The example of Willy coming home from a business trip bragging, "I'm tellin' you, I was sellin' thousands and thousands, but I had to come home" is classic living in a fake world behavior. And Jacobson goes on to explain, poignantly, that Willy's "fabrications create so extreme a polarization with his incapacities that an acceptance of failure - his own or Biff's - becomes impossible" (Jacobson 252).
Meanwhile, H.C. Phelps, writing in Explicator (Phelps, 1995), is quick in his essay to point out that both Happy and Linda are living in a fantasy world. They believe somehow, through years of foggy Willy-inspired interpretation probably, that Bill Oliver will not only give Biff a job, but also will "stake" biff to a business venture (Phelps 239).
He did like me," Biff says. "Always liked me." His mom chimes in, "He loved you...he thought highly of you Biff." That seems pretty unlikely given that Oliver couldn't remember who Biff even was. But then a number of circumstances and scenes in this play are highly unlikely.
Phelps discusses the judgments that are made on Willy's life at the Requiem; Biff seems tense and bitter, and argumentative. Phelps wonders if perhaps Biff realizes that "to make plain the sad futility of Willy's act would be to robe the ceremony of what little dignity it possesses" (Phelps 240). And there are other "eloquent" if "contradictory" judgments on what Willy's life meant. Biff asserted that his dad "had the wrong dreams" and "never knew who he was" (Phelps 240). Certainly Biff was correct in recounting that he dad was lost in dreams, but saying the dreams his dad lived by were the "wrong" ones of course misses the mark. Much of what Willy did was "wrong" and dreaming was only the salve to attempt to keep the wounds from festering even farther out of control.
Critic Bert Cardullo ("Death of a Salesman, Life of a Jew: Ethnicity, Business, and the Character of Willy Loman"), in Southwest Review, frankly thinks that Arthur Miller missed the mark with his play. But he spends a good deal of time blasting Willy's fragile...
Further, Cardullo points out that Willy contradicts himself blatantly and often. An example given is when Willy says, "Bill is a lazy bum!" In short order Willy says, "There's one thing about Biff - he's not lazy." So a reader sees that reality is not something Willy approaches with any skill at all.
In Harold Bloom's "Summary and Analysis" (Bloom's Guides) it is pointed out that Willy is not even sure what car he drives, or whether he is good as a salesman. Bloom writes that Willy shows a "...vacillation between defeat ('I just couldn't make it....') and little spasms of feigned hope ('I'm vital in New England')." Bloom is correct when he points out Willy's "self-deception" because it is an every-present theme in the play.
In conclusion, critic Nelson Benjamin (Bloom's Guides) probably puts Willy's confused condition into perspective as succinctly as any of the scholars quoted this far in the paper. "Although rooted in realistic convention," Benjamin writes, in a view of Willy's role in the play, "the play extends the borders of realism without straining credibility because it is mirroring the processes of a disoriented mind." And moreover, Benjamin asserts that Miller's play "is perfectly suited to the nature of its protagonist's psychological imbalance." Psychological imbalance is of course a more technical phrase to use when a character like Willy can't distinguish reality from illusion.
Bloom, Harold, and Benjamin Nelson. "Benjamin Nelson on Miller's use of dramatic form."
Bloom's Guides: Death of a Salesman. New York: InfoBase Publishing, 2004. 82-84. 3
Literary Reference Center. 10 March 2008
Bloom, Harold. "Summary and Analysis." Bloom's Guides: Death of a Salesman. New York:
InfoBase Publishing, 2004. 23-69. 47 p. Literary Reference Center. 10 March 2008
Cardullo, Bert. "Death of a Salesman, Life of a Jew: Ethnicity, Business, and the Character of Willy Loman." Southwest Review. 92.4 Dallas, Texas: Southern Methodist University, 2007.
593-596. 14 p. Literary Reference Center. 10 March 2008
Jacobson, Irving. "Family Dreams in Death of a Salesman." American Literature. 47.2 Durham,
North Carolina: Duke University Press. 247. 12 p. Literary Reference…
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