A large controversy that revolves around the play “Death of a Salesman” is whether or not Willy Loman was actually a hero or a villain in the story. It certainly cannot be said that he is really one or the other because of the evidence that is given throughout. At some times he seems the pitiful victim of other people’s actions but at others he seems to have only himself to blame. Most don’t know whether to feel sorry for him or to hate him. Although there seems to be evidence to support both ideas, there seems to be more pointing in the direction of the latter.
Willy’s first fault concentrates around the affair that he had. Maybe when it first started he had only intended it to be a business relationship, but it didn’t end up that way. Somewhere along the line he let it go further and then didn’t break it off. Many things came of that one affair, that only he caused. First, is the fact that his son, Biff, caught him doing it, and was basically scarred for life from it. It was Willy’s fault that Biff didn’t attend summer school and, as a result, didn’t graduate from high school.
Second, is the fact that he was cheating on his wife, therefore being dishonest with her. Along with that, was how he treated her all the time at home, almost like she was incredibly inferior to him. Part of it had to do with the fact that he was having an affair, which made him ashamed, the other part was sheer ignorance. He felt that he couldn’t face her because of what he was doing behind her back. The affair that he created was a large part of why Willy could not possibly be thought of as a hero.
The second reason why Willy Loman cannot be considered a hero was that he basically encouraged lying. He set the example by doing it himself and also by coming right out and telling his boys that sometimes it was okay to. Willy lied to his wife about the affair, never actually saying that he wasn’t having one, but never telling her that he was. He also lied to his whole family about his business. He bragged constantly about all of the people he knew and the contacts that he had made throughout the years, as a salesman.
When actually, he wasn’t a great salesman and had no contacts anywhere. Willy’s habitual lying to his family was another one of his major faults. Any man who lies to his family and cheats on his wife can certainly not be considered a hero. Villain may be a strong word but, it fits Willy Loman much better that hero. He seemed like he want to do right by his family but he never seemed to do it, always falling short somehow, mostly through no one’s fault but his own.