It would identify people who are a danger to themselves or to others and treat them. If such a net had existed, Willy Loman might now have met his premature end. Instead, he could have received psychiatric help and recovered from his condition.
It was the direct result of the flaws on society, which led to Will Lomans death. It was the greed that was so predominant around him that led to his unhappiness. It was the lack of compassion from society, which allowed his unhappiness to flourish, and which eventually consumed him. In the end, it was the lack of a social safety net, which failed to save him from himself. Everyone has conflicts that they must face sooner or later. The way in which people deal with these personal conflicts can differ as much as problem to get it out of the way.
Willy Lowmans technique in Arthur Millers play Death of a Salesman, leads to very severe consequences. Willy never really does anything to help the situation, he just escapes into the past, whether intentionally or not, to happier times were problems were scarce. The use of this escape throughout the play can be compared to the use of a drug, because he uses his escapes as if they were narcotics. As the play progressed, the reader learns that it can be a dangerous drug, because it is addictive and deadly.
The first time that Willy is seen lapsing off into the past is when he encounters Biff after arriving home. The conversation between Willy and Linda reflects Willys disappointment in Biff and what he ahs become, which is, for the most, part a bum. After failing to deal adequately with his feelings, he escapes into a time when things were better for his family. It is not uncommon for one to think of better times at low points in their life in order to cheer themselves up so that they are able to deal with the problems that they encounter, but Willy Lowman takes it one step further.
His refusal to accept reality is so strong that in his mind he is transported back in time to relive one of the happier days of his life. It was a time when no one argued, Willy and Linda were younger, the financial situation was less of a burden and Biff and Happy enthusiastically welcomed their father back home from a long road trip. Willys need for the drug is satisfied and he is reassured that everything will turn out okay, and the family will soon be as happy as it was in the good old days.
The next flashback occurs during a discussion between Willy and Linda. Willy is depressed about his inability to make enough money to support his family, his looks, his personality, and the success of his friend and neighbor, charley. My God if business doesnt pick up, I dont know what Im gonna do! is the comment made by Willy after Linda figures out the difference between the familys income and their expences. Before Linda has a chance to offer any words of consolation, Willy blurts out, Im fat. Im veryfoolish to look at, Linda.
In doing this he has depressed himself so much that he is visited by a woman with whom he is having an affair. The womans purpose in this point of the play is to cheer him up. She raises his spirts by telling him how funny and lovable he is, saying, You do make me laughAnd I think youre a wonderful man. And when he is reassured of his attractiveness and competence, the woman disappears, her purpose being fulfilled. Once again the drug has come to the rescue, allowing Willy to postpone having to actually do something about his problem.