Character Analysis - Willy Loman

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Emily Rugg

Character Analysis

Willy Loman

Arthur Miller introduces us to the character of Willy through the stage directions at the start of the play. Our first impression of Willy is that of an old, tired, hardworking man who gets home after everybody is in bed. We then learn that he has mood swings and massive dreams.

        As soon as Willy enters the house we get the feeling that something is wrong with the fact that he is home, as Linda calls “with some trepidation”. She then asks him if he has crashed the car again. This implies that he has done it before and is a danger on the road. When talking to Linda about what happened when he was driving he says “I cant seem to – keep my mind to it”. This gives us the first indication about his state of mind, and, as he finds it hard to get the words out, that he shows some difficulty in telling the truth about his failure.

        We learn of his inner dream of living in the countryside and growing carrots, but he is hiding this dream under the dream of being successful as a businessman.

        A bit later we get an idea of how successful Willy is. Willy tries to blame his unsuccessfulness on the fact the Frank Wagner is no longer alive and his son, Howard, does not like him.

        We then learn that Biff, his favourite son, works on a farm. Willy does not approve of this and says “How can he find himself on a farm? Is that a life? A farmland?” This is completely contradicting his inner dream. This shows that he is confused about what he really wants. Also, when talking about Biff he uses quite aggressive language such as “goddammit!” This indicates that he has something against him, which could be just the fact that he is working on a farm.

        When talking about Biff, Willy once again contradicts himself by saying in one line “Biff is a lazy bum!” and in a few lines down “There’s one thing about Biff- he’s not lazy.” This again indicates that he is not completely in control of his mind and is unsure of what he wants and believes in. this also shows that he sometimes gets caught up in his dreams as he describes Biff as the perfect son, which he quite obviously is not from his previous, more honest description. This is what Willy wants to believe and shows that Willy can get confused about what is real and what is not.

        Then the conversation is turned to cheese. Linda tells Willy that she has got new American whipped cheese. Willy does not like this. This could be because the American cheese is a sign of change, and Willy does not want things to change. Also the Swiss cheese that Willy wants could be a sign of tradition and old times and also it is a natural cheese, so displays Willy’s likeness for natural things.

        Willy then says “you cant raise a carrot in the backyard”. This again refers to his dream for things to be how they used to be. This could also be referring to his career as it could mean that he cannot grow and be a success.

        Willy also shows his need for Linda when he says “You’re my foundation and my support, Linda.” This shows how much he relies on her and his respect for her.

        We a then given another indication of him loosing his mind and how he cannot distinguish between past and present when he admits that when talking about his car earlier he was in-fact talking about the car that he had years before.

        Willy then goes into his first flashback in the play. We are shown that Willy’s attitude towards Biff is very different to that of his attitude now. At the time of the flashback both Biff and Happy almost worship Willy. They say they “missed you every minute” to Willy.

        Willy then refers to what he wants in the future. He says that “Someday I’ll have my own business”. This is a little ironic, as we know that this does not happen, and he does actually become less successful.

        We are then told the basis of Willy’s belief of what makes a man successful. He uses the example of Charley to show this. He says, “He’s liked, but he’s not- well liked”. This is the basis of his belief of the reason for success. He believes that to be successful you must have a better personality, and success does not involve a lot of hard work.

        He then goes into stories of how successful he is and how everybody worships him. We do not know how true these stories are as we shown these scenes as if they were in Willy’s mind, so they have been altered to make them seem better and what he would want to believe to be true.

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        Willy is also shown to teach Biff bad things, and tells him that he does not need to study, as he will not fail maths as he has scholarships to universities. This shows that will often gets things wrong as we know this doesn’t happen.

        We are then shown another part of Willy’s attitude towards being successful. He says,  “The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead.” This again shows that he believes that qualifications do not matter, only appearance matters in the business world and ...

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